Remasters Vs Backwards Compatibility: Why Not Both?


A few days ago, I was browsing the PlayStation Store looking for a good special, when I came across Bioshock: The Collection. It didn’t really mean much to me then, but later after a conversation with a group of friends where the creation of remasters was rebuked, I began to think about the role of remasters within gaming as well as its effects on backwards compatibility.

Although it is highly likely that if you’re reading this that you probably already know what remasters and backwards compatibility are and what the differences are between them, it may still be beneficial to give these terms brief definitions.

Basically, a remastered game is an old title that a developer has taken and improved upon the quality. This usually means that the graphics of a title have been upscaled to make use of the increased hardware capabilities of a newer console or PC.

Bioshock The Collection.jpg

Revisiting the interesting worlds that are Rapture and Columbia.

Backwards capability, however, refers to a platform’s capability to run software that was released for older hardware models. For example, playing Xbox 360 on the Xbox One. With regards to backwards compatibility and the current generation of consoles, the Xbox One has limited backwards compatibility features as it is able to run selected Xbox 360 titles, whereas the PlayStation 4 does not have backwards compatibility features at all.

Remastering old titles for newer consoles seems to be a relatively new concept. Perhaps it was just that I never really paid much attention to this action in the previous generation of consoles, but I never noticed a slew of PlayStation 2 or original Xbox titles being remastered for newer consoles.

It is very interesting to note that many of the titles that have been remastered for the current generation of consoles are not included in the Xbox One’s backwards compatible list. As previously suggested, with the PlayStation 4, the only possible option to replay an old title would be to buy the remaster.

GTA V.jpg

Proabably one of the best remasters available for the current generation of consoles.

It is rather clear that the action of remastering favoured titles released on previous consoles is largely an attempt by both the console producers and video game developers to cash in on the general gaming public’s fanaticism surrounding particular video game title, but is this really a bad thing?

Some gamers do tend to make the argument that remasters were created as a pure means for console producers and video game developers to suck more money out of the gaming community. If a console has no backwards compatibility capabilities and you no longer own a previous generation console, then one does have to buy the remastered version of a game in order to play it again.

There is some flaw with this argument though. It seems that remastered titles are not really targeted at the gamers who owned the title previously, but rather those that have never owned it before and would still like to play it.

Uncharted Collection.jpg

The very best that PlayStation has to offer.

It is not just any game that receives a remaster; it is only those titles that garnered a significant positive from the gaming community as a whole. One only has to look at the list of games that have received a remastered version to see this, with examples including Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Grand Theft Auto V.

Remasters sometimes also provide some gamers incentive to revisit an older title which was previously thoroughly enjoyed. This is also something that I have found to be true in my own experience.

After having seen Bioshock: The Collection the other day in the online store, I was actually very tempted to purchase it because I wanted to revisit an upscaled Rapture and Columbia on my PlayStation 4 (bear in mind that I do still have all of the Bioshock titles for my still-operating Xbox 360).

Xbox One backwards compatability.jpg

Xbox One’s list of backwards compatible games continues to grow.

With this in mind, remasters don’t really seem to be a barrier to the inclusion of backwards capability features in current generation consoles.

The fact that I had only wanted to play Bioshock again after seeing the remastered version had made me think somewhat about whether the original decision for Sony and Microsoft to release the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One was made with the idea that a lot of gamers don’t tend to return to purchases that they made for the previous console once a new console has gained some ground.

This is also a notion that I have found to be true in my own case. Since purchasing a PlayStation 4 in 2013 (and later an Xbox One), I have gone back to play titles on older consoles perhaps a handful of times. This decision to go back has usually come out of some nostalgic need to go back and play an old map of Zombies included on the old Call of Duty Black Ops titles, thus I am not very phased by backwards compatibility features.

Overall, I feel that I find more value in remasters than what I probably ever would with a backwards compatibility feature. This, however, does not mean that I don’t believe that the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 should not be made backwards compatible, but rather that there should be less hate for remasters.

What are your feelings on remasters?