The following is a conversation/co-op feature, shared between Sony Enthusiast contributors Trevor Ross and Kat Taylor, regarding the trend of upgrading older games, whether they be a year old or ten, and re-releasing them on newer systems.
Kat: We are now roughly nine months into our latest and greatest console generation. Nine months of the give and take with competing between Microsoft and Sony. And already, this early in the game, a new trend is beginning to emerge: re-vamping last-gen titles for the newest generation, packaging them up with shiny new graphics (and maybe the game’s DLC as a freebie) and re-selling, usually at the same retail price.
In some ways, this isn’t a new trend. It’s not all that far a cry from George Lucas re-releasing the original Star Wars trilogy every ten years with the latest technology tacked on. Even in gaming, updating classics is hardly new — and it’s oftentimes welcome. Bring our favorites from the NES era to the DS with new UI and 3D sprites? We love it. Even older games from the likes of Final Fantasy X and Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time have received a work over.
But here’s where the trend really loses me: none of these are older games. Crystal Dynamics did it with Tomb Raider, Naughty Dog is doing the same for The Last of Us, Quantic Dream is considering it with Beyond: Two Souls, and even BioWare has discussed the possibility of re-releasing the entire Mass Effect trilogy onto the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
With the exception of Mass Effect, most of these are a year old or younger. There’s a big graphical difference between updating going from one year to the next, one generation to the next, as opposed to ten years and two generations’ difference.
Trevor: I, for one, am all for the preservation and revamping of classics for a new generation. As far as I’m concerned, an indication of a true classic is whether it can withstand the test of time and I’m glad new fans will be able to experience my favorite games from the past. I’m not even particularly against this new trend of re-releasing relatively recent games. With a lack of backwards compatibility on modern systems, such as the PS4, gamers who lack the appropriate last-gen system would otherwise be unable to play some of the best games from last year.
Where I think the line has been crossed is with the latest remasters being sold at full price. Digital re-releases would have sufficed and I’m not convinced these relatively recent games looked so rough around the edges that remastering them was necessary. I’m all for a full retail release, but I think $40 would have been a better price point to start at. As it stands, I just spent $60 on a copy of The Last of Us when the PS3 version hit stores and I’m not sold on the idea of buying the exact same game again, with some minor graphical updates, for the exact same price.
Kat: I really like your point about gamers who might have missed out on it last generation and I believe that has been one of the motivators for Naughty Dog’s re-release of The Last of Us on the PS4. And I completely agree with you about the price point: $10 or $20 cheaper should be in place, especially for gamers who may be buying it the second go-around.
One of the big reasons why I dislike the re-release of the year-old games — even onto the next generation — is because I don’t feel that the upgrade in visuals is enough. I will freely admit, I’m far from the most keen-eyed when it comes to this kind of thing. If you were to put something at 780p alongside something at 1080p, it’s unlikely I would be able to spot the differences. But even then, I do think there is an overrealiance on this kind of thing.
This is one of my issues with the movie Avatar and why it was such a hollow moviegoing experience for me. The film relied too heavily on visuals; the visuals were spectacular, but ultimately, such things should be in the service of character and story. And since those were both so pat, I felt no emotional response whatsoever and the overall film was entirely forgettable. The same is true to an extent in gaming, except that it should all serve gameplay first, and then story and characters second.
Pretty much the only time I’ve ever bought re-vamp of games I already owned was because they brought something new to the table that would legitimately alter my experience in positive ways — and visuals alone aren’t enough to fulfill that, especially going from one generation to the next. Dragon Warrior IV saw re-release on the DS as Dragon Quest IV, with new wire-frame menus, a top-down 3D perspective on the gameworld, and an overall smoother UI. The Metroid Prime trilogy let me utilize the same Wii Remote functionality that was a part of Corruption and was incorporated into Metroid Prime and Echoes, which significantly enhanced both experiences. Sure, the visuals were improved in all cases — but that was just one of the benefits.
Trevor:I agree that there are more to a game than graphics. However, the movie Avatar would make for a better example if we were talking about games that are style over substance. Since we’re talking about re-releases of games that are or were well-regarded, I think a more relevant example would be the Blu-ray re-releases and the IMAX showings of classic Disney films. At the end of the day, they’re still the same old films, just upscaled. That’s the impression I’m getting from these current gen re-releases.
I agree that a slight graphical upgrade is not enough reason to re-invest in a game I already own. I do, however, acknowledge that an improvement in graphics may be a huge incentive for some. It is also worth noting that some people might not own the original games any longer for a variety of reasons, but may wish that they still had them. In the case of relatively recent PS3 and 360 games, some people may have traded in their games, and possibly their systems, to get a new console. I’m not at all defending the practice of re-releasing these games at full price, though, especially with very little added to the overall experience. I also look for new content as an additional incentive to re-buy a game, and if there is little to none, I’m unlikely to bother. Besides, I’m also less keen when it comes to noticing resolution differences, but I’m sure those seeking games with good graphics are more likely to check out new games than revamped ones, and I think the games being revamped look just fine as is.
I will say, I love re-releases of older games when they’re done right. Simple ports released for download, collections that include multiple games, and full remakes are more than welcome in my book, as are straight ports that include a good amount of new content. The main reason I like re-releases is because I missed out on some revered classics back in the day and wouldn’t have been able to play them if not for the ability to check them out on newer systems. I would be too embarrassed to share the full laundry list of titles I didn’t play till later, but I’m thankful to have had those experiences, even if I was late to the party, and not just because I can now actually hold up my end of a proper conversation on classic games. I imagine the new ports we’re talking about are aimed squarely at those who missed out on the games the first time and I’m thankful those people will be able to experience them.
I believe we might have skimmed over another related issue with the re-releases of recent games, mind you, and that is that most of them are ports of only one game, and the Mass Effect Trilogy will be a port of a collection that we can already get for $40 new on current systems; so here’s hoping BioWare offers more value, such as including all the DLC missing in the last-gen collection. The port of The Last of Us had better at least include Left Behind, free of charge. As much as I have disliked Microsoft’s tactics on numerous occasions, I have to give them props for unveiling The Master Chief Collection, which includes Halo 1-4. I think Naughty Dog should have opted for an Uncharted collection of sorts,\ and Quantic Dream would probably be better off porting both Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls together, as opposed to just the latter. I love the concept of collections, because, at the very least, we won’t be paying $60 for just one game.
Kat: You’ve cited a lot of great reasons why I’m not opposed to — and certainly in favor — of re-vamping older games for newer systems, like those who may have missed out on them entirely — I know I’ve missed out on more than my fair share — or even just the fact that they may not be available for purchase anymore. My favorite game growing up was Dragon Warrior IV, but at a certain point, it was impossible to find anywhere for purchase, being pre-Amazon and eBay, and so, I was absolutely thrilled when Nintendo re-released it for the DS.
I get the sense that you and I don’t actually stand all that far apart when it comes to these recent re-releases and it makes me genuinely curious to know if there are visual buffs to whom this does appeal, people that are willing to shell out money for the likes of Tomb Raider and The Last of Us: Remastered , even though they already own it on the PS3 and/or Xbox 360. I’d be curious to know what, if any, kind of an impact that slight tweak in graphical improvement does for them. Because I understand the re-release of older games and I understand re-releasing these games for people that may have skipped out on buying them last year, but the visual improvement — especially so comparatively minor — is one thing I don’t understand as much.
I do believe that The Last of Us: Remastered will include the Left Behind DLC, which is good. I bought the Mass Effect trilogy compilation for my PS3, in spite of already owning it already for the PC, not least of which because it has all the DLC for the first two games, including everything I never could justify dropping $30 on for Mass Effect 2. Compilations can be such a great way of ending a series once it’s done, especially if it means including all the additional content, not least of which because, like those older re-releases, it gives newer gamers access to something great they may have missed.
My concern is more that this trend will continue and to be fair, something in the vein has been going for a while now, but I’m just not a fan of these games that are less than a year old getting upgraded for the new generation. With so many more developers hopping on board, it starts to feel less like a creative-driven decision and more business-driven to get fans to shell out more money for a game they already own. It’s like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars — Lucasfilm/Disney and WB have released multiple editions of these trilogies, both of which I already own more than one version. They do it with the expectation that we’ll keep buying them because we want the latest version. It’s taking advantage of fan investment and I don’t like the precedent that it sets, especially because there’s so little in the way of offering a genuinely new experience.
What’s more, I worry it takes away from getting out great new games for the system. It’s been a bit of a rocky start for both Xbox One and PS4 in terms of quality games, which is typical, I get it. It usually takes a year or so before new systems can boast a solid library, but I’d rather developers were devoting their time to putting out new stuff for the generation rather than just falling back last-gen titles to get themselves a bit more cash.
Trevor: Yeah, I don’t think we’re very far apart at all. I imagine the visual upgrades will help sell the latest ports, but I have a hard time believing that visual buffs, as you call them, wouldn’t rather invest in a new game that was built from the ground up for the latest systems. On the flip side, The Last of Us, as an example, is an impressive-looking game as is and even the latest Tomb Raider isn’t a slouch in the graphics department. I mean, devs should at least give these games a little time to age so that an update would make more sense. What we’re discussing aren’t remakes, like the DS port of Final Fantasy III and IV, even though the term is often used to describe graphical updates. It’s more or less akin to a Blu-ray re-release of a film already on DVD. Sure, the Blu-ray edition will inevitably look a little better, but I wouldn’t go out and buy the film again if I already own it. Ok, there is probably a lot more that goes into porting a game over and I did hear that Naughty Dog is giving the textures in their game a fairly substantial overhaul, but at the end of the day, we’re still talking about the same games many people already own and you do have a good point that it’s a common marketing ploy to double dip in profit.
I don’t think it’s strictly true that producing remakes slows down development of new IPs, since bigger devs are known for having at least a couple teams to work with. I do, however, agree that the time, staff, and resources that are dedicated to these projects could be focusing on producing new IPs or sequels to existing IPs. The Last of Us 2 might have made more sense at this point in time, as would a new Tomb Raider, and here’s hoping the new Mass Effect is still on track. Maybe these studios could be coming up with new games that could potentially be a big hit, like The Last of Us was last year. I heard BioWare had plans for a new IP that’s somewhat like Mass Effect, but is also its own entity. I want to hear more about that.
I do think the studios working on the latest ports have the right idea, mind you. Ports of seventh gen games are a great idea. I would just rather have older titles ported over. Games from ’06-’09 might actually look considerably better if ported over to the PS4 and Xbox One. Those games have had enough time to age and though I’m not implying that none of them have aged well, I am positive we would see more of a difference with those games than we will with ports of games from last year. I agree that devs are probably trying to cut corners in an attempt to fill in each system’s library while we wait for more AAA games to hit, but they have a virtual gold mine at their disposal of games from a much wider time period. A Naughty Dog rep did come out and say that an Uncharted collection would be awesome and I agree. A port of just one game that didn’t really need to be updated just doesn’t get me as excited.
What do you think? Are you a fan of these kind of trends? Please comment below.