We all can be susceptible to the nostalgia trip of beloved things from the past and there is no where that is true more than the video game industry today. Growing up, we all have that game that changed your life in one way or another and secretly hope it gets a fresh coat of paint for that shinny new console you bought. This week’s E3 only cemented the fact that the industry isn’t just exploiting that fact, it’s abusing it. Ever since the “Next Gen” finally launched almost 2 years ago, their libraries have been filled to the brim, not with new and exciting IPs or sequels, but “Remasters” and “Definitive Editions”. Remaking a game can be a great way to improve said game from the past and utilize better technology to achieve the original goals of the game. Instead, we’re seeing much more last generation games being given an upgraded port to the newest console.
At E3, nearly every conference announced at least one of these games. Microsoft had Gears Of War: Ultimate Edition, Sony didn’t show but confirmed God of War III Remastered and The Nathan Drake Collection, Square Enix had Final Fantasy VII HD, Bethesda revealed Dishonored: Definitive Edition and Nintendo rolled out a “re-imagining” of Hyrule Warriors for the 3DS. Although there were new and exciting games to see, the “Next Gen” seems to be bogged down with games from the last generation. Why is that exactly? One of the big problems, and the source of this trend, is backwards compatibility. It’s one thing to remake a 10 year old game, it’s another to port a game to the new system less than 5 years after it release.
For example, look at something like Dishonored: Definitive Edition, announced just a few days ago. Sure, upgraded graphics and all the DLC is great but at what cost? I own Dishonored physically as do many other gamers out there and it released back in 2012. So why re-release a game not even three years old yet? Well, the “Next Gen” isn’t backwards compatible with the previous generation of games. Whether this was done deliberately to cash in on creating “Definitive Editions” of previous games or to focus on performance, it’s the heart of this problem. And yes, I am aware that backwards compatibility would take up space in the hardware which could be used to make the system more powerful. I appreciate the extra horsepower, but an entire library of games is better in my opinion, at least this early in the systems lifespan.
I understand the argument in favor of these remastered games. Re-releasing these games for a younger audience whose first console may have been the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 and couldn’t experience them before makes for a compelling argument. Ultimately, it’s just an excuse to get people to shell out $40-$50 on games they already played (and in some cases owned) just to have something to play on the consoles that have an anemic exclusive library to begin with.
Another reason for both the lack of compelling exclusive titles and the abundance of remasters is the price of game development as a whole. Games take a lot more money to create due to the higher production values the newer systems allow for. Better hardware means extensive detail and polish can go into games to make them look amazing but that comes at the price of an elongated development time. More time means more money and less games to come out as fast as they used to. It’s also much easier and cheaper to upgrade an existing game with new lighting, textures and models than making a game from scratch. That can lead to remastering a game so console owners have something to play while they wait for the system-seller exclusives.
Is this trend all bad? Not necessarily. There are some positives with these games. Take Gears of War: DE for example. The Coalition is adding previously PC exclusive content to the game, updating all of the cutscences, and adding the best of each game’s multiplayer options to create one complete Gears package. This is a good way to catch up people who have never played a Gears game for the eventual release of Gears 4. Problem is, again, I own Gears of War, as do many other people as well, and it works just fine on my 360. Microsoft is alleviating this problem somewhat, offering backwards compatibility for a select few games, a list that will surely grow as the months go on.
So where does this trend take us? Hopefully, this starts to dwindle in the future. Microsoft announcing backwards compatibility will most likely get Sony to implement that as well. With more games now making the leap to the “Next Gen” exclusively, it will bolster the library of each console enough to not depend on last gen upgrades. If the industry continues on this path, the 8th Generation won’t be defined by great innovative games but instead a pretty coat of HD paint for the last generation.
video and images sourced from Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft
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