Gaming’s Re-release Epidemic

Remakes, ports, HD Editons, Collector’s Editions, Game of the Year Editions, combo packs, ported portables… There are plenty of ways to release a game you already released. Game companies know this, and they also know that they’re not making money off used copies of Final Fantasy X, Zelda: The Wind Waker, and Tales of Symphonia. So what do they do? Remaster what’s succeeded in the past, plug in a few bonuses, add shrink wrap, and convince you that you can’t live without it.

Re-releases are part of the biz. They serve as a second chance for game companies to score money off their AAA titles, whether they be classics or last year’s big thing. In some cases, like with the just-released Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, companies use re-releases as a form of advertising. Nothing says, “Hey, it’s time you considered a Wii U” like a brand new Zelda. Even if it isn’t brand new.

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Wii U’s in trouble? No killer-apps on the horizon? Just release a Zelda game, all will be fine.

The trend these days is HD Editions of games that don’t need HD Editions. Honestly, whether you loved or hated Wind Waker’s art style, you definitely never punched a wall over the fact that you couldn’t play it in high-def. And no one threw a fit over standard-def Final Fantasy X. Same goes for Tales of Symphonia, Kingdom Hearts, Silent Hill 2 and 3, Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3, and every other HD update out there. Still, people continue to fork over thirty or forty bucks for games that could show up on PSN or Nintendo’s eShop for $10 in their original forms.

HD updates are one thing, full-on remakes are another. Some remakes are absolutely stellar (Metroid: Zero Mission); some fix the original’s errors (Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions); others divide fanbases (Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes); and still others prove to be rather unnecessary (Final Fantasy IV Advance).

The one thing they all have in common? People buy them.

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Metroid: Zero Mission is a masterful remake that improved upon the original in every way.

And as people buy them, they clamor for more. In 2011 Nintendo released a 3DS version of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. A year later, this fake trailer for a Majora’s Mask update hit Youtube. Suddenly everyone and their kid sister wanted a Majora update. Then–just weeks ago–Nintendo’s Eiji Aonuma spiked interest in a Majora’s Mask remake, getting the whole fanbase warm beneath the belt. Meanwhile, the game has been available on Nintendo’s eShop for ten buck the entire time.

Before you call me a killjoy, answer me this: Why obsess over a remake when you can push for a sequel, spiritual successor, or spinoff? You’re telling me Majora’s Mask HD is more important than Majora’s Mask 2 or a spinoff starring Fierce Deity Link? C’mon, now.

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If you get the choice between seeing Fierce Deity in high-def or seeing him star in his own spinoff, take the latter. I’m begging you.

A lot of people are quick to point out that there’s no need to complain about re-releases. Yes, they keep our favorite companies afloat. Yes, they introduce younger gamers to the classics we enjoyed years ago. And, yes, we don’t have to buy them if we don’t want them. But the truth is, they’re multiplying wildly and masking a lack of AAA-production from Nintendo, Square Enix, Konami, and others. Wind Waker HD and Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 aren’t 2013 releases. They’re excuses. Stopgaps. Attempts at staying relevant. And if we can’t stop the spread of them, can we at least quit asking for them?

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Wind Waker HD could trigger the demise of retail sales

Lock up your game cases and instruction booklets, folks. The end is nigh.

Yesterday Nintendo, the same Nintendo that insisted that gamers did not want any online shenanigans, released the HD update of Zelda: The Wind Waker on their eShop. Wii U owners craving this decade-old game (I’m feeling an upcoming article on remakes. You wait.) can download it now on the eShop or wait two whole weeks to pick it up in disc-form on October 4th.

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Wind Waker HD went boxless when it released yesterday.

It’s no secret Nintendo is pushing digital sales these days. Earlier this year Nintendo shipped a scarce amount of Fire Emblem: Awakening copies, then saw digital sales soar. I can’t blame them. Going digital saves publishers a ton of money in terms of packaging and shipping, not to mention the fact that digital copies eliminate the used-game sales that hurt the industry. That being said, this two-week gap is a major deal. It may very well be Nintendo’s first stab to the heart of physical game sales.

Depending on how consumers respond to this Wind Waker situation, we may end up seeing Nintendo revisit the strategy with heavy-hitters like Smash Bros. and Mario Kart. Will fans have the will power to wait two weeks for those games to hit Best Buy shelves? If they don’t, the downfall of retail game sales is upon us. Granted, due to shaky internet connections and cynicism toward online purchasing, hard copies won’t die off instantly. The concern isn’t with the hard copies themselves, but with the quantity. If publishers determine that they only need to send one or two shipments, you might have to be there day-one to grab a rare retail copy Final Fantasy XXI or Metal Gear Solid 9.

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My favorite game in the palm of my hand. Wind Waker HD fans are invited to post photos of their Wii U menu icon.

I’ve always viewed videogaming as a hobby that involves collecting experiences. That’s the most valuable aspect of the entire hobby–not obtaining trophies/achievements or topping leaderboards or anything like that. I sit and enjoy a game for where it takes me and what it illuminates in that hot air-filled mind of mine. The magic happens between two taps of the power button. But once the credits roll, I like to have something tangible to remember the game by. I love boxes and manuals for that reason. Every time I open Final Fantasy VIII’s scratched-up jewel case, loose hinges and all, the nostalgia drowns me. And while that case may seem like an unnecessary expense in today’s digital world, let me say this: every time I hold FF8 in my hands, I’m more likely to consider buying another videogame. That’s power you won’t find in a main menu icon.

A more artistic mind than my own once said: “You can’t wrap your arms around a memory.” I say you can’t wrap your button-mashy fingers around a digital download. Less poetic, same message. Keep things physical, Nintendo.