Tomb Raider Definitive Edition

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.

Can we please just have this game now?!

Can we please just have this game now?!

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 ColossusKingdom 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 UnchartedThe 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.

"Stop trying to milk me for all I'm worth!"

“Stop trying to milk me for all I’m worth!”

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).

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  1. sdugowe

    I disagree wholeheartedly. The examples given above (while most likely hoping to cash-in on the dearth of games for the new-generation of consoles) could just as easily be a purely creative decision: to take advantage of a more powerful system to actually display the artistic intent that had to be put in the backseat to let budget and technology constraints lead the way.

    There were limits to what could be done with the PS2…very, very hard limits and with the power of the PS4, designers now have a chance to see their images pushed further and further towards where the designers believe they should be.

  2. tgruver

    I suppose I share your fears, maybe righteously given how many series I’ve loved are and have gotten milked. On the other hand, I can say that our sometimes it’s my nostalgia that clouds my judgment. It’s just going to be new series that replace the old ones given enough time, and indies are already filling the void between blockbuster releases. 

    I will say that rereleases are only done because they do make money and they’re easier to make when you have a foundation already built. I never buy them, but there’s a choice for those who do. I’ll never be compelled to like them, but *sigh* I suppose it is good for the companies that do make money off of successful sequels. Cases like Watch_Dogs just make me hope that new IPs are inherently trusted enough by their makers AND buyers to encourage new trends.

  3. Stephen Pollard

    I would concede on that point if the graphical enhancements were THAT much better than the original releases, but truthfully, they’re only a little more polished. Certainly they aren’t on par with actual PS3 games. Compare Final Fantasy X to the XIII saga (I use that example because I’m currently playing through X on PS3). The graphics aren’t even close. The Ico & Shadow of the Colossus HD Collection is another that sticks out in my mind. It had 3D, which was awesome, but the graphics didn’t improve much.

  4. Stephen Pollard

    I’ll admit to owning several, though all of them were because I had extra credit from Amazon or they were gifted to me. Also, in the case of God of War and Ico/Shadow of the Colossus, I missed them on PS2 so caught them this go-around.

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