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Is Remastering Games Worth the Time?

With the recent announcement of The Last of Us Remastered coming to Playstation 4, this marks the second high profile game from the previous generation to be ported up, the other being Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition. Unlike the HD upgrades we saw a slew of last generation that simply cleaned up rough edges and bumped the resolution to at the very least 720p, these two games include actual adjustments to the visual fidelity. Some examples between the two would be re-crafting Lara Croft's face or enhancing the lighting effects in The Last of Us. I do not know a thing about making video games and I won't pretend to, but I think I can confidently say that increasing the resolution on a game is far quicker than creating brand new assets and effects, like the two games I have mentioned. So are these ports up really that necessary, especially for the full retail price of $59.99?
The short answer to this question is: sometimes. Lets tackle the case of the rather well received Tomb Raider reboot. Tomb Raider came out on the PS3, Xbox 360 and Pc/Mac. It was released just about everywhere except for Sony's handhelds and Nintendo consoles, which sadly isn't too surprising. In general though the game could be played by most fans of the series and whoever else was interested and this reflected in the large sales figures it boasted. Less than a year after the initial release, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition came out yielding everything from the original release with higher graphical fidelity (on Xbox One and Playstation 4) and all the DLC. While the release for previous consoles was essentially a game of the year edition, the current gen ones had a major facelift.
The port was well done, the enhancements were visible and mostly complimented the game well. While these were clearly the versions to get if you had not experienced Lara's remade adventure, there was really no other reason to pick up the Definitive Edition unless you are an absolute diehard fan of it. There are certainly many players that skipped Lara's reemergence last March, but the game was widely released on three systems, anyone who really wanted the game has more than likely already played it. Anyone who was waiting for a discount would probably be more inclined to pick up the cheaper version on the old consoles or PC, which has numerously discounted the game below 20 dollars and also offers better visuals do to the nature of PC ports these days.
Despite the work and time put into the new versions, it's really hard to find the audience this was made for. It is hard to ignore the fact that this time could have been used to help with further sequels or even new projects for the future. Maybe the workload was on the lighter side, especially compared to a full-fledged game but considering brand new assets were created it's probably a stretch to say there was only a marginal amount of time consumed. Perhaps the time put into this port was actually quite small and did not impede anything else Crystal Dynamics is working on like the inevitable sequel; still I would rather see full steam ahead on that project than a slight improvement to an already widely released product.
Exceptions can always be made however. In the case of The Last of Us, I think there is a strong merit to bring Naughty Dogs latest work to Sony's new console. The Last of Us launched on exactly one console when it came out last June, the Playstation 3. With the launch of the new generation there are certainly some players who are making the switch over and have never experienced the game before. The Last of Us has been considered by many to be a masterpiece of a game, receiving almost universal praise and possessing extremely strong sales numbers. However, only the audience who owned a PS3 had a chance to play it, what about all the other players that have left their other respective console to jump on the Playstation 4? What better way to introduce new Sony console owners with not only one of the best games of last gen but make it better than it was before.

Still, while I believe remastering The Last of Us is a solid plan, it is sort of odd that the game was one of the forerunners for Playstation Now, the game streaming service by Sony. I don't think we will see a massive resurgence of old games with a shiny new set of armor, but I do think the idea of having hit exclusives like Halo or Gears of War being touched up for a possible new audience isn't a terrible idea to chase. For the most part I anticipate seeing older games as services or emulated onto these new machines and I think that would be better for not only the consumers but developers as well.
The unfortunate circumstance for both of these games however is their price point. Starting at full price is a tough sell, especially for early adopters of both games. I enjoyed every second of The Last of Us and would love to try the brand new DLC that is packed into the remastered edition, but I just cannot see myself shelling out full price for the same game again already. Same goes for Tomb Raider except the biggest deterrent is that most of the DLC packed in is strictly multiplayer which is not exactly the draw there. The price would be a much easier pill to swallow if there was some sort of upgrade path like we saw at the launch of the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, charging $10 or $15 to get the newest version. Either that or a simple price reduction would make this all the more appealing and hopefully future games that follow the same trend will follow one of these two paths.

Re-releases have been a part of games for a very long time and it isn't too surprising that we have already seen a few launched alongside the new console cycle. The price of these could certainly use some fine-tuning hopefully we are not consumed by necessary releases. Time will tell whether the trend turns sour but for now we can only sit from the sidelines and see what happens.


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