The eighth generation of video game consoles, with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, heralded the age of remasters and re-releases. The gaming community was largely divided on their reception. Most of them were thought of as a quick cash grab — and some certainly were — but some people appreciated being able to play their favorite games at a slightly higher resolution and frame rate. What prompted a lot of these remasters was the fact that, at the time, neither the PS4 nor Xbox One supported backward compatibility in any form.
Xbox would eventually add backward compatibility for select games, the list of which has grown to numbers in the hundreds, but that wouldn't be until two years after its initial release on the market. The PlayStation 4 still does not support backward compatibility for physical or digital games. After the success that Xbox has seen, with over one billion hours of backward compatible games played, Sony heard the message loud and clear: this is something that players want and something that players will use.
Will we need remasters next generation?
Now that the PlayStation 5, according to early reports and PlayStation's own Mark Cerny, is set to be backward compatible with all PS4 games, it begs the question, will we need remasters next generation? Publishers will still probably release them in the hopes of attracting new fans, but I don't believe that remasters will be necessary for the most part.
This isn't to say that complete remakes should go away. Games like the Resident Evil 2 Remake and upcoming Final Fantasy 7 Remake are incredibly important, completely overhauling decades-old titles for modern day audiences. I would love to see this trend continue. What I'm arguing against are remasters of games that just released a few years ago, where the only update to them are some slightly better textures and a bump in resolution.
And I'm not going to lie, I'm absolutely guilty of wanting, asking for, and buying remastered games. The Ezio Collection and Borderlands: Game of the Year Edition are games I can play for hours on end. The Last of Us Remastered is the only version of that game that I even played. As much as I had fun with them, though, I don't think this trend of remasters will need to continue. My main complaint of Xbox One backward compatibility — other than the fact that not every game is supported — was that I couldn't access a lot of Xbox One functionality because the Xbox 360 needed to be emulated. If this problem is solved next generation, and I think it will be, then nothing is stopping me from enjoying older games I already own.
Unless a remaster adds much-needed quality of life fixes, accessibility features, or gameplay enhancements, I don't care to buy a game just to play it in 4K instead of 1080p. There's no practical reason for me to spend money on that — as much as I do like earning more trophies and achievements. Remasters aren't bad, just increasingly unnecessary.
What will make it even harder to justify remastering newer games is that PS4 games already look nearly photo-realistic. Sure, the PlayStation 5 will be able to support 8K graphics, but the difference is arbitrary on most screens to the human eye anyway. When you factor that in with native backward compatibility, remasters will be a hard sell.
Despite all this, some people will always continue to buy whatever publishers put out, regardless of if they're "necessary" or not.
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