As entertainment consumers, most of us love remastered old releases. Whether it’s music or film, giving the classics an update is more often than not a net positive. And the trend of remastering old video game titles has also grown to be a mostly positive thing, as we discussed in a previous post. That article ended with a call-to-action that encouraged readers to think of video game updates that have all but ruined the originals. But besides the titles themselves, there are factors to consider when weighing the negatives and positives of video game remasters.
Remasters from the development perspective
Another one of our posts politely elucidated the myriad ways in which publishers screw gamers for money. It’s a real problem and these companies should be taken to task for their anti-consumer practices. But where it concerns remastered video games it might be valuable to look at the trend from the point of view of the publisher. Development costs for games have skyrocketed, with “Grand Theft Auto V” famously cost $265 million just to develop. By putting out remasters, developers can deliver titles to market with limited time and effort on their part, which fills the company development budget and allows them to complete the new titles we all crave. It’s something to consider, and hopefully the next point further expands on this.
Remasters as a conduit to a new audience
In the aforementioned article we cited “Halo” and “The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker” as 6th gen titles that got an HD update. Among other things the remasters allowed gamers to switch between old and new graphics, and some problematic gameplay issues were solved. The updates also led to many folks revisiting these franchises in a way they never would have if only the original versions were available. So remasters are often vital to rekindling lost passion for games. On the flip side of the coin they can help new audiences and new generations to discover these older titles. Still, we might be more inclined to believe in these companies noble intentions if it weren’t for the lack of backwards compatibility on most next-gen consoles (although Xbox One gets credit for adding this feature). More on this below.
Too many remasters from one console generation to the next
The recent explosion of remasters, from Xbox 360 to Xbox One, and PlayStation 3 to PlayStation 4, is a bit of an overkill. Reasonable people can disagree on the benefits of updating a title between console generations, but do gamers absolutely need game updates every couple years? Was there such a generational and technological gap between 2010 and 2015 that “God of War III” needed to be updated from the PS3 to the PS4? IGN would say that, yes, there were benefits, such as the 1080p update and steady frame rate. But it’s a harder sell to suggest that the 2013 version of Tomb Raider is so arcane that they just had to remake it in 2014. Luckily gamers can take solace in the fact that most game remasters sell for the fraction of a price of a new title, and some, like the “Halo: Master Chief Collection,” which offers four updated titles for the price of a single new game, are great deals any way you cut it.
Ultimately, remastered video games are a good thing if they deliver truly updated graphics (with the ability to toggle between old and new animations), remedy the flaws of the original, and allow players to enjoy their favorite titles on next-gen consoles. However, updates are most decidedly a bad thing when they become a shameless cash grab. Releasing the same title whenever a new console comes out (because of a lack of backwards compatibility) robs players of the perspective they glean from comparing new and old versions of the titles.