Since the beginning of the eighth generation of consoles, there has been an epidemic of remastered video games hitting the market, as developers and publishers churn out their past successes in order to meet the supposed demands of the ‘nostalgia generation,’ where people like me have felt a sudden urge to go back and replay the games of their youth. Indeed, remastered titles rely on the limitations of console gaming in order to remain relevant, as without the clear separation between generations and the PS4’s lack of backwards compatibility, there would be no need to purchase games you might already own. Bigger than the question of whether or not remastered games are financially worth it, however, is the question of what impact the market has on the industry as a whole and whether or not the ‘remaster genre’ can survive the coming years.
As stated before, remasters are reliant on the current state of consoles, where people find themselves itching to play old games but not enough to dig up old systems and trudge through dated graphics. Unlike a remake, which fundamentally changes the game, remasters are simply a re-release with updated visuals and performance. However, that doesn’t mean remasters and re-releases of beloved games aren’t successful. Nostalgia is an incredibly powerful tool, one that is often wielded by heritage companies like Nintendo—just look at what they did with the NES and SNES Classic. But despite all of that, I still find that there is a clear divide in the gaming community, where people are split about the effect ‘remaster culture’ might have on the industry.
A significant amount of the hate seems to come from a misunderstanding that remasters take resources away from new and original ideas, which would be true if they weren’t often handled by ‘B’ studios—not their original creators. But an argument I can sympathise with is one of the ‘slippery slope,’ where considering the gaming industry’s penchant for milking cows, remasters and nostalgia-bait may start to bloat the market. Why try a new game when you can buy something you know you already love?
However, although the remaster has thrived throughout this generation of consoles, I’m unsure as to whether it will survive into the coming years. Right now, we’re at an inflection point, where the games industry can follow Xbox and PCs into a future of backwards compatibility and blended console generations, or we can stick somewhere in between Nintendo and PlayStation, staying true to how gaming has been for the last few decades.
The concept of remastered games puts into perspective a wider divide in the industry. There is a segment that wants gaming to join the tech world in its culture and pattern of continuous but moderate upgrades, while another part would prefer consoles to remain separate from the tendencies of mobile phones and PCs. As always, it’s a battle of old versus new. But really, there’s nothing new to see here.