Shank’s Spiel: Ruinous Remakes

We now sit seven months out from the launch of the new consoles last November. It’s fair to say that apart from a very few triple-A exclusives, current offerings unique to either system are slim. Remember, games like Assassin’s Creed IV and Wolfenstein are available on various other platforms, adding to the verisimilitude of available content on these new consoles. Even Titanfall, Microsoft’s supposed Xbox One killer app, is not exclusive to the Xbox One, as it can be purchased on the Xbox 360 as well as the PC.

Curiously then, we are left with a smattering of cross platform and indie titles to hold us over until the next big triple-A exclusive comes along. What to do? Those of us fortunate enough to be able to invest in multiple platforms can pass the time on other titles such as Mario Kart on Wii U or on the multitude of endless PC offerings via Steam, GOG, and Green Man Gaming. However, those gamers who only have one system or the other are in a bit a bind. What to do?

Recently, there has been this trend of bringing back games from last generation onto these new systems. Tomb Raider Definitive Edition most obviously comes to mind. However, we now know that The Last Of Us Remastered is coming to the PS4 this summer. On top of that, a remastered pairing of Metro 2033 and Metro Last Light are coming to the new consoles and PC as Metro Redux. There are even rumors of a Halo Master Chief Collection coming this fall to Xbox One, featuring a remaster of Halo 1-4.

Now, all this seems fine and dandy. However, if you dig a little deeper, the Tomb Raider Definitive Edition and Metro Redux games are effectively PC versions of the game ported over to the consoles with some minor additional enhancements. Similarly, while I am personally ecstatic to be able to play The Last Of Us and Halo 1-4 with far superior visuals on my current consoles, all four of these examples – Tomb Raider, The Last Of Us, Metro, Halo – are all the same exact game as they were on their original platforms. That is, apart from shiny new visuals, nothing else is fundamentally new.

And herein lies the problem. These remakes are nothing more than old ideas brought to the market once again. They’re not even recycled ideas, as the word “recycle” implies a new use from old material. There is no new use here. There is no new spin on the original ideas. These remakes are literally the same exact ideas with a shinier coat of paint. Nothing more.

What this means is that these developers are not contributing to the progress of the industry…at least for the time being. Old ideas are, by definition, old. They’re not new. They’re not even a new take on an old idea. And in this industry, this means lack of growth.

By literally copy and pasting the same idea, no new experiences are being created. Instead, these remakes only serve to artificially drag on the current consoles’ lifecycle even longer than it needs to be. This in turn slows growth and progress to a crawl. And I’m not solely talking about technical progress. Any progress and growth with respect to new ways of storytelling, interaction, and gameplay mechanics all get deferred by a few months to a few years.

This isn’t good. This isn’t progress. It’s a step backwards.

I understand the appeal of these remakes. Really, I do. These remakes provide a way for those gamers to play these titles on their new consoles in case they did not play these games in their original form. And, like I’ve mentioned countless times, I’m genuinely looking forward to playing The Last Of Us on my PS4. And you can bet that if this Master Chief Collection rumor pans out, I will buy it on Day 1. After all, who doesn’t want to relive their favorite games?

However, my concern does not lie with the short term impact these remakes can have. Frankly, the short term impact is slim at best, only providing us gamers with nostalgic experiences. It is the long term effect I am concerned with.

In addition to the negative effect these remakes have to industry growth, they can also negatively impact the PC. Remember, the PC is a constantly evolving platform. New components are released every few months so the opportunity to upgrade is always there. As such, the PC is a dynamic platform compared to the static nature of consoles.

Due to the evolving nature of the PC, and because constant remakes of older titles can drag on the current consoles’ lifecycle, the PC will only get further and further ahead of these consoles. Meaning, it will not be long before even a moderately equipped PC will far outstrip these consoles. PC versions of cross platform titles will suffer as developers “hold back” certain features simply because of aging consoles.

Does this sound familiar? It should. This is the same situation that happened last generation, albeit under slightly different circumstances. However, the resulting effect was the same. A longer console generation resulted in the PC grabbing an impossible lead. Should this cadence of releasing remakes continue, it’s all but guaranteed that the same thing will happen this generation.

I am most definitely concerned that publishers may see this remake business as a profitable one. I honestly believe that the long term implications of this cadence are destructive to the industry at large and only foster the conservative business mentality rather than allowing developers to forge new ground.

One year from now, I don’t want to hear or see anything about any remake coming to the current consoles. If I do, well, then I guess I’ll have to create a remake of this piece…

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