Gaming has always typically fallen into generally defined “ages” as consumer trends (and mostly developers/publishers) try to find the next big craze. For the last 10 years, however, I think it would be fair to summarise the current period as the age of the remake and remaster. We have seen a hell of a lot of gaming remakes and remasters over the last decade. And being as diplomatic as I can, let’s just say that we’ve seen a bit of a mixed bag of results.
Some of them have been amazing. Others have been awful. Most though have probably been best described as mediocre at best.
Regardless of this and specific opinions on certain gaming titles, however, there is one aspect of this particular ‘boom’ that is starting to become hard to ignore. – I mean, is it just me or do we typically get these remakes/remasters, and then very quickly forget about them and move on? Even those that are incredibly well-received.
I’m not saying that gamers are fickle, but at the same time, maybe I am… And no, I’m not just dumping the blame squarely at the gaming communities feet. Overall though, it seems pretty clear that this remake/remaster era has a problem. And one that most of us, developers/publishers as well, seem to be ignoring!
The biggest issue with remakes and remasters is that most of them just seem to be so overwhelmingly mediocre. I don’t necessarily want to conflate remakes with remasters as there is a pretty huge difference (developmentally) between the two. Typically though, regardless of which road was taken, the result for the vast majority of these games remains the same.
They’re alright. They give us what we (supposedly) needed/wanted. And then everyone moves on to anticipating the next big thing. – And when you think about it, you come to realise that this doesn’t just happen fairly frequently. With remakes, and especially so remasters, it pretty much happens all the time!
I have played many remakes and remasters over the years and, in all honestly, I don’t think I played any of them even half as much as I did the original. Yes, this may be a bad example, but Warcraft 3 probably stole 100 hours from me back in the early 2000s. The Warcraft 3 Reforged ‘Remaster’ though? That probably didn’t even manage to get 10 hours out of me. Let alone 10 enjoyable hours.
I’m not going to go down many specific rabbit holes (I’ll leave that for much more eloquent commentators such as Matt McMuscles below), overall though, gaming remakes and remasters are, regardless of their actual quality, very forgettable!
As I noted earlier, it is very easy to conflate remakes with remasters and there really is a huge difference between the two. It can sometimes be as easily confused as the difference between when a product is ‘launched’ and when one is ‘released’.
At the risk of being patronisingly insulting to some of you, let me just spell the difference out. – A remake is (at least if accurately described) a complete rebuild of a game from the ground up. A remaster, however, typically only brings three “new” things to the table. A fresh coat of graphical gloss, maybe some improvements to the user interface, and mostly just the ability to replay an old game on new hardware.
And in some specific instances, things in this hardware regard are truly getting insane! The Last of Us Part 1 and GTA V has now been released on three different generations of consoles! – Albeit, acting as licenses to print money you can understand why. Eh, at least these two have been pretty amazing regardless of where and on what you play it!
Back on point though, when it comes to the more ‘mediocre’ and ‘forgettable’ aspects of this problem, let me be clear in that I think around 70% of these instances heavily occur in gaming remasters! – This is almost certainly to do with the fact that ‘remasters’ are easy (easier) and cheap (massively cheaper) to produce than remakes. Hence why we get a hell of a lot more of them. Oh, and also why developers/publishers do sometimes like to conflate remasters and remakes with each other.
In many instances, regardless of remake or remaster, a lot of the end results are generally a bit, well… disappointing. Resident Evil 3 Remake? Amazing! Just a shame it only lasted 4-5 hours! – The Dead Space Remake? Phenomenal. Around 4 months on from release though and it’s practically forgotten. – The so-called Blade Runner remaster? That’s remarkable as it is because in many regards it’s worse than the original!
A great recent example though is GoldenEye. For nearly 20 years the internet was alive, nay frothing at the mouth, with requests for a new modern edition. We finally got it last January and… Yeah. No, it wasn’t really what anyone wanted, but we got it and then promptly stopped talking about it anymore! – I was certainly not a hardcore advocate for a revival of GoldenEye, but with that being said, I didn’t play the new version for more than an hour before thinking ‘meh, back to Elden Ring I guess’.
With all this in mind though, we might be stumbling onto the overall problem we have with remakes and remasters.
Does the gaming community, and even developers/publishers, really know what the market needs?
The trend for remakes and remasters may ultimately be here to stay forever. As time passes and the gaming community gets older, newer people will want to play their games from their childhoods again. Even if, in probably 90% of situations, they’re never as good as you remember them being (which they are practically never!).
In many respect though, I think we (the gaming community) are undoubtedly partly to blame for this. We badger developers for years to remake/remaster titles and when they finally do, presuming they were done to a relatively decent standard (certainly not always), regardless of whether we love them or hate them, we’re all just so quick to move on to something else!
Who knows, maybe we like the asking and anticipation more than getting the result! A bit like England going into a World Cup, we (English people) know we’re (probably) not going to win, but damn do we enjoy building up the hype and expectations just to be confused and disappointed at the lost opportunity when we crash out. Likely on penalties.
It shouldn’t be ignored either that some of the biggest gaming titles that arguably most need remakes and/or remasters do typically tend to get ignored by publishers. – Metal Gear Solid 4 seems destined to remain a PS3 exclusive (emulation to one side) forever! – Why? Well, putting the potential legal issues with Hideo Kojima to one side, given how this game was so intrinsically designed and optimised around the PS3 hardware, this would have to be completely recreated from the ground up! I sincerely doubt that whatever exists now in the original source code is viable for any kind of modern remaster.
And this is where we touch on the point above. A Metal Gear Solid 4 remake would not be easy. Hence almost certainly why it has not been done. At least not yet (we can but pray!).
Overall though, and here’s an interesting thought, do publishers simply give us the remakes and remasters that are easy to do? This is certainly not always the case (Demon Souls for example), but it does seem that the glut we get of remakes and remasters do typically tend to revolve around projects where, at least from my viewpoint, the workload and cost are probably half that of creating a whole new IP.
I don’t think anyone is ignorant of the fact that, generally speaking, we get a lot of remakes and remasters because they’re cheap to create and are practically guaranteed to make some money given that there is an audience already established (those who played the original/s). This is now proven to consistently work, and, on the whole, it means that regardless of actual consumer demand, remakes and remasters are undoubtedly here to stay. I look forward to playing Cyberpunk 2077’s third revision in 2077. – Hopefully it’ll be good then!
Before you take to Reddit or 4Chan to add your name to another remake/remaster petition though, perhaps what we gaming consumers need to do is just stop and think for a minute.
Perhaps it’s getting more important to look at this from the viewpoint that it’s not a case of what we’d like to see get remade or remastered, but possibly what really needs to be remade or remastered.
And who knows, perhaps if we get more concise and (dare I say) less fickle in our apparent needs, we might finally start getting some games that deserve the modernisation treatment! – For the moment though, expect the outsourced mediocrity to keep on coming from that conveyor belt.
What do you think? Which classic gaming title do you think most needs a remake or remaster (regardless of what you’d most personally like to get)? – Let us know in the comments!
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