Opinion: In Defence of Remasters

Opinion: In Defence of Remasters

Love them or hate them, remasters look like they’re here to stay. But are they really such a blight on the games industry?

It seems like almost every week, there’s a new remastered, remade, or simply re-released game being announced. This year alone, we’ve seen Resident Evil, Saints Row IV, DmC: Devil May Cry, Grim Fandango, Might & Magic III, Final Fantasy Type-0, and plenty of other games re-releases with various degrees of touching up. God of War III, Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy X, and Final Fantasy X-2 are all on the cards for PS4 releases in the coming months. There are rumours of an Uncharted Remastered trilogy, the evidence for which is admittedly sketchy, but the idea itself seems more than a little plausible. There will no doubt be more remastering announcements throughout the rest of this year.

These re-releases seem to be increasingly getting met with disdain. “Why don’t the developers focus on making new games?” people ask. “I’ve already played this, why would I buy it again?” they say. At best, there’s a mild sense of frustration at the frequency of re-released games; at worst, outrage.

But the thing is, remasters are nothing new. And more to the point, not only are they not the problem people make them out to be, they’re actually good for the industry and the gaming community.

It was a remaster that finally brought Final Fantasy Type-0 to the West

Remasters bring great games to new audiences

There was almost no backlash against the announcement of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, because here was a game that had previously never been available outside Japan. Through this re-release, people who couldn’t or didn’t want to import the game and play it in a language they may not understand got a chance to experience it.

The thing is, the remasters that annoy people - Sleeping Dogs, DmC, Tomb Raider, and so on - are doing exactly the same thing, only not on the same scale. Not everyone had a PlayStation 3 and/or Xbox 360; for a lot of people, their PlayStation 4 or Xbox One will be their first console. Remasters like these are an opportunity to bring those great games from the previous generation to an audience who wouldn’t have had a chance to play it before.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection lets Xbox One owners who didn't have previous Xbox consoles experience one of Xbox's most popular franchises.

Is this even more true for platform-exclusive games, like Halo or The Last of Us. If someone had an Xbox 360 for the previous generation, then jumped to PlayStation 4, a game like The Last of Us Remastered gives them a chance to play something that they missed out on. Likewise for people going from PlayStation 3 to Xbox One, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection.

There’s an argument to be made here about backwards compatibility in new consoles, and that’s something I support greatly. But, at the same time, backwards compatibility isn’t just a case of flicking a switch and turning it on. There are a lot of technical aspects to consider that can make adding backwards compatibility to a console a costly and time-consuming process.

Without The Last of Us Remastered, people jumping from Xbox 360 to PS4 would have missed out

Remasters help generate revenue to invest in new projects

Among the many criticisms of remasters is that they’re a “lazy cash grab”. I’d be more inclined to call them smart business decisions.

Obviously, the cost of producing a remaster is far less than making a whole new game from scratch, and they can be turned around in a quicker time. But that certainly doesn’t make them “lazy”; a lot of work goes into remastering a game, even when that doesn’t include creating all-new content. They’re require less time and financial investment, but that doesn’t equate to less effort.

This reduced cost makes remasters a great source of revenue for publishers. There’s a lot of anger directed at the big publishers in particular, and much of that is valid. But, fundamentally, publishers are responsible for providing the ever-increasing budgets for AAA game development. Sure, they’re businesses out to make a profit, but those profits come from the games they invest in.

Tomb Raider Definitive Edition: a :"lazy" cash-grab, or a smart way to generate revenue for new projects?

Despite AAA budgets getting bigger and bigger, the average price of games hasn’t gone up - if anything, it’s dropped. A brand new, full-priced game has cost roughly $120 in New Zealand for as long as I can remember. This was as true in the PlayStation era as it is now, and competition between retailers means that, in most cases, we’re getting new games for far less than the RRP - often around $80 to $100. So, with development costs going up, and prices staying the same, something’s got to give.

Remasters can be a source of revenue for those big publishers to fund new games. Yes, they’ll be lining the coffers of investors too, but their whole business model is built on producing games. A lot of that money is going back into development, and without it (and other revenue streams, like DLC) the price of games would likely be going up.

Continue reading on page 2.


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Comments Comments (12)

Posted by drunk_monk
On Friday 15 May 2015 12:06 PM
Interesting read, and I don't disagree completely but...
"The thing is, the remasters that annoy people - Sleeping Dogs, DmC, Tomb Raider, and so on - are doing exactly the same thing, only not on the same scale."

I would totally disagree with this statement. I wouldn't say releasing a game for the first time in the west is exactly the same thing as re releasing a multi-platform game 6 months later on the next generation of the same hardware.

Last gen consoles are cheap as chips now, and so the only barrier of entry to playing that game is a couple hundred bucks. As opposed to the barrier for entry for playing the original FF Type-0 is importing a copy for an older console and learning a new language. So for many non Japanese speaking people that was the first chance to play the game.

Also as you say "It seems like almost every week, there’s a new remastered, remade, or simply re-released game being announced", but you say its nothing new. I do not remember at the start of last gen there being this absolute surge of old games being re released with slightly shinier graphics, though I could be wrong.

Also you say the remasters pay for new games to be made, if this is the case then that means they are definitely using resources for the remasters that aren't being used for new games (which normally the argument people use Pro-remasters is that they are using different resources for the remasters so it has no effect on other new games).

I'm not anti-remaster, I'm anti-the amount of remasters currently coming out. Games like Grim Fandango which you haven't been able to buy for years makes sense, I think I'm also becoming a bit of a snob. I like the idea of looking back at my PS3 and thinking of the great games on it and being able to play those great games on it. But when there is a pile of remasters coming out that takes away the special because when you look back you will think, I used to play inferior versions of games on this console.

To me the importance of a remaster is accessibility (things like you cant buy it anymore for blah blah reason, or its only available in another language" are good reasons to remaster or just port the game. But when it comes to widely available games I think there needs to be a certain amount of time. in 10 years if the last of us remaster hadn't been done then a remaster would have been something special. Now it will just mean that game is on every gen, almost to the point of shovelware, because every argument in this article would apply to all of these games being re-released next gen, and the gen after that etc.

People are arguing about franchise fatigue with games like assassins creed, soon we will have generation fatigue as all the shops will be filled with new versions of not that old games.

Great article though Matt, I just disagree :)
Posted by rcvillamor3
On Friday 15 May 2015 1:01 PM
Nice read. Bought a few re masters myself. In the end of the day we are all gamers and we should in one way or another be thankful that the "game" itself is here to stay.
Posted by SolomonLaw
On Friday 15 May 2015 1:09 PM
An interesting and detailed article which the author has obviously put a lot of thought into send I agree with a lot of the points especially as being a ps4 owner but having never owned. PS3. However for me it all boils down to the fact that if remasters keep selling then the developers will keep churning them out. I honestly don't see why this should offend anyone, if you don't like remasters don't buy them. If your like me and want to play some classics that you might have missed without having to change or but another console why wouldn't you?
Posted by Mark-Mac
On Friday 15 May 2015 1:18 PM
The Kingdom Hearts remasters are a particular stand-out for me. I only had the PS2 games until these came out, and these were a good way to catch up on the games I missed from other systems. I've also seen that Insomniac are going to add new content to their Ratchet & Clank remaster, which I'm really looking forward to.

While I think some can be lazier than others, overall remasters are a boon for the industry.
Posted by jtbthatsme
On Friday 15 May 2015 1:31 PM
Good article I agree with some of what you say and also with Drunk Monk there's a time and a place 6 months from one gen to the next is not a good way of milking money from fans, however a year or 2 or making a collection like Halo MCC is a good thing.

Remaster done right Dark Souls 2 better graphics and new content, Remaster done wrong Borderlands The Presequel, announced on 3 platforms only with new gen adopters having to buy on PC if they wanted the game (like me bought on Steam) then a few months later oh yeah we're now releasing on your console. Paid for it twice which is just not cool when if they'd announced next gen coming later I could have simply waited and happily done so.

Now it's left a sour taste for a game and franchise I have several hundred hours playing. Still love the franchise but now struggle to even be bothered finding time for BL TPS at all.

Yes remasters have a place and yes they're here to stay but it doesn't mean every AAA title of old needs one.
Posted by kiwiatlarge
On Friday 15 May 2015 1:41 PM
PS2 Remasters passed... PS3 Remasters will do the same... eventually.

As I've said before, I have fors and againsts for the concept... No doubt that The Last of Us and GTAV have been my favourite PS4 experiences... but the fact that that is the case is a sad reflection on the state of the new gen new release schedule.

At the moment most of my time is spent on the Borderlands series... The Presequel on PS4 (which I skipped on PS3) co-op with my better half, and Borderlands 2 on Vita (which if it was a shared trophy list I'd probably be playing it on PS4 remote play on the vita for the better experience)...
Posted by cortez72
On Friday 15 May 2015 3:27 PM
I think when these remasters get in the way of a studio developing new titles it is a problem. I am noticing a trend of next gen games getting pushed back dates- talk of under staffed/over worked studio's being one of the big concerns.

As drunk_monk has rightly said, there is a surge of titles at present, some of which warrant a re-release, others are just cash grabs. And the cash grabs are what annoy me, because the human resources required to push that title out the door may hinder another title getting the polish or meeting release date.
Posted by Bank
On Friday 15 May 2015 5:11 PM
Remasters are my life.
Remasters ^3
Remasters of remasters of remasters please.

Seriously. I've missed out on a lot between last year of high school and present uni. Remasters are the shiz. For more than the obvious reason.

Matt is right on that money that it's a non negative activity. People still complain "Oh it's another remaster. Where are my games? Stop releasing games we've all already played". New games still on track. Not everyone has played the games, believe it or not. This was answered in the first paragraphs.

It's like people forget that other people don't play every game on release. They also forget that remasters make $$$$$$ EAAASY. Easy. Doesn't matter that players had an inferior version. There's a better one now for freshmen. The oldies don't have to re-buy it.

The reason no other gen has had this renaissance of remasters is quite simple. We've never had such a interconnected network of customers, gamers as we do now. It's a heavily digitally heavy frontier. The end of PS3 and 360 showed the improvement in the network since its birth but now this gen it is an even faster digital content interface. We live in the biggest sea of technology information network yet, more and more voices will be heard. These voices? They ask for remasters. Can't stop the train. And the net will only increase - forever.

Consoles that produce HD pictures will Never be seen as a Low Cost commodity. The masses NEED those missed or beloved experiences on something relevant and that is moving forward. Remasters $$$$ easy money.
Posted by mchumdinghy
On Sunday 17 May 2015 9:17 AM
Nice article. At the end of the day, where the game industry moves depends on where people spend their money and gamers must be buying remasters otherwise there wouldn't be so many.
Posted by nimrod76
On Sunday 17 May 2015 10:32 AM
I've no problem with re-masters, I treat them like any other game, if I don't want it I don't buy it. My PS3 died so re-masters are a great way for me to replay the games I was hanging on to like GOWIII. They are not harming the industry in any way and they are a great way for people who never had an opportunity to play them. I really don't get the hate.
Posted by stutank
On Thursday 21 May 2015 1:40 AM
It's a revenue gathering exercise as far as I'm concerned. A lot of remastered games have had their day and some of them have actually been poor remakes. The Sleeping Dogs remake was a slap in the face for many who've already purchased the game. I believe remasters are stifling creativity. Bring out something new and fresh developers. Don't give us a game we played in our child hood.
Posted by Rocky1986
On Thursday 21 May 2015 8:55 AM
Everybody wins in my opinion