This console generation, more than any other, looks back at its predecessors with an incredible amount of nostalgia. There’s never been quite so many ways to play the games of years past as there are currently. Even most handhelds can play games from their prior iterations via digital downloads. The Nintendo 3DS has a way to do this and the PlayStation Network allows for downloads of PSOne Classics.
But over the past two years, and it seems like more of the same for the near future, retail versions of remastered collections have begun cropping up at an ever-increasing rate. Just off the top of my head, there’s been The Sly Collection, the God of War Collection, and the recently released ICO & Shadow of the Colossus Collection. That’s just counting Sony. Microsoft’s Halo: Anniversary, Nintendo’s Star Fox 64 3D, and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D are part of the same trend.
At least some are being offered at a lower price point, such as ICO & Shadow of the Colossus Collection being sold at around $40. But how much are we really willing to pay for increased graphical fidelity? Considering the sheer amount of remasters already on the market and those coming soon, the answer is: Apparently a lot. We, as a culture, are willing to pay for convenience. Not having to drag out the Nintendo 64 or PlayStation 2 to play some of our favorite games is a large check in the positive column.
But how badly do we need to see Final Fantasy X updated? Or, inevitably, its sequel? The problem here is that they know people are going to snatch these up. It’s not like the game’s popularity has truly waned and there’ll be an entire new group of players that will be sucked in just like the previous generation was in the first place. A remastered version is guaranteed to make some money while not costing a great deal.
With that said, the resources that have been diverted to update these classics might better be spent on creating the classics of tomorrow. It’s not all doom and gloom, however. There’s a reason these games are getting a second life on a new platform; they were great games originally and higher fidelity isn’t something that’s going to alter that but merely enhance it. That doesn’t exactly account for the titles available as digital offerings, though, and many are disdainfully referred to as “shovelware” for good reason.
Part of the reason we continue to see constant remasterings and updates of older games is the sheer fact that coming up with new intellectual property and attempting to profit, especially if it’s not meant to be a franchise, is incredibly difficult. There’s really only so much mindshare to go around and Assassin’s Creed is one of the few truly new franchises to make it. Everything else has been a rehash or attached to a previous franchise.
That’s not to say that attempting to forge ahead with new intellectual property isn’t worth the effort. When new intellectual property does manage to make it past all the hurdles they face both prior to release and after, the results can be spectacular. After all, there was a time when Halo wasn’t on the minds of all those playing space shooters, Uncharted wasn’t always king of the hill for Sony, and the God of War was not always God of War.
Yet here we are in the year 2011. Mortal Kombat has seen a reboot; the massively popular Portal received a well-deserved sequel and Batman: Arkham City is just on the horizon. Beyond that lurks another Uncharted and The Elder Scrolls in the same month. And, lest we forget, both Call of Duty and Battlefield will see yet another game released under their respective banners. The current trend of remastering old titles is just masking the deeper issue: We are afraid of the uncertainty of the new.