Out of control: Are game remakes just a money-making bonanza?

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Credit: Vicarious Visions

Year on year we see the big gaming corporations shelling out more games with bigger budgets, more micro transactions and larger price tags.

Many gamers feel that this is not to create a better and more immersive game but rather to generate more sales and boost profit to expand their business and marketing campaigns.  For many gamers, older titles have a sort of bygone romance to them, while newer games tend to be ‘as wide as an ocean, but as deep as a pond’.
So, are older games truly better than their shinier, more modern successors, or do we all have rose-tinted glasses on?

While review websites and critics’ opinions are never a totally reliable source of information, it is fairly clear to see that the overall performance of games has decreased.

More and more we see old franchises like Call of Duty, FIFA, Assassins Creed and Halo churning out the same uninspired content year after year, which is only made good after you buy a season pass or upgrade to its tempting gold edition, which of course comes at a price.

The reality is that gaming companies stick to safe titles like Call of Duty and do not branch out for fear of losing profits, which is completely understandable from a business point of view.

Games such as Battlefront, released in 2015 by games giant EA, had no story mode, was very unbalanced and poorly designed at launch, but was made to coincide with the release of the Force Awakens Star Wars movie, and piggy-backed off that name to boost sales and made it a more stable investment.

Similarly, Mass Effect: Andromeda at launch required so much work it could be classed as unplayable until the relevant patches were released months later to fix some of the issues.

The game received a mediocre score of 7.7 on IGN, but this was down from a 9.5 of its predecessor Mass Effect 3, or 9.6 from Mass Effect 2.

The game used its already popular Mass Effect title to attract masses of sales and the game was a commercial success – or a ‘significant contributor’ to sales in the words of the game’s publishers EA.

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20 years of Metacritic ratings. Credit: finder.com.au

It sold over one million copies on the Playstation 4 by July 2017, and around half a million on Xbox One having only just been released that March. There are several explanations for this and not all are bad, but the main point is: Games are being rushed to release to fit marketing budgets and generate maximum sales, because, as we all know, this is a business.

Many of these games like Mass Effect: Andromeda are updated later on, and are fixed or have new content added to them at a price months after launch. Yet, despite that, the quality of games is suffering and becoming worse as a result of the gaming companies trying to minimise costs and maximise profit, and being less and less creative in their thinking.

Metacritic reviews have supported this, showing that games received their best ratings in 2001 where 32 games scored 90% or higher.

The chart also shows that 2015 had the lowest amount of 90% plus games ever, with only 5 making it there, and 2016 was no better with just 8.

So, a steady decline in gaming scores can be seen as a result of games being updated after launch or critics becoming more cynical.  However, anyone who has played Assassins Creed or Call of Duty understands the concept of upgrading the graphics, putting a new cover on the box and releasing a new game as if it is different than last year’s version.

What is the industry’s response to gamers angry response on their doggy corporate tactics? To bring back the old games with a graphic update and pretend they are new.

A new customer to the gaming industry could be forgiven for thinking they have stepped back a decade or so with remakes left, right and center.

Games such as Crash Bandicot, Call of Duty, Resident Evil and Grand Theft Auto are just a few franchises that are remaking games today which are sometimes over a decade old.

In fact, the remake of the popular Crash Bandicoot games of the late 90s has become the best-selling Playstation 4 exclusive ever, and has seen an outstanding seven weeks at the top of the charts.

Capcom’s remake of 2002 Resident Evil Zero clocked in over one million sales by August 2016, and has likely increased since then to outstrip the sales of the original game on the old Gamecube.

Remakes clearly rake in the revenue and the good reviews. They already have a loyal fan base before launch, and have a template to create the new game for a fraction of the cost.

Games such as Crash Bandicoot and the Skyrim remake favour as well with critics now as they did at their original release, if not better in some cases.

The issue is, though, if you take away the fancy graphics update and a few of the added content pieces, you are left with the exact same game as was released years earlier.

This is the problem that remakes highlight: They perform well with critics despite their age, generate more profits for companies and are often loved by fans.

Does this alone show the viability of older games? Does this show that the current quality of games is worse than it was many years ago if you just subtract the graphics? The answer, really, is up to you, but whether you like it or not, it seems the big game developers are happy to keep on churning out the same old content year on year, or remake old classics to boost profit margins.

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