Tomb Raider, then and now If you're a fan of 'Star Wars' or 'The Lord of the Rings',
you're intimately familiar with Hollywood's practice of repackaging hit films,
adding a bit of polish or new content and enticing you to pay for yet another
ticket or version of the DVD.
It's one of the best ways for studios to make money off old
franchises -- and now the video game industry is starting to follow in its
A slew of revamped games from previous years will hit store
shelves this holiday season, as publishers hope that a bump to high definition
or 3D will convince you to buy an updated copy and relive the adventure.
Microsoft's Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, for instance, will layer a new
graphics engine onto the framework of the original Halo game, saving the
developers from having to recreate the game's AI, level design and other
essential elements from scratch. Nintendo managed a similar trick with the
exemplary The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time remake for the Nintendo 3DS, and
Sony will simply add high definition graphics to a pair of PSP God of War games
for this fall's PS3 collection, God of War: Origins Collection.
Full franchise reboots -- another favorite trick of Hollywood -- are also
coming. Games that aren't especially old to begin with are being reimagined in
hopes of attracting a new audience. Just as 'Batman Begins' and 2009's 'Star
Trek' took those long-standing franchises in different directions, 2012's
Tomb Raider will present a much more vulnerable Lara Croft.
From an economic standpoint, remakes are the safer bet for
both publishers and consumers. Bringing slightly older games up to current
standards doesn't cost nearly as much as starting a new title from scratch.
It's about more than cost savings, of course. For players,
these re-polished titles offer a second chance at games that might have slipped
past them the first time around.
"There are so many games the people don't get to play
because there's not enough time," says Billy Pidgeon, senior analyst with
M2 Research. "The upside of this is it gives gamers the chance to try
something they've heard about, but maybe missed in its initial release."
In many ways, the re-release of older titles gives
publishers a second chance to woo players, something they've historically
"When you make a movie, you make a certain
investment," notes Pidgeon. "Regardless of whether it does good at
box office, it gets another shot. It gets a shot overseas. It gets another shot
with the DVD [release]. But with a game, it's pretty much one shot and that's
it. So this is a chance for companies to treat their franchises well and make
the most from them."
Reboots of classic titles are a slightly different beast.
Because they're fully fledged games, they carry the same development costs as
any new title -- and since they often jettison parts of franchise, they can
carry an extra degree of risk. But they can also reinvigorate an aging
franchise and give it a second life.
"In many ways, that's the best way to go," says
Pidgeon. "When you hear 'here comes another Tomb Raider,' people have
expectations and generally think 'it's been done before'. Doing a reboot adds
some mystique to it. ... If it's an older franchise, it could be a very good way
A number of high-profile reboots are coming later this year,
including new takes on titles like snowboarding great SSX and car combat
classic Twisted Metal.
There are, of course, critics that emerge from the woodwork
when the subject of re-issues and reboots comes up. It's laziness on the part
of the developer, they charge. Creativity is doomed, they shout. Why not spend
that money on something new?
It's an argument that might make sense on the surface, but
fails to look at the big picture of today's video game industry. Traditionally,
the middle of the console cycle has had one mantra: Do fewer things better.
And as publishers kill titles that are shaping up to be
simply mediocre with increasing regularity, a good way to recoup those lost
development costs is to dust off some of their greatest hits and bring them to
the modern age.