It’s been a little over a year since the newest console generation released to an eager audience. Then, it was clear to many who made the leap that the next-generation of gaming was starved for new and exciting titles. Indies, last generation cross-buys, and early exclusive titles tended to the 2014 Game Famine’s most temporary needs, but nothing felt like it really pushed the hardware or justified the need for it. It was a time of regret for some, anger for others, and there were those just happy for what they had.
But something unholy was born out of that time, something wretched and ugly. It was the work of a few money-hungry publishers. They preyed on the needs of the many, and instead of producing something new, they released The Remasters.
In all seriousness, I’ll come clean. I appreciate the recent surge in remastered games. I don’t even mean the classic ones making a comeback from generations ago; the ones that make us look at how far gaming has come and realize how fun a gaming experience can still be without all of the added flair of contemporary entertainment. I’m talking about that game that came out less than a year ago. You know that one that was released at the tail-end of the last console generation? Yeah, I’m happy to see it again, all spruced-up and ready for my hard-earned cash. Let me tell you why.
In the summer of 2013, I was playing The Last of Us on my old, 60 GB PlayStation 3. I was near the final chapter of the game when my PS3 crashed, forever only responding to my touch with the flash of a yellow light. It never booted up again, and I resigned to the fact that I would very likely never have the chance to see that game’s credits roll (or that of any other last-gen game). For lack of a primary gaming console at the time, I was an early-adopter of the PlayStation 4. Suffice it to say that I was very much on-board when The Last of Us: Remastered was announced and eventually released.
Today, I can say that The Last of Us (TLOU) is one of my favorite games of all time, and it’s solely because Naughty Dog chose to remaster it for current-gen. If not for that decision, I never would have played it on Grounded Difficulty (something I now believe is essential to truly experience the title). I wouldn’t have played the beautiful Left Behind DLC, let alone completed the main campaign. As someone who cherishes masterful storytelling, I would have been absent for one of the best in gaming.
Of course, my situation is only one. It is not the standard for every gamer. For many gaming experiences getting the remaster nod, a great number of gamers have already invested time and money. They find it irksome that developers would waste away on an old project. “Why remake a game that just came out? Why not make something new?”
When Naughty Dog decided to remaster TLOU for the PS4, the team knew it would be a trying task. Creative Director Neil Druckmann even went so far as to say that the PS3 to PS4 transition was “Hell.” The PS3 was a notoriously difficult system to develop for, and for the first-party developer, there was no precursor for bringing this title to another system (unlike studios who develop for multiple consoles in a generation). Still, the team knew that it was something the player community wanted, and one year later, TLOU: Remastered was released.
Some might say that year was wasted. After all, Naughty Dog is one of Sony’s premiere developers, creator of the blockbuster Uncharted series, so “why couldn’t they just work on that or a sequel to TLOU?” While Naughty Dog certainly continued to work on Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End during that time, it’s true that some resources were likely repositioned for TLOU: Remastered, but what many fail to realize is that its development has benefited all of Naughty Dog’s future endeavors on PS4. Besides the fact that the original and remastered versions had highly successful releases (each selling over 1 million copies in a flash), Druckmann actually credits TLOU: Remastered with how Naughty Dog learned to develop for PS4:
“Even on in the early days of PS3, we were thinking of the transition to PS4 […] The Last Of Us Remastered gave us an excuse to bring those systems over, refine them and optimise them for the hardware.”
Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition was released 11 months after the original title, Tomb Raider (2013), launched on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. Ported to PS4 and Xbox One by two other companies (Nixxes Software and United Front Games, respectively), Crystal Dynamics‘ development of other games, like the upcoming Rise of the Tomb Raider, were unhindered by its creation, and it’s a large reason why the franchise will continue.
Upon release, Tomb Raider saw high critical acclaim, but fell short of selling within Square Enix‘s expectations. The publisher saw many financial cutbacks due to various underperforming products throughout the year, and by the end of 2013, Tomb Raider had only begun to generate profit. In March 2014, only two months after the release of Definitive Edition, Square Enix stated that Tomb Raider (across both iterations) “continues to make significant contributions to [its] overall financial performance.” The title had sold over six million copies, surpassing Crystal Dynamics’ expectations.
It’s now clear that there’s a strong market for remastered titles regardless of age, and Square Enix (among others) is cashing in. Final Fantasy VII‘s remake may not be what die-hard fans wanted or expected, but it will be released on PS4 with little expense paid (compared to the alternative: a complete remake), and many will buy it. Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster sold so well that there is speculation it has spurred the development of a Final Fantasy XII remaster. While it’s not a true remaster, the MMORPG, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, has also been very well received by old and new fans, alike.
But, I’m not someone who’s so obsessed with numbers and the constant churning of the corporate machine to think that it’s the sole reason to believe in the remaster formula. As one who has experienced it first-hand, I know the importance of preserving good games, and whether that comes in the form of finding there’s still life in an oldie, proving to a publisher that a series is still worth pursuing, or discovering something you never knew you missed, I can see how it’s relevant to someone. Can you?