Remastered Video Games: Must-Haves or Cash-Grabs?

September 22, 2014 Written by Zarmena Khan

tlou ps3 ps4

The recent influx of remastered/definitive editions of video games from the previous generation has sparked a brand new debate. One side argues that next-gen consoles should have arrived with a fresh library of games, and the other side argues that opponents of remasters are merely throwing their toys out of their prams because this concept isn’t new. I think there’s no right or wrong answer to the question of whether this sudden onslaught is justified or not. However, I do believe that there is an assortment of underlying issues with the way modern-day re-releases are being approached by gamers and developers alike.

One of the most common arguments that opponents of remasters present is that next-gen consoles should have been backward-compatible, hence, eliminating the need for re-releases. While I’d love to have a backward-compatible console, the reality is, technological advancements are making it increasingly difficult for manufacturers to incorporate this feature. One way to make a console backward-compatible is through hardware implementation, and another way is through software emulation. Without getting too technical, the issue here is that of growing hardware complexity, especially when it comes to powerful consoles like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The technology used in modern consoles makes it a painstaking and expensive procedure to develop machines that are compatible with dated technology.

In simple English, if manufacturers had to invest time and resources into making modern consoles backward-compatible, then consumers would consequently be paying a significantly higher price for them. The market conditions make it difficult for console makers to sell expensive machines that barely help them to break even. I’m sure arguments can be presented for and against what companies should and shouldn’t prioritize, but I’ll digress. Ultimately, it’s the gamers who lose out by either having to buy pricey consoles or not being able to play some fantastic games from the past should developers choose not to re-release them. The Last of Us and Grand Theft Auto V are prime examples of this. 

gta5

I was one of those people who were pretty late to the party when the PlayStation 3 launched in 2006. I was a full-time student at the time and held a job, which meant that I was short on funds and spare time. It wasn’t until 2012 that I managed to purchase a PS3, and I missed out on a large number of games owing to time and money. Last year, for a change, I was one of those who purchased a launch PS4 console, and was lucky enough to pick up games of interest as and when they released. I’m sure a lot of people found themselves in a situation similar to mine. Bear in mind that a significant proportion of gamers either didn’t own a console of the same brand in the previous generation (see: Nintendo Wii owners converting to PS4), or they didn’t own any console to begin with. We also know that many people had to resort to trading in their previous consoles in order to purchase one from the new range. And just for the aforementioned reasons, a lot of gamers would welcome remastered bundles like Metro Redux.

With that said, a balance needs to be struck. When Square Enix announced a next-gen release of Sleeping Dogs, I wasn’t quite sure what prompted that decision. For those who aren’t aware, Sleeping Dogs was considered a failure by the publisher as it didn’t meet sales expectations. I realize that Square Enix made similar remarks about Tomb Raider, the definitive edition for which was a hit on next-gen consoles. But Sleeping Dogs’ sales figure is nowhere close to that of the 2013 version of Tomb Raider. In light of this, the move to re-release the game sounded like a rushed decision which was more aimed towards cashing in on the latest trend than anything else. It doesn’t take a qualified analyst to deduce that although development costs associated with remastered games are significantly low, the cost of marketing, packaging and shipping, and general administrative costs will still be incurred. In an industry of such volatile nature where financial turmoil seems to occur quite frequently, it makes little sense to invest time and resources into re-releasing games that weren’t exactly game-of-the-year material.

sleeping dogs

I personally don’t mind remastered games. Heck, I’d love to play definitive versions of some popular titles like Red Dead Redemption. But I also think that as more and more developers jump on the bandwagon, with some quite obviously just wanting a slice of the pie, creativity will ultimately be affected. In two months time, we’ll be celebrating the one-year anniversary of the PS4 and Xbox One. Honestly speaking, I can’t say that I’ve been satisfied with the library of games on offer thus far. And it doesn’t take a lot to satisfy casual gamers like myself. I’m the kind of person who can take months to finish a game, but I still struggle sometimes to find games of interest for my new machine. The only time hearing about remastered games becomes a bête noire for me is when I feel like there’s a general lack of fresh games to play. However, I do believe that this trend will change going forward, especially if services like the Gaikai become common.


Note: The view expressed in this article is solely that of the author’s and does not represent that of PlayStation LifeStyle and its entire staff.