The video game industry has found an interesting way to turn past favorites into future hits, and it is great news for all of us.
The process is called remastering. Developers take a major hit from the past, such as "Final Fantasy X" or "The Last of Us," upgrade the game's graphics and audio, and re-release it on a modern console. It is similar to what George Lucas did to the original "Star Wars" trilogy back in the 1990s: Same actors and storyline, but modernized special effects.
Everybody wins in this scenario. A remastered game gives diehard fans of the title a chance to relive their former glory. It also allows casual fans who may have missed out on the franchise a chance to discover a great game for the first time.
I fit into both camps.
I was ecstatic when I heard about the remastered edition of "Final Fantasy X." I was about 13 years old when I spent more than 60 hours exploring every pixel of the first version. I couldn't match that level of commitment in March when the remastered version came out, but it was a rewarding return to the last great "Final Fantasy" game.
Later this month, I plan to check out the remastered edition of "The Last of Us." To my everlasting shame, I didn't finish the original version when it debuted last June. Waves of coworkers and friends have berated me for this. Now, I have a chance to not only finish 2013's consensus Game of the Year but also experience its twists and turns for the very first time in stunning PlayStation 4 graphics.
Many of my peers on gaming websites and blogs are opposed to the idea of sprucing up a game and re-releasing it. They accuse video game companies of extorting money out of fans by forcing them to buy the same game twice.
I can see how people could cling to this idea, especially when it comes to the "Grand Theft Auto V" remaster. The original was released about a month before the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and many gamers wondered why the evil geniuses at Rockstar Games didn't plan ahead and release on the next-gen consoles. As a result, millions of gamers may buy the same game twice within a year and also will lose their progress, created characters and purchased downloadable content.
I don't buy that logic.
First of all, no one is being forced into anything. If you don't want to buy the re-release, then don't. Rockstar isn't going to discontinue service on the previous versions of the game. Your old characters won't be deleted the day the newer edition releases.
"Grand Theft Auto V" also took four years and hundreds of millions of dollars to make. There is no way Rockstar could have designed a game around a console that didn't really exist yet.
Gaming companies are certainly going to make a killing off of these re-released games, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing. Nothing about the process is exploiting anyone, and some of the money raised will surely be invested into titles that may not have been developed if not for this influx of cash.
The other argument I hear against the remastering trend is that these projects will somehow take away from other projects. Critics and fans believe that other worthy games aren't being made or are being swept aside for staffers to work on games like "Beyond: Two Souls HD."
While this is a possibility, I find it highly unlikely that massive companies with thousands of employees are turning down or delaying good game ideas to remaster old titles. If Sony or Microsoft have 50 great game ideas all at once, they will find the staff needed to make those 50 games. There isn't an infinite number of development companies or skilled laborers.
I also love this trend because it may steer the industry away from the reboot craze. Rebooting or remaking a video game means starting a franchise all over again with a new design team and new actors. There is a similar rebooting movement going on in movies and television.
This process is dangerous, as many of these reboots can ruin a great video game franchise. Gamers, like all pop culture fans, are fiercely protective of their favorite franchises. I feel like remastering a game is simply repainting the Sistine Chapel, while rebooting a game is trying to build a new one.
It's hard not to be excited for the video games industry. I think the familiar and tested remastered games will complement the great new franchises like "Destiny" and Evolve."
The next year should be a great one.