Take a look at some of the biggest video games coming out this year — Grand Theft Auto V, The Last of Us Remastered, The Master Chief Collection and Metro Redux. A feeling of deja vu is understandable.
These previously released titles are coming out again for PS4 and/or Xbox One. For Grand Theft Auto V, The Last of Us and Metro Redux, these updated versions come only about a year after the original releases.
It’s easy to look at the slew of re-releases hitting store shelves this year as yet another attempt by greedy video game publishers to squeeze more money out of gamers. But this simple deduction ignores the fact that all this double-dipping is actually trying to solve a problem: How does someone who doesn’t have a last generation console play an older game on a modern console?
The best solution would be full backward compatibility, whereby your shiny new PS4 or Xbox One can play all of your old PS3 or Xbox 360 games. However, backward compatibility may sadly be a thing of the past as consoles get more and more complex.
So, as of right now, the only realistic way to play those older games on newer consoles is through the re-releases and remasters.
In some ways, this is a better solution than vanilla backward compatibility. All of the re-releases mentioned above come with additional graphical bells and whistles thanks to more powerful hardware. The Last of Us Remastered, Metro Redux and The Master Chief Collection also include additional downloadable content on top of the original games in the re-release.
More importantly, re-releasing games addresses a key issue plaguing video game culture. Archiving, which is already a problem in the relatively simpler world of cinema, is a massive, nightmarish obstacle for video games. There’s simply no guarantee that a state of the art game released tomorrow could be enjoyed a decade later.
These re-releases, by virtue of existing, extend the time given to these older games, before the last original Xbox in the world breaks and renders Halo 2 unplayable or The Last of Us gets deleted off of the PlayStation Store.
Admittedly, the expensive process of re-releasing games only works for big titles, so smaller games may still get lost in the shuffle. Digital stores, however, may allow these gems to be re-released. For instance, Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee got remade and has been re-released as Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty exclusively on the digital platforms.
Yes, the people bankrolling these remastering projects likely stand to make a good deal of relatively easy money, but at the same time, encouraging re-releasing helps keep video game history alive.