Sep 6, 2013
Remakes of older gen games have become a regular feature in the release titles produced for both console and computer gaming alike. But how do they fit in alongside new titles, independent projects, franchises and sequels? Is it following fan wishes by creating modern representations of some of the best games from previous generations, upping the graphics and ‘fixing’ often messy, outdated game-play/mechanics? Or is it simply an attempt at some easy money.
The Digital Age
With the increasing availability and recent push towards digital downloads, it is much easier for consumers to purchase games they may have missed out on from previous generations. It allows older gamers to revisit some of their favourite games (even if left untouched) from the past, and others to play classics from consoles released before they were even born.
It is much easier to purchase a digital download of a SNES/NES title than it would be to track down the physical console and games, whether online or retail. Furthermore, the money goes straight to the developers, whereas second-hand they wouldn’t see any of that money.
Xbox Live Marketplace, Playstation Store and the Nintendo eShop have allowed developers to re-release their old content without the need (and cost) to physically manufacture and produce. By investing in porting the games to the respective console, it gives gamers a chance to experience what they may have missed out on.
Building on Past Success
Remakes have great sales potential as they play to gamers’ nostalgia, and even those who were too young to remember old released can be easily caught up in crowd behaviour (we’re looking at you, Final Fantasy VII – Ed).
Pokémon has re-released the first four games from the first two generations, which now encompass all the enjoyment and memories from the Gameboy and Gameboy Colour. Gamers were just as eager to play Pokémon FireRed, LeafGreen, HeartGold and SoulSilver as they were to play the originals, and despite being remakes, they were just as eagerly anticipated as new Pokémon titles and sold tremendously well.
For developers, it is important they latch onto this sense of anticipation – the remakes they decide to produce must hit that particular sweet spot in order to be a worthwhile investment. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time remake did just that, and was also released alongside a limited edition version of the 3DS. Many hardcore Zelda fans, who may not own a 3DS, would likely be tempted to purchase the handheld console and game in the single package. Ocarina of Time is widely regarded as one of the greatest games ever made, and a remake with improved graphics, a much tidier inventory interface alongside the simple joy of re-living the experience of traversing a 3D Hyrule made Ocarina of Time an obvious choice for a remake.
The success of Ocarina of Time (and the Zelda franchise) has left fans begging for more; it seems at any given opportunity, gamers inquire about a Majora’s Mask remake for the 3DS. Not only would this be great fan-service, but the sales potential is strong, and it could also invite younger gamers who have never experienced the joy of a Nintendo 64 to be able to play the game on a device they currently own.
Some remakes make better use of new technology that modern consoles have than others. The Metroid Prime trilogy was re-released in a single pack on Wii, allowing gamers who may not have experienced the first two titles on the GameCube to experience the game with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk.
Balancing Old and New
Depending on how much work is required to remake a particular game, whether it be a remastering of the graphics, increasing the frame-rate, or simply tweaking a few awkward game mechanics, it’s hard to judge if it’s a publishers way of “playing it safe”.
How they are remade – whether they have changed drastically from the original, whether it’s a straight port across or a complete control and graphic re-design – has a big impact on the amount of hype, either positive or negative, and ultimately the success of the re-release.
Furthermore, if the remake only needs small tweaks and development (in comparison to a brand new title), the return should easily justify the investment if it makes half-decent sales.
Interestingly, the remake of Final Fantasy X, which was announced in 2011, keeps getting pushed back. It begs the question, are some remakes worth investing all this time into? A three year production cycle for a remake seems quite extensive. Could the resources be spent better elsewhere, on potential new projects or a proposed sequel?
Time and Resource Management
As much as gamers love to riff off the golden glow of nostalgia, it is important that reliving the past in a repackaged, more beautiful way does not take away from developers pushing out new games. For instance, the HD rendition of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker should sell well, and possibly encourage people who do not already own a Wii U to purchase the console, however a new Zelda title would have undoubtedly sparked more interest for gamers, and hopefully prompted a large increase in sales. It would be strange to think Nintendo haven’t been working towards Zelda Wii U, but did The Wind Waker’s remake spread resources too thin, or is the world just not ready for a new Zelda title?
To undertake a remake appears to be somewhat of a double-edge sword. On one hand, you can repackage and make improvements to a popular game that is a proven big seller. On the other hand, a lot of money could be invested and unfortunately the remake might not live up to the hype surrounding it. Either way, it is a delicate balance that must be considered before investing time and energy into a game that maybe – just maybe – should have stayed in the past.