Talking Point: What Does the Future Hold for HD Re-Releases on PS4?
Posted by Sammy Barker
Bringing clarity to the classics
The humble high-definition remaster proved a popular revenue stream for publishers on the PlayStation 3. Starting with the excellent God of War Collection, and spawning several retail compilations thereafter – including Tomb Raider, Metal Gear Solid, and more – the concept of refreshing previous generation favourites made plenty of sense for all of the parties involved. Not only did it augment property holders with another opportunity to recoup the costs from their initial investment, but it also presented consumers with a chance to play critically acclaimed games that they may have otherwise missed. But with the well of worthwhile re-releases almost exhausted, what’s next for the humble revamp on the PlayStation 4?
For current generation consoles, the Classics HD line owed much of its success to a couple of key factors. Outside of the expensive launch model, the PS3 was not backward compatible, meaning that you had to keep your PlayStation 2 hooked up if you wanted to revisit titles such as Shadow of the Colossus and Sly Cooper. Furthermore, the introduction of Sony’s black behemoth in 2006 brought with it a visual revolution, as clunky cathode ray television sets were replaced by slick, high-resolution panels. Suddenly, playing games through your old component cables didn’t seem feasible, even if you’d made the effort to incorporate your creaky PS2 into your spangly new home theatre.
As such, exploiting the advantages of the upgrade made a lot of sense. Converting the titles didn’t require wholesale changes to the original code, so the practice was cheap for publishers. And the updates could be sold on the basis of their revamped visuals, ease of accessibility, and other minor enhancements, such as the inclusion of Trophies and behind-the-scenes content. However, while the initiative has been successful over the past five or so years, it’s harder to see a future for the re-release business moving forwards.
With a vast majority of the most-wanted titles from the PS2 era already available on Sony’s flagship format – the upcoming Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster and Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX are likely to represent the last of their kind – it’s tough to imagine many more releases from the aging system making the jump to new machines. And the circumstances between the upcoming hardware transition and the previous one are not quite the same. While the next generation system isn’t backward compatible like its predecessor, the uptake of 4K and 3D televisions has been slow, meaning that there’s unlikely to be a major format change over the coming years. Furthermore, features such as Trophies are already available as a standard in most current generation games.
But does that mean that we’re going to see the revenue stream slump to an abrupt end? Maybe, but it’s still possible that publishers will get some mileage out of the re-release model towards the start of the PS4’s lifespan. Titles such as Grand Theft Auto V have only been confirmed for current generation consoles, but there’s every chance that Rockstar Games will be planning to deploy an updated re-release on Sony’s new piece of hardware next year. And it’s improved performance, rather than straightforward visual fidelity, that the initiative’s likely to serve the best.
For example, The Last of Us pushed every inch of the PS3’s power. As a consequence, it’s not hard to imagine Naughty Dog smoothing out the frame-rate and tidying up the textures for the PS4 – especially now that the company’s confirmed that it’s sticking with the same engine for its next generation games. Beyond: Two Souls is likely to follow in the post-apocalyptic adventure’s footsteps, and Polyphony Digital has already revealed that it’s working on an enhanced version of Gran Turismo 6. Popular third-party releases like BioShock: Infinite, Tomb Raider, and Splinter Cell: Blacklist could all plot the same course, too.
However, it’s unclear whether such inconsequential improvements would even appeal to the average consumer. Smoother performance is always appreciated, but it’s difficult to market. At least with the re-release of PS2 games, companies could provide side-by-side comparisons that showed a marked progression in resolution, texture quality, and more. Such refinements are going to be much more challenging to communicate as we transition into a new generation with the PS4. And that may prompt publishers to explore other opportunities to encourage us to re-purchase their best games.
Whether that will involve additional content or other incentives remains to be seen. One thing’s for sure, though, firms are going to have to seriously increase their efforts if they want to effectively re-sell PS3 titles on next generation hardware. The days of simply repurposing previously released content with a fresh lick of paint may be fading. And it’s going to be interesting to see whether that deters publishers from exploring the model on the PS4 at all, or forces them to come up with more creative solutions. Where are you putting your money?
Do you think that re-releases have a future on the PS4? What improvements would encourage you to re-purchase a PS3 title on Sony’s next generation system? Let us know in the comments section and poll below.
Which of the following would convince you to re-buy a PS3 game on PS4? (35 votes)
Performance improvements would be great
I’d definitely be tempted by additional content
Accessibility is the only reason that I’d consider upgrading
Honestly, none of the above
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