Video Game Remasters - Are they Here to Stay?

With the Increasing trend of video game remasters, we ask the question -- are they here to stay?

Lately, we've seen a trend of older games getting remastered and re-released onto modern platforms. Between the success of collections like Crash Bandicoot  N. Sane Trilogy and Kingdom Hearts 1.5+2.5 ReMIX, it's clear nostalgia sells. However, as many reasons as there are to re-release older games, there are plenty of those who feel remakes are killing the industry. Let's take a look at both sides below and try to answer the question – is the trend of remastering games here to stay?

It Keeps Older Games Alive

The world is changing at a fast rate and this especially goes for the game industry. Games are advancing so fast while older games quickly become incompatible and unplayable on newer hardware. As a result, they get left behind and forgotten about. Remastering games updates and modernizes them. It allows them to run at higher resolutions and frame rate, and to a lot of people, this helps keep that game alive. Even if it's not the original game, it prevents it from dying out and being forgotten about in a world where most consoles do not have full backwards compatibility.

Time Could Be Spent Developing New IP

On the flip side, why bother keeping an old game alive when the time and resources could be better spent on developing new franchises? If you look anywhere on the internet with regards to this topic, you will undoubtedly see the opinion that old games should be left where they are. They've been developed, had their shot, and are done with. Although the developers remastering games usually aren't the same ones that worked on the originals, some still argue that the time and resources could be better spent on entirely new games.

Nostalgia Does Sell…

A big reason for remasters is nostalgia. Publishers know that nostalgia sells and often this can encourage a remaster. Take Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy for example. When the originals released on the PlayStation they were extremely popular, the first three games were considered masterpieces and players wanted more. There were several releases since the original three but they didn't recapture what the originals had and were not as successful.

Players have been wanting a remaster of these games for years and finally this year, we got the N. Sane Trilogy. Easily the most popular remaster so far, the whole game sold entirely on nostalgia. Original players wanted to re-live their youth, new parents show their children the games they grew up on, and friends showing others what they missed out on. The N Sane Trilogy topped charts and the success of this could trigger reboots of other series as well like Spyro the Dragon or Ape Escape.

But Publishers Are Just Money Grabbing With Repackaged Content!

Perhaps the most obvious reason, it’s more than likely true that the reason behind remastering a game is money. If the game being remastered is a popular one, such as Crash Bandicoot. The publishers are obviously going to decide that it is worth while doing a remaster. After all, it is very easy to repackage the content, making it look modern and work on modern hardware. Fans will buy it and they make a bit of money out of it as well. The thing with this though is that they are right. Fans will buy the remaster and the popularity, along with how well it sells will make publishers consider remastering other franchises.

Take Bulletstorm Full clip edition as an example. The original Bulletstorm was released in 2011 and this year we got a remaster. Releasing on current generation consoles and PC, this remaster contained a huge graphical upgrade, a move to Unreal Engine 4 and all the DLC included as well. There wasn’t much added in the way of new content. For some reason though, this remaster was released as a full priced game. The only real benefit of this remaster is for console players who are newcomers to the game as this allows them to play this game on current generation consoles. Even though there is hardly any new content, we have a repackaged and over priced remastered game.

Lack of Backwards Compatibility

One of the common questions you'll see when a new console is released is whether it will support backwards compatibility. More commonly the answer to that questions is no -- especially for the older generations such as the original PlayStation and the original Xbox. Because of this, the only way to get games onto the modern platform is to remaster them.

The Last of Us originally released on the PlayStation 3 with raving popularity. It took some time before the PS3 really caught steam, and some skipped the generation entirely, meaning they didn't get to play the game. Because of its popularity, it was remastered and released on the PlayStation 4 even when it didn’t really need to. If every game was made backwards compatible then there would be less of a need for remasters. 

On the flip side of this the lack of backwards compatibility has allowed remasters to introduce people to the games they might have missed when skipping a generation or playing on a different platform. If someone moved from the original PlayStation across to the Xbox and didn't own a PlayStation 2 or PlayStation 3, when they picked up a PlayStation 4 there might have been games from the previous generations that they had wanted to play but missed out on. Games being remastered onto the PlayStation 4 would enable them to play those games and finally be introduced to the franchise and this is what the remaster of The Last of Us did.

Is Remastering Really Needed for PC When There are Mods?

The answer to this is both yes and no. The Modding scene on PC is quite big and often a modder will release an HD or High-Resolution texture pack for a game that will make it look spectacular. Also, if a game is designed to run on a PC it will most likely already look good enough for years without needing much.

When Skyrim was released on PC in 2011 it had the Steam workshop and modding support. This eventually sparked the release of High-Resolution and HD texture packs which drastically improved its looks. In 2016 Bethesda released Skyrim: Special Edition which featured a remastered version of the game with improved textures and lighting effects. Unfortunately on the PC this is actually worse than what mods were able to do and does not look as impressive.

While a remaster for a PC game is less needed, it's usually better to have an official remaster -- even if it's not as good looking as the modded versions. The reasons behind this are because the developers know the game inside out and have access to the original files. They can do far more to release a stable remaster than a modder could. They can also add genuine improvements such as controller support and most importantly they can support you if things go wrong.

Sometimes, remastering can produce a better game

It is possible for a remaster to produce a better, more improved version of the game. Going back 10 years we had the 10th anniversary of the Tomb Raider series. To celebrate this, Eidos Interactive decided to produce a remastered version of the original Tomb Raider and release it on multiple platforms. The result of this was Tomb Raider Anniversary. This fully remade / remastered game re-imagined the original. Set in the same locations and levels while following the same story. Anniversary ran on an improved version of the Legend engine, used for Tomb Raider Legend. This remaster received some high reviews and is arguably a better game than the original was. It is a good example of a scenario where a remaster did the original game justice and exceeded it.

So, is the Trend of Remastering Games Here to Stay?

It seems that this trend of remastering game isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Publishers know it will make money, and they won't stop until the cash stops flowing. They play heavily on nostalgia knowing for a fact that people will buy them. Its far easier to remaster a game than it is to develop a new IP, and it solves a lot of backwards compatibility issues.

Remasters really aren't a bad thing though. If they're done right they can keep the original games alive, and opens them up to new people who may not have been around when the originals came out. They allow players to relive their past, playing old favourites and having them look exactly how they imagined they would.

Have you played any remastered games lately? Do you agree with this increasing trend? We would love to see your opinions in the comments section below!

Published Jul. 28th 2017

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