Tim: This current generation of consoles was touted to be the dawn of a new age. An age of games that would push the boundaries of what we, as console gamers, have known for the better part of the last decade. Among the launch titles there were a few gems, notably the massive number of onscreen zombies in Dead Rising 3 and the visually stunning Killzone: Shadowfall. Not long after launch, we were steered down a dark path of HD remakes and re-releases, many of which are nothing more than a “Game of the Year Edition.”
Seeing the ever-increasing number of these re-releases has caused me to ask myself – why should I buy this game again? They often come across as just a lazy cash grab. Take Saints Row 4: Re-elected, for example. It’s simply Saints Row 4 with all the DLC on the new consoles. No extras, no incentives, just a re-release. Another example is the recently announced Borderlands: The Handsome Collection, which includes Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre sequel as well as all the associated DLC. My issue with this re-release is that Borderlands: The Pre Sequel was only released in the latter half of last year. It’s not like there’s been a massive gap between Borderlands games and that people are screaming out for more. I remember the days when developers actually worked on new Intellectual Property (IP) instead of slapping on a few high-res textures and trying to sell a title back in to the same generation of gamers that bought the original.
Am I right, or am I just a grumpy old man?
Andy: I think you could be a grumpy old man, Tim. The jury is still out on that, though. Firstly, nobody is forcing you to buy these upgraded versions.
I’m a fairly cynical person, but I’m not cynical about re-releasing games, or providing an ‘HD upgrade’ to a game. As a film lover first and a gamer second, I’ve always looked at the eternally evolving film formats as a worrying trend, and that smaller films will become lost over time. The change from VHS to DVD to Blu-ray and now streaming rights means that smaller films once released on VHS have not, and possibly will not, ever make the move to Blu-ray or streaming services. What does this have to do with games? Well, I’ve always feared that games would go down the same path.
So, for me, the ability to have games as widely available on as many platforms as possible is imperative. If it means that a game like Beyond Good & Evil receives a slight HD upgrade so that new generations can play it, or allowing a game like Saints Row IV to arrive on current-gen consoles, then console owners have games to play while waiting on the new blockbusters. The main point, though, is maintaining gaming history by allowing previous generations games to be available on as many platforms as possible. Would you pick up a remastered version of an N64 game if you missed it the first time round?
Tim: Sure I would. Some of my fondest memories of gaming are from the N64 era, but I think there’s a lot more merit in revisiting the N64 era compared to a game that came out a year or two ago. Revisiting an older game – that is, one from a few generations ago – gives those of us who played it when we were younger a chance to get a good dose of nostalgia, and provides the new generation of gamers a chance to play the games that set the foundations of those they play today.
I get sick of seeing a new announcement by a developer, thinking they’ve been putting their time and effort into some new IP for a change, only to find out it’s Borderlands: The Handsome Collection. No extra content, no graphics upgrade, just essentially the “Game of the Year Edition.” I guess the reason it bugs me so much is the fact that they could be using the resources that they put into the cheap cash grab and utilise them elsewhere. I believe a developer should provide a reason to shell out again for a game that’s not that old. Something beyond barely updated graphics and DLC. 4A games reworked their entire game engine for the Metro 2033: Redux and made it play like a different game. What did you make of The Handsome Collection’s announcement?
Andy: I understand why you would be frustrated, because you, along with many other people, would want a new Borderlands game. I get it. But the benefit in re-releasing a game like Borderlands on new gen consoles is that the developers have a chance to understand these new consoles a bit better. They get to reconfigure the whole game for the PS4 or XBone. Sure, at its core, it’s the exact same game, but the developers have a better understanding of how the consoles work – which essentially means they’re able to provide a brand spanking new Borderlands/Assassin’s Creed/Tomb Raider/Insert Franchise Of Desire Here sooner.
But, again, it all boils down to the fact that nobody is forcing you to buy these new versions. Given how hard it is to make a successful game, it makes complete sense to have your game available on as many consoles as possible. With there being 10 million PS4’s in homes, that’s 10 million possible sales for a re-released version of Borderlands, or – your game of the year – Metro: Last Light. I see no issue with a developer taking another opportunity to make more money. In fact, I would suggest looking at re-releases on new gen consoles as ‘delayed same date releases’. It’s no different to Activision releasing the new version of Call of Duty on every single console – except in these instances, the release for one set of consoles is six months later than the others.
Tim: I actually don’t want a new Borderlands game. They’ve flogged that dead horse enough. I want them to be creating something new. Porting a game gives them a chance to work with a new console for sure, but it’s not a fantastic use of their time and not that great a learning experience for their staff. They would be much better off designing something specifically for the new generation of consoles.
You can argue that they aren’t forcing you to buy it, but by allocating their resources to these projects they kind of are. Most developers don’t have the capacity to split themselves between multiple projects, and using Gearbox Software as an example, they are only working on 2 things that we know of. One is a PC-exclusive called Battleborn and The Handsome Jack collection. So in this instance, if you’re a console player then this re-release is the only option they are providing you with. I know there are other developers, but there are an increasing amount doing these re-releases and therefore they are limiting the options for us, the gamers. If you had a choice between Ubisoft re-releasing a Rayman game or making a new one, which would you prefer?
Andy: Oh for sure, I’d love a new Rayman game; however, as a fan of the series – and a fan of platformers – I’ll take a re-released version of Rayman over nothing at all. In fact, the point I was going to make was Guacamelee!’s re-release on the PS4 felt like a brand new game, with the inclusion of extra levels and extra moves, which made it a worthwhile replay. And I guess that’s an argument against re-releasing a game – why do it unless you’re at least going to add something new? Even if it means bundling all the DLC together on one disc, then that’s at least something new.
With that said, there are some games that shouldn’t be re-released, or rather, re-imagined for a HD world. Take Lode Runner, for example. I grew up playing the 8-bit version on PC and love it to bits. When I got my Xbox 360, I saw that there was a re-imagined HD version of Lode Runner, so grabbed it straight away. It was horrible. It failed to transfer the elements of the original game to the modern world, and this tarnished the feeling of the original game. The remade version of GoldenEye did the same thing – a re-release/remake of a game that everyone wanted, but nobody played.
Wrapping up, I understand your point that developers spreading their projects across teams results in fewer new games, and in a year like 2014 that lack of new games really sticks out. 2014 will go down as the year of the re-release. That’s why I think that once these new IP’s and new games start trickling out in the next year, people will complain about re-releases even more. Well… I hope that people will complain less, to be honest – because dammit, I don’t mind these re-releases, it’s what I want.