I’ve heard it before: this era of gaming has become “the generation of reboots and remakes,” and I can’t say that I disagree, but at least in the case of the latter I can see why it’s necessary.
The first year of any console cycle tends to be somewhat slow, especially when many of the games getting published are still being developed for the previous generation of hardware. It isn’t until developers finally drop support for withered technology that you finally start to see a jump in quality and innovation. While waiting for that dry spell to end, it’s easy to grow nostalgic for the classics, but if you’re one of the many gamers who sold their old consoles to afford new ones, that leaves you with an itch you can’t quite scratch.
Back when backwards compatibility was still a thing, this wasn’t as much of an issue. Sure, there weren’t a lot of great PlayStation 3 games at launch, but that new machine was still, functionally, also a PlayStation 2. Even without your old console, you still had an entire generation of games to keep you occupied while you weathered the dry spell. This is no longer the case, and while Sony does offer streaming rentals of PlayStation 3 games via PlayStation Now, an overpriced and laggy facsimile is no substitute for the real thing.
In a world without backwards compatibility, the HD remaster will be king.
When Grand Theft Auto V was released so late in the XBox 360 / Playstation 3 life cycle, I found myself facing a dilemma. GTA is the kind of game I want to own, but as soon as the PlayStation 4 was released, I knew I would be retiring my 360 for good. Had the XBox One been backwards compatible, I know for a fact I would have bought it instead, if only for the convenience of being able to preserve my collection. So I rented GTA V, played it to completion, and returned it, fingers crossed that there would be a next-gen remake down the road.
When that next-gen remake was announced, I remember several of my friends complaining that there wasn’t enough reason to buy the game again when they still owned the original–but I don’t think that was ever really the intention. Before this generation, a game only ever really got remastered if it was genuinely deserving of additional polish. Now, games are getting ported up to replace the utility of a backwards-compatible console, and gamers are gobbling it up. Halo: The Master Chief Collection sold 1.1 million units in its first week. The Last of Us: Remastered has sold 2.92 million units to date, over half of the overall sales of the original since its release in 2013.
For lack of a better alternative, HD remasters provide us with the opportunity to enjoy our favorite games, and even games we never got a chance to play. If it’s any consolation for the loss of backwards compatibility, at least all of our favorite games are getting an upgrade as a result. It’s nice to know when I play the upcoming Nathan Drake Collection that I won’t be removed from the experience by dated graphics.
I’m only curious how long it will take before we’re getting remakes of remakes. It’s been a long time since I played Shadow of The Colossus, and I’m getting an itch.