The other day, I was playing my shiny new copy of Metal Gear Solid HD Collection while my review copy of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary waited patiently on the shelf. I was thoroughly enjoying being caught between two remastered pieces of video game history when a thought struck me: This whole remake thing is really being taken to the extreme this year.
To be honest, though, this wasn't the first time I've had this thought; it's been a recurring one, especially these past few months. It seems we are living in the heyday of the video game remake. Besides the two titles I mentioned above, we've recently seen HD remakes of Shadow of the Colossus and ICO, Resident Evil 4 and Code: Veronica, the Splinter Cell trilogy, and two God of War PSP titles. On top of that, we're waiting on Silent Hill HD and Zone of the Enders HD, while Final Fantasy X HD has been announced just over a month ago. And those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. I'm sure I've missed quite a few.
And if it's not HD, it's 3D. Just look at the 3DS, with its remakes of Ocarina of Time and Star Fox 64.
Of course, this comes on the heels of the downloadable game market, with the Wii offering the Nintendo classics of yesteryear at budget prices and the PSN delivering its constant flow of PSOne Classics.
I think it's safe to say that remakes of classic games are doing pretty well for themselves right now.
This is a brand new phenomenon. Never before in the history of gaming have we seen such a massive influx of game remakes. Sure, Square cashed in on a lot of their SNES RPGs in the PSOne era, but this was a trend that mostly stayed with Square and maybe a select few other companies. It didn't seep into the overwhelming majority of the game industry the way it seems to be doing now.
There's one factor here that game developers are preying on in all this: nostalgia. Nostalgia is an easy way to sway impulse buyers over to a product. Upon seeing an old favorite on the shelf at your local game store, with its pristine layer of fresh shrink wrap, it's hard to not want to take it home immediately. Especially when most of these games are sold at discount prices.
And the ease of use that comes with the downloadable game marketplace makes nostalgic impulse buys fast enough that users can have a game downloading before they even take the time to consider whether or not they'll actually play it. I mean, be honest; how many times have you, on impulse, downloaded a favorite game from a bygone era, only to wind up never touching it? Personally, I get damn close to re-purchasing Final Fantasy VII every time I come across it on PSN. I always have to talk myself down, reminding myself that I probably won't have the time to play it anyway. Certainly not to the extent that Final Fantasy VII deserves to be played, with its absurd amount of side quests, optional storylines, and straight-up level grinding.
Now, I'm not saying this is a bad thing. I've purchased several of these titles myself. In fact, I downloaded Resident Evil 4 HD, even though I still had my hard copy of the game sitting on the shelf. And the Shadow of the Colossus/ICO bundle stole quite a bit of my time when it first arrived.
However, this might not be the healthiest sign for the game industry.
We're living in an era in which the console generation's lifespan is lengthening. According to the traditional five-or-six-year console lifespan, we should be unwrapping PS4s, Xbox 720s, and Wii Us this holiday season. But we aren't. The evolution of the console is slowing down, and this is a good thing for the thrifty gamers out there who don't feel like throwing down several hundred dollars on the next generation of consoles quite yet.
But is this expanded console cycle growing too long, "like butter scraped over too much bread," in the words of the always-quotable Bilbo Baggins? Are developers simply running out of new things to do with existing tech, eagerly awaiting the next generation to show us things that will blow our minds once again? Perhaps. Industry rumors have been claiming that several developers are already working on projects planned for the next generation. If they're already planning that far ahead, making new properties for the current gen almost seems like a waste of time.
And that means that remakes are a very plausible way for developers to continue making money in the meantime, especially when considering the risk factor involved in creating new IP. If you can't yet look forward, why not look to the past?
My prediction: Nostalgia is king right now. In fact, I have a feeling that we're going to look back on 2011 as "The Year of The Remake." While this is an exceptional time to replay old favorites, or even catch up on some of the essential classics you may have missed, it might be a warning sign. Have this generation's consoles been bled dry of their creative potential? Many would say this is at least true of the Wii by this point.
Either way, gamers might do well to keep a suspicious eye on this whole remake trend.
CCC Editor/Contributing Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*