Remaking The Past: Why Gaming Classics Are Getting Rebooted

Classics reborn for a new generation of gamers.

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The age of older video games being lost to future generations is over as the gaming industry’s enthusiasm for making the old new again continues. Critically acclaimed titles no longer have to languish on outdated platforms, with Resident Evil 4, Tetris, Final Fantasy, Doom and Donkey Kong among those re-released on several occasions in recent years. So, why are these gaming remasters, remakes and reboots so popular, and will the trend continue to make its mark on the industry in the coming years?

Crash Bandicoot: N-Sane Trilogy is perhaps the definitive case study of how nostalgia for older games can translate into huge sales upon re-release. Back in the 1990s, Naughty Dog developed three popular platformers with the iconic character for the original PlayStation before venturing into pastures new with Jak and Daxter, and after that with the Uncharted franchise. However, it is fair to say that the overall quality of Crash games wasn’t as good during the 2000s.

Fast forward to 2017, and there was a considerable demand for a remaster of the original trilogy. That was because Crash remained one of the most recognizable faces in gaming. The PS1 shifted more than 100 million units in its lifetime and Millennials, who were young children during Crash’s original run, have now become parents themselves.

The popularity of Crash Bandicoot: N Sane Trilogy, which arrived in August 2017, probably took Activision by surprise as it became the top-selling remastered collection on the PS4 and surpassed 2.5 million sales worldwide two months after its release. Its success prompted Activision to look again at its catalog of games, and several sources suggest a Spyro the Dragon Trilogy Remaster is on its way this year, with a release expected during the third quarter of 2018.

The trend of bringing older games back to life with enhanced visuals and improved gameplay shows no sign of slowing down. Square Enix is currently working on a new vision for the classic JRPG, Final Fantasy VII, which was announced back in 2015. The game will be a little different to the vast majority of remakes we have seen in recent years as Square Enix is actively moving away from the turn-based battle system used in the original game back in 1997 in favor of real-time action. The change shows how developers can overhaul core systems to meet the expectations of gamers in the modern era offering new experiences rather than sticking rigidly to traditional gameplay.

Remaking a game can be a burden for a developer because it has to carefully balance the way in which assets and controls are updated to appease older gamers while ensuring maximum playability for new audiences. American indie developer, Bluepoint Games, faced those familiar challenges when it was tasked with remaking the Shadow of the Colossus for the PS4.

The original Shadow of the Colossus was an ambitious title created by Team Ico and visionary Japanese director Fumito Ueda for the PlayStation 2 back in 2005. The game had performance issues at launch because it pushed the system to its limits, though it did not detract from the overall play experience as it won several awards, received critical acclaim and went on to become a cult classic. Bluepoint updated the game for PS4 with vastly improved graphics, an updated control scheme and a framerate of up to 60 frames per second on the more powerful PS4 Pro.

However, in a piece for game website Eurogamer, Gareth Damian Martin claimed that the higher fidelity and resolution of the remake had robbed the game of its expressionistic qualities as dark expanses and distant cliffs that were previously muddy and left a lot to the imagination, could now be seen in fine detail. He believed that had robbed the game of some its ambiance. The concern is a minor quibble overall though, as the vast majority of gamers are quite happy to be able to play such a revered game on their 1080p and 4K TVs.

It can be argued that the gaming industry has followed Hollywood with its reboots and remakes, and it is certain there are huge audiences who want their favorite games from the past 30 years to follow them onto each new gaming system they purchase. Nintendo’s Virtual Console, which is defined as a “classic video game re-release distribution,” is a testament to the enduring popularity of older entries from franchises such as Zelda and Mario. Nintendo has released a staggering 398 classic games from older systems including the NES, SNES and Nintendo 64 through Virtual Console in North America.

Nintendo obviously has a considerable catalog of popular games to tap into, and it takes relatively little time or resources to release them on new platforms. That is another reason why we are seeing a notable remake craze in recent years. Creating and developing a new IP can be extremely expensive with no guarantee that the end product will resonate well with audiences. Publishers can instead opt to re-release a game that has previously been successful. It is a low-risk strategy that enables them to drive profits without making a large new investment.

However, gaming classics would not be getting rebooted without there being an audience for re-releases, and as Crash’s recent success shows, gamers are just as eager to revisit older franchises as play fresh, new IPs. It’s a win-win situation for both publishers and consumer. There is also another reason why remasters are seen as a savvy investment for companies: brand building. Re-releases not only excite old fans but can bring new fans to a franchise, which can increase the sales potential of an entirely new entry in the near future. The PS4 and Xbox One have seen a spate of remasters and collections with Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, Metro Redux, Wipeout Omega Collection, Halo: The Master Chief Collection and BioShock: The Collection all having arrived within the last three years.

While remakes have peaked recently, they are not a new concept. The original Resident Evil and Metal Gear Solid were remade for the Nintendo GameCube back in 2005, and the PS3 saw a wealth of remastered collections, ranging from Silent Hill and Devil May Cry to God of War and Kingdom Hearts. In addition to these remakes of console games, older casino and card games have also been updated for the digital age. Thanks to huge advances in technology, you can now find mobile casino solutions that allow players to join in these games via dedicated mobile or responsive design websites or web apps as well as iOs and Google Play native apps. These digital elements have completely transformed classic games such as blackjack, roulette, and poker by introducing innovative concepts that simply wouldn’t be available in traditional settings. As a whole, gaming has moved to accommodate the new tech and will continue to do so as VR and AR come to the fore.

Remasters are here to stay then. Sega said it is currently planning to revive a selection of its “major IPs” and Bluepoint revealed in March 2018 that it is now moving onto a remake project that is even bigger in scope than Shadow of the Colossus. So, to conclude, why is remaking the past in video game form so hot right now?

  • Gamers own current gen consoles and don’t have access to older platforms
  • They are happy to pay for the privilege of playing their favorite games in a higher resolution with improved controls and gameplay
  • Remastering a classic game requires relatively little investment from a publisher
  • Rereleases attract older games due to nostalgia and bring new fans to the franchise, which can increase the potential audience for a new entry

Which recently released remasters or remakes have you enjoyed playing? Please feel free to let us know in the comments section below.

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