A look at how a year of remakes, reboots and comebacks have set the trend for the Ninth-Generation console era.
A Year of Remakes has set the Landscape for the Ninth-Gen Era
The end of 2020 brought us the start of the Ninth-Generation and beginning of the end for the Eighth-Generation consoles. Such a moment also gives one the chance to look back at the many titles that defined the era while trying to be optimistic for the future. The Eighth-Generation was an era defined by the ambitious vision of studios wanting to bring their stories to life. This trend was thanks to the success of Grand Theft Auto V followed by the launch of The Witcher III and Metal Gear Solid V.
I don’t expect this trend to die in Ninth-Generation era but I do expect it to be scaled back. This is because of two major trends in the last few years. The most obvious has been the greater awareness of crunch and the impact it has on ones mental health along with the company culture and the overall quality of the game. The second (but overlooked) trend has been the popularity of retro games and the success of numerous remakes in the last few years.
2020 was a year defined by the number of remakes, reboots and comebacks for the video game industry. Starting with Final Fantasy VII and Resident Evil 3 to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 and Demon Souls, this was a year that saw the return of numerous classics. It’s clear that many want to return to the past while others wish to re-experience the games that defined their youth. As a new console era begins, one could expect it to be defined by a return to the classics.
Ending and Starting With a Bang
To see what the next era will be like, one needs to look back at how the current one started. Born out of the creative bankruptcy that defined the previous era, Eighth-Generation was one that not only welcomed creativity but encouraged pushing new boundaries. It was also fueled by the communities reaction to the mediocrity that defined the Seventh-Generation.
Despite being an era in which video games became part of mainstream culture, the Seventh-Generation was also a massive failure in regards to innovation. Due to the 2008 Financial Collapse along with the shuttering of numerous publishers, those that survived wanted to play it safe. As a result; innovation and creativity took a backseat in favor of what ever is “popular”. As a result we got so many shooters wanting to be Call of Duty while many classic franchise destroyed themselves by abandoning the core elements that defined them.
Seventh-Generation was a wimpier of an era that ended on a bang thanks to the launch of Grand Theft Auto V. Released in 2013 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, it was the fastest selling game in history (hitting the $1 billion mark in only three days). Rockstar Games demonstrated to the industry that it was time to embrace innovation and ambition. Its success would be followed by its launch on the Next-Gen consoles and PC a year later. This was then followed by the success of The Witcher III, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Fallout 4 and more in 2015. The message was clear, this will be an age defined by grandeur.
Rise of the Remakes
Remakes and reboots are not new to the gaming community, we have seen our fair share of them. The early 2000’s saw the return of classics like Shinobi, Spy Hunter and Contra. At the same time, Resident Evil and Metal Gear Solid were both remade for the Nintendo Game Cube. Also who could forget that Pokemon Red and Blue got a remake for the Game Boy Advance (released as FireRed and LeafGreen). Around the 2010’s, the Wii community got a remake of GoldenEye 007 while Xbox gamers got Perfect Dark. The point is that gaming is all too familiar with remakes and reboots.
So what changed that has made remakes so popular?
It started with the rise of streaming thanks to YouTube, Twitch and Facebook gaming. These communities allowed fans to reminiscent about their youth while sharing their favorite moments. These communities have given rise to commentators (like Sphere Hunter and Avalanche Review) who have build their reputations on being experts on retro games. This was also followed by numerous streamers who have build their audience based on a shared interest in classic games. These streamers and commentators have also introduced these classics to a new audience. This community has also been the hard data needed to convince publishers that their is a market for remakes and reboots.
But to see if such an investment would payoff required someone to test the waters. That someone would be Bethesda, Activsion and Capcom.
The Game Changers
In an era dominated by shooters trying to do something new, id Software kept it old school with their remake / reboot of Doom. Players take on the role of the Doom Guy and just blast every demon they encounter. There is no deep story or anything special about the gameplay, it’s a traditional shooter released in 2016. It was a simple game that was highly praised by fans and critics for a return to the classics. id Software had basically reminded the gaming industry on how you make a first person shooter.
Not long after, Activsion started to test the waters in regards to remakes. Gamers were first treated to Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy followed by Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled. The communities love of remakes was rewarded again with the Spyro Reignited Trilogy. All three of these remakes were highly praised by the community while their sales demonstrated a market demand for remakes. The ultimate payoff came with the reboot of Modern Warfare. After several mediocre titles, fans welcomed the return to the series roots with its stellar single-player campaign and polished multiplayer experience.
Finally we come to the most highly demanded and successful remake, Resident Evil 2. Since the success of the Resident Evil remake, fans have been wanting Capcom to do the same for Resident Evil 2. Yet it would be some time before any announcement was made. During that time, fans saw the release and re-release of Resident Evil 4 followed by 5, 6, 7 and numerous spin-offs. When the remake was finally released, it was one of the most highly praised titles of 2019. It was also the final push that demonstrated the demand for remakes and reboots.
Year of the Remakes
2020 will be defined by remakes for the video game community. The year started with the launch of Doom: Eternal (which could also be described as a remake of Doom II: Hell on Earth). This was followed by Final Fantasy VII, and Resident Evil 3. All three of these games were highly praised by fans and critics for modernizing a classic while introducing them to a new generation.
This trend would continue on in the Summer as we saw the release of more remakes. The season also saw the successful launch of Microsoft Flight Simulator, the first new entry in the series since 2006. Fans of crime games got to go back to the city of Lost Heaven thanks to Mafia: Definitive Edition. Many of us were also reminded of the time when skate punk rocked and the Birdman was our hero with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2. Even cult classics like Destroy All Humans got the chance to shine during the summer season.
The end of 2020 saw the start of the Ninth-Generation console era. Yet one of the biggest launch titles has been Demon Souls for the PlayStation 5. A remake of the first game in the Souls series, it introduced new weapons and gameplay mode along with improved visuals. At the same time it kept everything that made it a classic. The remake has been highly praised by critics and fans while also becoming one of the best selling Next-Gen titles.
Call it a Comeback
The year also saw the return of numerous series that have been dormant. Half-Life: Alyx was an impressive experience that highlighted the wonders of VR with the first entry in the series since 2007. Respawn Entertainment would do the same with Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond. Those who prefer a traditional comeback were treated with Streets of Rage 4, the first entry in the series in 26 years.
Not All Could be Winners
Before fans get excited for the return of their favorite games, be aware that not all titles might get a remake. Most of these remakes were made possible because there was hard data to support them. The Resident Evil 2 remake was made possible because of the success of Resident Evil HD. Bethesda saw potential in Doom following the success of Wolfenstein: The New Order. Demon Souls simply had to look back on the success of the Dark Souls trilogy and the popularity of Souls-like games.
Even if a cult hit does get a remake, the developers may not understand what made it memorable. XIII is the best go to example of a botched remake. The original was famous for its comic book style and aesthetics that made it stand out. The remake scaled back on the comic book style while abandoning the art style for something that is more familiar to players. At the same time it kept the janky control layout and most of the outdated gameplay elements.
For a remake to happen will require either market data that shows that their is a financial reward for the effort. If a project passes this hurdle, the remake needs the talent of developers who understand what made the original either a masterpiece or a cult classic.
The Next-Gen Era
2020 has basically demonstrated that remakes are hot among the community. There is a market to remake classics or reboot dormant series. The next few years will see more remakes or the return of a beloved series. Old school gamers will once again get to enjoy the classics with better graphics and a polished gameplay. Don’t expect to see the end of ambitious projects as they will be competing with remakes and reboots. Just be aware that not every classic will be remade nor will every remake be a hit if the developers don’t understand why its beloved.
Is there a game you feel should get a remake or what are your thoughts on this trend? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
8Bit/Digi is an independent media outlet that provides an insight into the video game community and industry of the San Francisco Bay Area.