The rise of remakes and remasters in video games: nostalgia, success and also failures

The rise of remakes and remasters in video games nostalgia, success and also failures

An interesting fact. If we take the last 50 games that have been remastered or remake as a sample, a new game that we enjoyed today will take an average of eight years to receive a remastered or remake. This means that in less than a decade, the industry will consider that its original version is no longer relevant and requires a retrofit. Is it really so? Is the industry advancing so much – or so little – as to make irrelevant everything launched with less than a decade of life?

If you allow me the license, I will begin this text speaking in the first person and in a more subjective and personal tone; Well, a few days ago I came across a shocking reality for myself. I was reviewing the new releases confirmed for the future generation of consoles, due to their immediacy, when I began to become aware of which of the multiple titles presented I crave with the greatest momentum, or more hype. To my surprise, the video game that was most present in that internal studio was BluePoint ‘s Demon’s Souls ; a title that I will undoubtedly play as soon as possible, but also one that “I have already played” long and hard; one that keeps no secrets for me. Faced with this reality, I couldn’t help but wonder why. Is there really nothing in the entire catalog presented for both consoles that you crave more? The answer is, apparently, no; and that worries me greatly.
And, if we look back, a good part of the great launches that we have had in 2020 have been titles that are either continuations of already established licenses, or are directly reconversions or readaptations of games that we have already played before. The first of those named is understandable , since it is the direction in which the great audiovisual productions have been oriented since the beginning of this century; but the second is stranger, because if we look at other industries, the video game seems to accelerate the process through which it stops considering a relevant work in its natural state for the environment.
[cita01In an audiovisual industry like videogames, it can mean many things, both positive and negative, that can serve as support for multiple debates about the future of the industry, its members and us, its recipients; with many scholars positioning themselves for or against these practices. However, this is not an opinion piece, nor is it a thoughtful examination of the industry, but rather didactic content ; so we are going to guide you towards that approach to explain what we can understand about modern reconversions and remasters and how they affect the industry directly.

A convulsive concept

A convulsive concept

A good starting point for the rest of this text could be to determine what we mean when we talk about remastering and reconversions ; something for which the industry itself does not seem to have a clear answer, since the denomination of one compared to the other varies between launches.

We understand reconversions -or remakes in English- as a reworking of an existing video game, generally updating key elements such as the technological or playable section, either by severely modifying its mechanics in the process, or by following an additive philosophy: keep the elements key mechanics and playable, but modifying part of the content and being able to expand or derive the final experience. In contrast we have the remastering, which are nothing more than technical revisions or updates of existing titles, preparing them for the current hardware and preserving the characteristic elements of these titles, even if this means not updating the bulk of the content.

On the other hand, it is necessary to point out the re-releases -or reboot in English- as a step beyond the reconversion, making a clean slate for the original title and maintaining the minimum similarities between them.


In this way, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is a remastering, as it maintains all the elements of the original and only gives a facelift to the first adventure of the Master Chief; in the same way that GOG’s Maniac Mansion is a remastering and conversion of the original for current platforms. On the other hand, games like Metroid: Zero Mission would be understood as a remake, because although they modify the original content of the title little, they do add a new one that slightly changes the final experience in a substantial way. Works like Resident Evil II Remake and Resident Evil 3 Remake would also be considered reconversions; but more intrusive and with a spirit of substitution to the original in the imaginary of the players.

The appearance of remakes and remasters is not something new , even something attributable solely to our environment. The first reconversions come from the early stages of modern home consoles and their successors, as well as from the first titles released on home computers. It was common to see complete conversions between different systems every few years, as well as revisions and re-releases of titles from other platforms as the home systems became more powerful. A modern example, but before our time, of this practice would be King’s Bounty, one of the precursors of the well-known Might and Magic saga, which in the period of 18 years received a remastering for Sega MegaDrive, a reconversion on PlayStation 2 as part of Heroes of Might & Magic, and a relaunch in 2008 as a totally new title; the three stages of temporary modifications in the video game under a single independent license.

Knowing about its existence and being aware of its long history in our environment, it is natural to wonder why this practice is carried out so regularly; a question that can be answered in two ways, one more idealistic and the other more aseptic. The idealistic answer goes through the preservation of the medium , one of the clearest problems that the current video game has and whose only real solution is the constant conversion and the work dedicated after the launch of a title. This approach advocates work such as that carried out by the aforementioned Blue Point Studios in works such as Shadow of the Colossus(2018); a work that we should classify as a reconversion, for redoing almost all of the original content of the title, but that deliberately focuses on rescuing the gaming sensations of the video game on which it is based, reaching the point of simulating small imperfections that the title original had on its native platform.

The aseptic vision of this practice, as you can imagine, passes through the revisionism of the original work; that either by intrinsic themes to the work, or by means of the rereading of the original intentions – playable or narrative – of a title. The objective behind this type of approach is usually to replace the vision of a title from the collective imagination of the players; that is, when the intention of the new video game is to re-explore its predecessor. This type of approach, when carried out with a substitute spirit, tends to be poorly received by the players; Cases like Conker: Live and Reloaded could be a good example of this; while cases like Spyro: Reignited Trilogythey serve as an example of a retrofit work with notable modifications that does not want to remove the imprint of its original title.

In any case, these remakes need a certain degree of commercial success to justify the necessary investment during their development, so the ability to capitalize with ease through nostalgia inspired by certain licenses – or names directly – is undoubtedly some, one of the main reasons for this type of movement. A good example of this would be Nintendo’s work with The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening , a complete reconversion of the 1993 classic, or with the recent Super Mario 3D All-Stars in a more conservative the original product; the latter in particular has received mixed opinions from some user groups. And it is that, although this type of works strongly attract the attention of the general public, they require a certain awareness of the original product and care in the work carried out to have – once again – commercial success. Otherwise, we will face situations like the one experienced with Warcraft III Reforged , one of the titles with the worst score of the year by the press.

Is it really harmful to the industry?

Is it really harmful to the industry

Having already reviewed the reconversions from different angles, we can proceed to close this text with a very clear idea: the reconversions are not going to go anywhere; In any case, they will increase over time due to the simple volume of productions, options and general interest on the part of users. Knowing this, you have to ask yourself if they are really a healthy practice for the industry , or if they are simply a by-product of its operation that does not essentially affect it. To provide a bit of perspective, last 2019 has been one of the years with the highest number of published reconversions, with about fifteen titlesthat we could pigeonhole within the lists of reconversions and remasters; but it has also been one of the years with a greater flourishing of new IPs in the AAA market, with examples such as Death Stranding , Control , or Sekiro: Shadow Die Twice , among others. A good example that the existence of this type of products does not have to harm large productions; And if we look at the Indie market, these figures skyrocket , with such notable titles as Disco Elysium , Baba is You , or Outer Wilds as examples of the quality products that we find in this space.

2019 was one of the most flourishing years in terms of new IPs, being also one of the years with the most reconversions

On the other hand, these reconversions, when carried out with adequate care, can give rise to the relaunch of great sagas to a new audience; even to the resurgence of these. Let’s think about examples such as Crash Bandicoot N ‘Sane Trology and its derivation towards the new Crash Bandicoot 4 that our writing has liked so much; or in how Final Fantasy VII RemakeIt has served to clean up the image of a title that, by current standards, did not catch on with new players. Both are recent examples of how to revitalize modern video game symbols. Obviously, these are success stories, a reintroduction of a beloved saga without proper work can lead to rejection from the general public, or worse, tarnish the image of the original. There is also a great debate that we have not wanted to address here about the morality of these works towards the original image of the video game on which they are based, and how a conversion can damage its conservation, but we believe that that, by itself, leads to another text. We, for our part, are going to leave a point aside in the present.