Remaster Armageddon?

RemasterDollar

You’re sitting at your PC, playing the latest game… and that’s when you feel it. The earth shaking beneath your feet. You tell yourself it didn’t really happen, because you live in a part of the world that rarely experiences seismic activity… but you feel it again. More than that, you hear a faint thud, as if in the distance. Tilting your head, you realize things have become uncomfortably quiet. The birds have stopped chirping, and the bugs have stopped buzzing. There’s just… nothing. All you hear now is your breath as you gently allow it to exhale. BOOM. It’s closer now, and a box of cereal left lazily on the edge of the counter falls to the floor. The icy fingers of paralysis – undoubtedly induced by fear – grab hold of your spine, but curiosity compels you to shake its grip and head for the door. Before you know it, you’re standing on your front lawn, looking in the same direction as the rest of your neighbors. You finally see what’s been shaking the earth, and it scares you enough to one again succumb to the grip of fear. It’s… it’s…

ATTACK OF THE REMASTERS!

Read any message board, and this is the scenario people are painting. Why? Because many believe the increasing number of remasters are destroying the industry. People want new exclusive IP’s, they want fresh ideas from third parties… basically, they want everything to be as pure as unicorn shit. They want it all, and they want it now, and there’s absolutely zero room in their plans for games they’ve already played.

Or, you know. Something like that.

Hyperbolic ramblings. That’s what it amounts to. And they’re unfair ramblings, at that.

Don’t get me wrong. I have loads of empathy for those who feel the pangs of remaster/rerelease fatigue, because I feel them myself. I mean, when it comes to the current generation of gaming, take a look at how many titles have been released, or have been confirmed for release in the near future:

Tomb Raider, The Last of Us, Diablo III, Saint’s Row IV, Grand Theft Auto V, Rayman: Legends, Borderlands: The Handsome Collection, God of War III, Halo: MCC, Final Fantasy X/X2, Batman Arkham Asylum/Arkham City, The Walking Dead Seasons 1 and 2, The Wolf Among Us Season 1, Resident Evil, Grim Fandango, Metro: Redux, Dark Souls II, DMC, Ultra Street Fighter IV, Limbo, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, and more.

Of course, mere speculation ends up clogging the headlines, too: Beyond-Two Souls, Kingdom Hearts 1.5 and 2.5, the Mass Effect Trilogy, Alan Wake, collections for Uncharted and Gears of War, and hell, Call of Duty fans have even petitioned for a port of Modern Warfare 2.

So yeah, I get it when people say this is the ‘generation of remasters’… but again, is that fair? Should that mindset really determine which video games are allowed to transcend their original platform?

Of course not.

People are certainly entitled to their opinions, but more and more, they’re being presented as demands. Many who say they’re sick and tired of remasters are really saying there’s no place for them in the industry, which simply isn’t true.

The most common assumption is that remasters are hindering the progression of new games. Eh, not really. In reality, a number of these projects are handed off to smaller studios, which is a solid win for everyone involved. The parent company gets to plug away at a new game without distraction, and the studio handling the port gets more experience and exposure.

And speaking of experience…

At the beginning of any given console generation, developers need time to acclimate. Simply put, they’re not going to learn how to fully utilize a new machine on their first go. They’ll do the best they can, but there’s little doubt that certain games weren’t as impressive as they could have been, all because they were subject to that period of transition. That’s one reason why porting an older game to the current generation makes so much sense. It allows developers to sharpen and upgrade their toolset, which in turn helps the next new project become what it should be.

Despite such reasoning, the kneejerk response from many has been, “Pfft. Yeah right. It’s a simple cash grab and you know it!”

Who’s arguing that? Of COURSE it’s a cash grab. Unless the gaming industry has collectively become a chain of charitable organizations overnight, I’m pretty sure that’s the intent behind everything they do. To make money. If spending the time and money to port an old game to a new platform makes sense for them financially, why wouldn’t they?

More importantly, why shouldn’t they?

There are tons of people who never played these games upon their initial release. Maybe they didn’t feel like adding to their backlog, or perhaps they never owned the console they originated from. Either way, they’re more likely to jump into a franchise if they can play from the foundation, up. After all, devs/publishers can’t expect every newcomer to feel comfortable jumping into the middle of a story. Remasters will bring the uninitiated up to speed, and potentially groom them into future customers, at that.

Likewise, returning players can use them as refreshers. Sure, they can play the OG version if they have it, but if there’s a newer, shiner version out there, it’s a viable, if not attractive option (depending on the person).

So… what’s the big stink?

People often overlook the fact that remasters/rereleases aren’t exclusive to the video game industry. Film, for example, has not only asked enthusiasts to double-dip with each successive format, but multiple times throughout each format’s lifespan (you’d never believe how many times I’ve dipped on Evil Dead II). The music industry has also made a point of remastering/rereleasing things at every opportunity. So, when it comes to video games, people need to accept that regardless of their personal preference, there IS a market for this sort of thing.

And those are the key words: Personal preference.

Like everything else, nobody is forcing us to buy remasters. I’ve seen people argue that this somehow punishes the early adopters, but nobody forced them to buy the original release, either. Even casual gamers understand that prices drop quickly, and special editions with more content will be released in time.

Simply put, it’s up to us to weigh our options and decide how to spend our money.

If you don’t feel like double-dipping, then don’t. If you’re sick of remasters, don’t buy them. It’s that simple.

If, however, the prospect of remasters tickle your loins, it’s worth noting that every rerelease is not created equally. Some are rushed out the door with little more than a higher output of resolution and framerate. Others are given a smidgen of polish. A select few are given major overhauls. What’s worth your time and money? That’s up to you.

The simplest advice I can offer is this: Weigh your love of a game against how extensive the porting process was. If a title didn’t manage to swoon you the first time around, a masterful, technical boost isn’t going to make it any better. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if there’s a game you’re absolutely nuts about, then even the most minute changes in detail will probably be worth the price of admission…

Or not.

That’s the thing with most console remasters/rereleases: They’re just not appropriately priced. Last generation, we’d routinely get 2, 3, or even 4 games at a discounted price… but now? With 4 games under its hood, I feel the Halo: Master Chief Collection justifies its $60 asking price, but that’s an exception to what’s otherwise become the rule. It can be argued that porting these games takes valuable time and resources, but that doesn’t explain why a single year old title should cost $60 (Grand Theft Auto V), or why a five year one should cost $40 (God of War III). Money is the reason, of course, but I’d imagine lower prices would help ease hostility towards remasters, increase units sold, produce longer term interest for any given franchise, and possibly inflate sales for whatever sequels follow in the coming years.

But again, the choice is yours. You can buy these games, or not… but keep in mind that just because YOU’RE not interested in remasters, doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for them in the market. Trust me: If remasters/rereleases prove to be a financial bust, they’ll go away. If they do well, they’ll thrive. That said, our job as consumers is to decide for ourselves, and NOT for everyone else.

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