Maybe we don’t need all those expensive video game remakes
As video games become more and more expensive to manufacture and publishers are increasingly reluctant to take a risk with that expense, the past few years have seen a growing trend of redesigning older video games.
I’m not talking about a live port to allow people to play an old game on a new system. We are all used to this, it is very good. I’m talking about lavish blockbusters of classic games, rebuilt from the ground up to look and play essentially like modern versions. Think Final Fantasy VIIWhere resident Evil. Or even Max Payne, whose announcement today contained the following line hidden in its press release:
The game’s development budget will be funded by Rockstar Games, which will be sized in line with a typical Remedy AAA game production.
My first thought reading this was: wow, that’s a lot of money to remake some games that weren’t this popular, and which are still available and playable today. My second thought was: maybe that money and time could have been spent on creating a new Max Payne game instead? Or even a brand new video game?
You don’t need to tell me why this is happening. I know why. Publishers want to sell video games but don’t want to take risks, so remakes of classics with trusted brands are a safer bet. Also, if you want to test the waters with a potential new audience, see how an older property can resonate with a younger audience, that’s a great way to do it.
But I’m not here to talk about the way things are. I want to talk about a way things could be better! This obsession with the past sucks! These games have already been created and released, for a time, for one audience, for one platform. People played these games, these experiences became part of the time, leading to sequels, then Alan Wake, Quantum Break, Control. None of this happened in a vacuum. This happened on a timeline, to which we are now at the part marked “2022”.
Max Payne is a game released in 2001. Max Payne 2 is a game released in 2003. That’s where they come from and, from their design to their writing to their messages, maybe that’s where they belong. Hell, for all his other flaws from 2012 Max pay 3 is built around a recognition of this, that ten years later Max was an older, sadder man, a slower relic of an earlier era.
I’m not saying a new version of the old Max Payne the games will suck, or be a “bad” version that you don’t like to play and shouldn’t buy. I’m just saying – bear with me – life on this planet is finite, and so are its resources and our time on it, and I can’t help but think in weird zero-sum terms that whenever one of these big remakes is announced that a publisher’s time and money could be better spent doing something New in place.
While it’s always heartwarming to revisit old favorites, video games for me are a medium at its best when it pushes the boundaries, using advanced technology and design principles to create new and exciting experiences. Not, in this case and a growing number of other cases, giving old games a shine.
There’s not even an argument here that these games give gamers a chance to play something they couldn’t otherwise experience on modern hardware (an angle that I never buy into these cases from any way, because it is a consequence of the industry’s utter neglect of true game preservation). the Max Payne series was born on PC, and both 1 & 2 are still available on Steam. Or at least they are in some places; at the end of last year, both games were delisted in many parts of the worldin a move eerily similar to the one Rockstar pulled before pulling older versions of Grand Theft Auto games and replaced them with the remastered and deeply broken trilogy.
I know there are gaps in my argument, mostly from a publishing perspective, because I’m just a guy who loves video games, not someone who gets paid to make or sell them. I am not here to present a bulletproof vision of the future, or a watertight critique of current business plans. I’m just a guy who loves video games, who sometimes wishes, in this weird zero-sum way, that money spent rehashing old versions could be spent making more new stuff, like Max Payne was back in 2001—instead.