Gamers might have noticed that remakes and re-releases of old games with updated textures and new content are becoming more abundant than ever.
This reliance on remakes and re-releasing old games is not without a cost. While many companies lean towards remakes as a cost-saving measure, the culture behind remakes has created an environment that limits creativity.
This could damage the future of game development.
Why remake old games?
Before looking at the real cost of remakes, it’s worth looking into why remakes are getting made at an ever-increasing rate.
Major game developers have released or announced remakes and re-releases of titles such as Demon’s Souls, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Super Mario 64, Age of Empires II and III, and others.
All remakes are not straightforward re-releases of the same old content. Some remakes, such as the Final Fantasy VII Remake or the Resident Evil 2 and 3 Remakes, tell the same story with updated gameplay.
Depending on the company, these remakes are made and sold with slightly different goals in mind.
Some remakes are an extension of a classic game. A massive amount of content is added to the game. Others are slapped with some updated textures and are released at full price.
Overall though, the main reason remakes get made is because of one major reason: safety. Remakes are a safe bet.
With most games, coming up with a unique idea, developing it, and testing it cost a lot of money. If the game fails to sell, it could cripple the studio that poured years of their time and money into it.
Remakes remove that risk. The games that get remade are often fondly remembered and may even still have an active community. This allows the studio to release the game knowing that there are players waiting to buy it.
Remakes also remove a significant portion of the development cost. Producing modern textures for an old game is much cheaper than making a whole game from scratch.
Even remakes that significantly change the game, such as the Resident Evil 2 Remake, save cost by reusing the old story and ideas. Rather than having to come up with interesting characters, a plot, and general puzzle design, the developers can simply reinterpret the original’s work.
The unseen cost of remakes
All of those reasons make remakes very appealing to developers that are hoping to try something new without taking much risk. From a business perspective, a low-risk product with the potential for significant returns is perfect. It’s almost unjustifiable not to remake of a popular game.
However, games aren’t just a product to be bought and sold by consumers. A game isn’t something like a home appliance or a new line of clothing. It’s a work of art that advances its own cultural niches.
The unseen cost of remakes is what they take away from artistic movements. How they fail to challenge expectations, and how they make real works of art seem riskier by comparison.
Returning to the business perspective, it’s hard for a company looking to maximize its revenue to justify creating new and creative games.
This is why AAA studios have been creatively stagnating more and more with each passing year. Their work has been getting more refined and polished than ever before, but they aren’t polishing something new, but rather something old.
It’s hard to say where gaming will be in another decade. It would be a shame to think that generations from now, new gamers will be stuck playing the same games released in recent memory.
Eventually, gaming is going to have to move on.