Gaming Companies Increasingly Turn to Popular Classics

Doom, Age of Empires, Command & Conquer, Crash Bandicoot, and Final Fantasy are all games that were huge hits in the 1990s. But unlike some retro titles that are only available to players who have antique hardware or the knowledge required to set up an emulator, they’ve all been remastered, remade, and re-released with improved graphics on modern hardware. 

The Origin of Thought

Some gamers bemoan this approach, arguing that it means that many developers and publishers have become creatively bankrupt, so void of ideas that they’re charging gamers twice to play titles they likely already own. Others disagree, and instead value the chance to play games they loved when they were younger. Being able to take on these titles again brings back a warm sense of nostalgia and the remastered HD graphics makes this experience many times better. 

Regardless of your opinion, repurposing older games for modern audiences is nothing new as online casinos have been doing this since they first began operating in the late 1990s. They create lots of variants of roulette, including live and multi-player modes, to provide versions that appeal to different types of player. Like with remastered video games, these modern variants retain many of the same elements of the traditional roulette game, including the use of a numbered wheel with 37 or 38 pockets and the red, black, and green pockets. However, they may add in multiple wheels spinning at the same time or the option of side bets to create a new playing experience. 

Many gamers may have noticed that the industry seems to be pumping out more remastered classic titles at the moment. There are several reasons for this. 

Making Good Games is Difficult

It is perhaps testament to the developers of video games that they made it look easy to develop smash hit titles, but the reality is very different. Bigger gaming companies will employ huge teams of people to come up with new ideas for games and test them out before any real development work begins. 

Those that work in the industry will testify to the fact that for every 100 of these game ideas that are written down, only about 5-7 will actually pass the most basic scrutiny and move onto the next stages of development, where they’ll be researched, prototyped, and played. 

From that short list, only a couple may ever make it to general release and even then, that’s only if market research shows that there is enough demand and the operations management team have the spare resources to allocate to developing it. 

It’s, therefore, much easier to remake something that was great than to develop something new from scratch. 

Developing Games Carries a Lot of Risk

Most major developers and publishers are publicly traded companies. That brings responsibility to a lot of shareholders, many of whom will be wanting to see solid financial performance and receive a share of the profits in the form of a dividend. 

However, developing something completely new carries a lot of risk. It may not sell well, it may be full of bugs, or it may have its development delayed, all of which will cause financial pain for the company. 

If you’re one of the senior managers whose bonus (and possibly job security) is tied to shareholder satisfaction, you’re likely unwilling to take too many unnecessary risks. 

Therefore, remastering an older game that is an almost guaranteed win and will generate several million in revenue is an easy decision to make. The best managers will sign off on a mixture of remasters and developing new ideas, balancing the risk for investors, and ensuring that the company will have new “classics” to remaster in the future. 

Fans Like Them

Games don’t stop being fun because the graphics look a little dated, otherwise there wouldn’t be a huge market for retro gaming hardware. Many older fans still enjoy playing titles from yesteryear; that’s why console developers have tried hard to include backward compatibility for older releases. 

There’s also a novelty factor of being able to play Grand Theft Auto San Andreas or RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 on a smartphone, since these are games that would have pushed older gaming computers to their limit.

Remasters and remakes can make games (legally) available for the first time in years and usually bring a raft of upgrades to gameplay and graphics. In the 2020 reboot of Crash Bandicoot, players are asked to choose between two modes: “Modern” or “Retro”. Choosing modern creates an entirely new way to play the famous platformer, changing the experience considerably. 

To some degree, re-releasing a video game with improved graphics is like selling a 4K version of a movie that was made in the 1980s. The action is the same, the actors are the same, and the story is the same, but it still feels like an entirely new experience with the improved visuals. It doesn’t stop most of us watching classic action films like The Matrix (1999) on Netflix, as we tend to enjoy this remastering. 

Remasters – Good or Bad?

Ultimately, there is no binary answer here. There is a solid business case for developers remastering their old games, particularly as they can help fund the development of riskier, unproven titles. When done well, remastered classics are fun. When done badly, they can damage the franchise. 

Some fans like them, some don’t. While it may be lethargic complaining about remasters online, it’s not going to stop companies churning them out. If you like the concept of playing old games with 4K graphics, fill your boots. If you don’t, just don’t buy them.

Garima Tomar

Senior Software Development Analyst at an IT firm

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