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Are Video Game Re-Releases the Death of Creativity?
Well, folks, it looks as though the speculation that The Last of Us is making its way to PlayStation 4 has been realized. This trots on the heels of a movie adaptation announcement, both of which make me question the creative direction of Naughty Dog. Really, though, this trend isn’t a problem specific to Naughty Dog. The re-release craze has swept the gaming industry in a manner almost comparable to the film industry’s obsession with rebooting every franchise known to cinema.
I previously addressed this topic when Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition was announced, but I’ll reiterate my consternation that a precedent for the current generation has already been set. When huge seventh generation titles are already being re-released on eighth generation consoles, it’s easy to see where this may go, especially considering how the PlayStation 3’s library is saturated with ports and remakes of PlayStation 2 titles.
Before I go on a lengthy diatribe, allow me to share something: I own several HD re-releases of PlayStation 2 games. Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD ReMix and Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster, both among my collection, stand as two significant examples of how to do re-releases correctly. You see, while North America enjoyed standard versions of both those collections of games when they were originally released, it was Japan (and in Final Fantasy X’s case, Europe) who got the complete versions, dubbed Final Mix and International, respectively. With the HD ports, Square Enix has brought all those extra features in the full versions of the games to all territories. Perhaps Japan doesn’t benefit much from it, but it’s a nice treat for the rest of us.
Alas, that is not the case for most re-releases, and in fact, remakes seem to largely be a substitute for sequels we really want. Where is The Last Guardian? Despite its lengthy development, all we got from Team Ico on the PlayStation 3 was a remake of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. Kingdom Hearts III? Nope, but we did/will receive virtually all other titles revamped in some form or another.
My point here is not that re-releasing games is inherently bad. What I am saying is that, like Hollywood, the industry is seeming to regress and lose creativity. I’m not sure whether this plague is a result of risk aversion in a tempestuous economic climate or a true death of innovation, but there’s no denying re-releasing pre-existing games on newer hardware is much, much cheaper than developing new games. Sadly, when studios are closing down, restructuring, or laying employees off, it is to be expected.
In the case of The Last of Us, I am severely perplexed. While Naughty Dog is not impervious to economic threats, the Sony powerhouse dared to tread untested waters with their latest effort, releasing a completely original IP when they could have easily stuck with Uncharted. The Last of Us was, according to most, a triumph and, according to the numbers, a success. Obviously it’s easy to cash in on that success with movie adaptations and ports, but given the spirit of the IP—putting creative vision first—it’s puzzling.
This is my greatest fear as we move into a new generation of gaming. Already people are saying that, with The Last of Us being ported, the PlayStation 4 will have a big release to look forward to this year. The thing is, it’s not a release; it’s a re-release, and I’m betting many PlayStation 4 owners have already experienced the game on PlayStation 3. Similarly, it seemed so many of the big titles clamored about during the PlayStation 3’s life consisted of HD collections and re-releases. Since I had experienced many already, it left several painful dry spells for me in the console’s life cycle.
Again, I stress that re-releases are not inherently bad, but I cringe at thinking of creativity being stifled in yet another console generation because companies need an easy way to turn profits or are afraid of stepping into unknown territory. And I certainly don’t want to see the gaming industry go Hollywood, rebooting franchises in lieu of providing fans with original material. I hope my fears are unwarranted.
What about you? Are you a fan of re-releases, or would you rather see more original content? Let us know your thoughts (it’s what the comments are for).