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Sephzilla avatar 6:18 PM on 04.11.2012  (server time)
HD Remakes & Why They Aren’t A Bad Thing

Or, how this isn’t an industry wide conspiracy to make you buy your old games again

HD remakes have happened sporadically this generation, however, in the recent few months we’ve seen a few of them pop up, examples including Metal Gear Solid HD, Silent Hill HD, & Devil May Cry HD. Given the lack of backwards compatibility support for newly manufactured Playstation 3’s & Nintendo Wii’s, along with Xbox ceasing to update the 360 for compatibility with previous generation titles, areas of the internet gaming community seem to be claiming that this is all an attempt to milk consumers further by killing our ability to play our old generation games and make us repurchase them for newer systems. Accompanying this are claims that this trend of next-generation remakes for future systems is going to continue on into the Playstation 4/NextBox era, especially anytime a rumor pops up that says the next gen systems won’t have backwards compatibility.

People need to take a deep breath and put away their tinfoil hats for now because this isn’t some lavish money hungry conspiracy and isn’t the reason HD collections are popping up, in fact the reasons behind this are completely different.

I’m going to take a moment to sidestep a little on my topic and address backwards compatibility first. Personally I think backwards compatibility is an overrated feature, and I think Sony spoiled us a little with the backwards compatibility found in the PS2 and early PS3 models. Lots of people got uppity after Sony announced that Playstation 2 backwards compatibility was being removed from the Playstation 3 and (I shit you not) I heard gamers complain that their right to play their PS2 games was being taken away. You know what you should do if your Playstation 3 can’t play Playstation 2 games? The answer is hooking up your Playstation 2, that system which plays Playstation 2 games. If the two minutes it takes to hook up that system is really too much for you I really have to ask you how you survived all those years before the Playstation 2 back when systems like the Super Nintendo couldn’t play NES era games.

Playstation 3 backwards compatibility wasn’t removed in order to cut costs or milk consumers, I thought the actual reason why was well-known but it apparently needs to be explained again. The reason the Playstation 3 lost the ability to play Playstation 2 games was because the Playstation 2 system was, at the time, still selling strong and it was pulling in substantial profits for Sony since they could make the PS2 cheaply at that point. In short, the backwards compatible Playstation 3 was killing Sony’s own profits. I hold absolutely no ill-will towards Sony for cutting out PS3 backwards compatibility because it doesn’t take any sort of business genius to understand that selling one product that’s directly hurting the profits of another one of your products is a terrible idea. You could argue that after Playstation 2 sales finally fell off Sony could have brought back Playstation 3 backwards compatibility. However, if they did that they would have to release another version of the PS3, resulting in three different standards being out there at the same time (original PS3s through used markets, the 2nd generation PS3s, and the hypothetical 3rd generation). If there’s anything I think Sony learned from the PSP, I’d hope that “not releasing a multiple versions of the same system” would be it.

Returning to my main topic, the reason we’re seeing remakes of last-generation titles isn’t necessarily an evil money making scheme where CEO’s sit in their dark torch lit offices reading from the Necronomicon while thinking of ways to repackage Sly Cooper. The actual reason is much more understandable and is also the reason I highly doubt we’ll see bundles or collections like this happen much, if at all, in the next generation of systems. If you proceed through reading the next few paragraphs and think “yeah, this stuff is pretty obvious” then congratulations, you are not my target audience (but thanks for reading, though!).

Between the release of the Playstation 2 era systems and the current generation systems something happened that ended up completely changing the landscape of all home entertainment – it was called the HDTV – specifically HDTV’s that were affordable for the average household. As old school tube TV’s got replaced by nice flat panel displays it meant those old red/white/yellow composite connections got outdated by component connections or HDMI cables. This meant that picture quality for PS2 games dropped immediately, arguably looking even worse than they did on the old TVs, since they were running at a much lower resolution than the HDTVs projected at. This could be remedied (slightly) if you bought a component cable for your PS2 or Xbox, but it still didn’t help much (as the Wii continues to prove). Besides higher resolutions suddenly making our games look like ass, the other big change with HDTV’s came with the suddenly wider aspect ratio. Most (but not all) PS2/Xbox era games were set up to run on 4:3 displays, not the 16:9 HDTV displays. HDTV’s generally have a feature that lets you squish the picture into a 4:3 aspect ratio, but do you seriously want to waste all that extra space on the sides?

The reason we’ve seen these HD bundles pop-up is because a lot of great games from the previous generation barely missed out on this jump in display technology. Due to just missing out on this, those same great games ended up looking bland or stretched on the (now commonplace) home televisions, and some of those games could have greatly benefited from being built for a high-definition age. This is why we've seen high profile games from the previous generation get an HD rebirth, such as Shadow of the Colossus or Devil May Cry, because developers and publishers are giving these games a justly earned rebirth so gamers can enjoy them in the best way possible. On that note, another reason why these HD bundles aren't some double-purchase conspiracy is because quite frankly the amount of HD remakes we've seen in comparison to the overall library of PS2/Xbox/Gamecube games is unbelievably small. For the most part every game that's seen any sort of HD remake, whether it be Ico/Shadow of the Colossus, Halo Anniversary, or Metal Gear Solid 3, are a microscopic fraction of the overall previous-gen library available and are all titles of the highest quality or notoriety. Basically all of the games that see this kind of treatment are extremely notable games that quite frankly deserve this kind of extra recognition (and the only reason Devil May Cry 2 was ever given the HD treatment was more or less just because it was an unncessary tag-along in order to say “the entire trilogy”). I won't be concerned about these kind of HD bundles getting out of control until we see things like Call of Duty: Big Red One HD or Brute Force HD.

I've also heard it be hinted at that if backwards compatibility doesn't happen with the next console generation we'll see more re-releases, except with games popping up from this current generation. I highly doubt this is a possibility because, as I explained, a lot of the HD remakes happening this generation were a result of the upgrade to high definition technology. What would be the point of doing a remake for a game like Uncharted 2 on the Playstation 4? Would it be the Uncharted 2 HD-HD Collection? Nothing like that would happen because there's absolutely no reason to do so, since your PS3 era games will look fine anyways. Plus if the next generation systems have substantial hardware changes compared to what we currently have, which has been a rumor with the PS4, getting functioning backwards compatibility would be extremely tricky. The early PS3's worked around this by actually putting the PS2 hardware within the system, something I highly doubt they'd recreate with the PS4 by including PS3 tech inside of it. This means that the PS4's backwards compatibility would rely on an internal emulator similar to what the Xbox 360 uses for original Xbox games, and that isn't always a very safe route to go by since emulators are never completely reliable (anybody who's played KOTOR on the 360, for example, might know this).

HD remakes exist to provide fans with better experiences for their games, not to milk them out for all they're worth. There's plenty of reason to assume that this trend isn't anything that's going to explode out of control or continue on beyond this console cycle.

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