Replay value is a buzzword thrown around when people talk about games. Normally, they apply the term only to open world games. The reason being that the non-linear gameplay lends itself to multiple playthroughs, but I see this as a rather narrow view. Simply put, a game has replay value if I want to play it again. Sounds obvious right? No, I’m not being facetious (mostly). If an open world game is total shit, you certainly wouldn’t want to play it again, now would you? Super Mario World and many other NES/SNES platformers are as liner as could be, but gamers are always going back to such classics because the games themselves are excellent. A snorefest like Watch Dogs is not worth replaying in spite of its non-linear gameplay because its wasn’t interesting to play in the first place. Having tons of content doesn’t provide much value. Provide me a game with great content over a game with a lot of content and I’ll constantly go back to it. A 15-hour game in which I enjoy every second of it has significantly more replay value than a 100-hour boring open world game.
Developers need to remember that the game needs to be good first and foremost. If you want to craft a unique open world, it takes time to create such a world. The current state of the AAA industry makes that near impossible. Ubisoft open worlds are generic and forgettable due to the yearly release schedule on many of their games. For every The Witcher 3 there’s a ten generic open world games that flood the market.
Great games have great replay value. This even applies to story heavy games. People watch movies or shows and read books multiple times. The same can be said of video games. You can look at a game from a different angle by replaying it. There are things you may have missed on the first playthrough. Replay value is broader than most people seem to think. It can be applied to any game in any genre. Good games have replay value, bad games do not.