Sony’s Approach to Remakes and Remasters is Heavily Misguided

Sony's apparent insistence on developing remasters and remakes for games that don't need them is the wrong strategy.

Posted By | On 25th, Oct. 2022

Sony’s Approach to Remakes and Remasters is Heavily Misguided

The rumour mill is churning hard at present with the news Sony is reportedly working with Guerrilla Games on a remaster of 2017’s Horizon Zero Dawn for PlayStation 5. Now, it’s worth emphasising at the time of this feature’s creation nothing concrete has been offered by representatives at Sony or Guerrilla. Still, rumours of a Horizon Zero Dawn remaster – or even, potentially, a remake – is legitimate cause for concern for PlayStation owners.

It only takes a glance at PlayStation 5’s first-party titles to see there’s a bounty of remakes and remasters already on offer: Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut, Death Stranding Director’s Cut, Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection, the list goes on. Even games from third-party studios are riding the remaster and remake train too: Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade and Persona 5 Royal to name just two. And, lest we forget, Horizon Zero Dawn’s rumours come mere weeks after the hugely divisive The Last of Us Part I remake’s release.

Speaking of Horizon Zero Dawn specifically, the PlayStation 4 title has already received a PS5 upgrade, complete with visual fidelity improvements and smooth 60 FPS gameplay. A full-on PS5 remaster or remake would bring superior lighting, enhanced textures, and updated character models, plus accessibility features, DualSense support, and spatial audio. But which route should Sony go down – remaster, or remake? These current-gen features could, in theory, be bundled into a budget-friendly upgrade fee – or maybe, dare we dream, even free?! – but recent history surrounding Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us Part I supports the cynic’s view that there’s strong chance this’d be a full-blown, full-price remake. If it were, there’s no doubt it’d be a tough sell.

Graphically speaking, both Horizon games when played on PS5 aren’t too dissimilar. From a mechanical standpoint, both games play largely the same too. Sure, Forbidden West has a handful of new additions, but the nuts and bolts of their gameplay experience is practically the same. A full-price Zero Dawn remake wouldn’t radically reinvent the wheel like, for instance, Capcom did when they evolved Resident Evil 2’s fixed cameras and tank controls into an immersive third-person view for its 2019 remake. No, we’re boiling a Zero Dawn remake down to DualSense support, haptic feedback, and accessibility.

Now, of course, by taking advantage of PS5’s accessibility features it’s fantastic to make available a game which perhaps people couldn’t play before. But, as said already in this feature, it’d be nice for players who already own the game to be given these current-gen benefits in a budget-friendly upgrade. Zero Dawn doesn’t need to be re-built from the ground up to incorporate current generation features.

There’s a question of resources too: should Sony plough the furrows of forgotten series’ rather than stuff all their eggs in the proverbial baskets of a handful of franchises? Both Horizon and The Last of Us are part of a wider network of mixed media, with multi-player spinoffs and big-budget TV series in the pipeline. Horizon also has PSVR2 exclusive Horizon Call of the Mountain – a collaboration between Guerrilla and Liverpool-based Firesprite – on the way too.

The Last of Us Part 1

This point isn’t saying Guerrilla Games or Naughty Dog are stretching their manpower to breaking point, it’s saying Sony seems under the impression their flagship first-party titles must be squeezed to saturation point to satiate player demand. But newsflash Sony: some players don’t like The Last of Us or Horizon, and instead would rather see forgotten franchises step back into the limelight. Jak & Daxter, Killzone, WipEout, Resistance – whilst, yes, these titles are decidedly niche compared to behemoths Horizon and The Last of Us, if Sony is hellbent on a strategy of remaking and remastering then surely at least one dusted gem from the past deserves chance to shine again. Or do they need to be deemed TV-worthy? After all, Twisted Metal is making a comeback as a TV series.

Alas, these points are perhaps moot, because as always, with anything, it comes down to money: sales indicate popularity and resonance with players. Its wishful thinking to expect Sony to pump funds into a WipEout reboot when both Horizon games combined have sold over 40 million units.

But, in the UK at least, The Last of Us Part I has experienced stuttering sales. Yes, it topped the UK sales charts but in its first week it sold roughly half the number of physical units that Saints Row did a week prior. There’s a myriad of reasons to explain The Last of Us Part I’s less than expected sales: it’s too high a price tag (which, to be fair, it most definitely is), it’s releasing too far away from its HBO series (although a series trailer appeared online in the same window), or there’s high competition (which, there wasn’t), or maybe – just maybe – The Last of Us Part I is deemed unnecessary by the masses.

Don’t get it twisted, The Last of Us is an exceptional game, and Naughty Dog’s efforts in improving on an already almost-perfect nine-year-old title for its remake is nothing short of monumental. But the game is still wildly accessible – it’s native PS4 remaster still looks and plays great and is available to play on PS5, plus it’s been given away last year as part of the monthly PS Plus games, and it’s even still available now at no extra charge to subscribers of PS Plus Premium.

Necessity is the main point we’re striving towards here. Of those remastered games mentioned earlier on – Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut, Death Stranding Director’s Cut, Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection – the hi-res versions of these titles are available to owners of the original games for a paltry upgrade fee. Paying a tenner to update to current-gen hardware when you’ve already shelled out full price for the game is subjectively, and arguably ethically, a much better system than rebuilding games from the ground up – especially when they don’t need rebuilding at all.

horizon zero dawn

Sony should take heed of The Last of Us Part I’s middling sales figures. A PS5 remaster of Zero Dawn, with all the bells and whistles PlayStation 5 has to offer, with nominal upgrade fee would go down a treat. It does not need to be remade, plain and simple.

Perhaps Sony are bereft of new ideas? PlayStation owners were treated to an onslaught of incredible first-party titles last generation, so much so that the PlayStation 5-era simply can’t compete.  God of War Ragnarök is round the corner – which, yes, looks incredible if not a stately continuation of 2018’s excellent God of War reboot – but beyond that, most of Sony’s first-party studios are yet to announce their next titles. It’s the cynic’s view of course, but a remake of 2018’s God of War to coincide with its touted TV series seems more likely than anything brand spanking new right now. Fingers crossed we’re just temporarily lost in a creative blackhole and The Last of Us Part I’s lacklustre performance will buck the trend of expensive remakes of relatively young games.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.


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