Remakes and remasters key factors in successful game debuts.

Remakes and remasters: key factors in successful game debuts. (Source – Shutterstock).

Is relying on game remakes and remasters essential for launch success?

  • 2023 was a golden age for game remakes, driven by nostalgia and tech advancements.
  • Successful game remakes rely on perfect timing and tapping into gamers’ nostalgia.
  • That means you need to konw where the nostalgia-triggers of a gaming experience really are.

2023 has really been all about bringing back the classics. Remakes, remasters, and ports are totally ruling the gaming scene right now. Can you believe that these kinds of games snagged nine of the top ten spots in the highest-rated games list from March through June? They were also some of the most eagerly awaited releases.

The Nielsen report shows that the cashflow from the top video game remakes nearly doubled in 2020 when you compare it to 2018. That’s why everyone’s calling it the golden age of remakes and remasters.

But why are these game makeovers killing it in today’s super-competitive market? Let’s take a look into what gamers and game-makers think about the whole trend.

Millennials are right at the heart of this big comeback. According to a report by Newzoo, 80% of millennials are gamers. They grew up with the classic video games from the 80s and 90s, which are now getting a fresh coat of paint.

It’s more than just playing games for them; it’s about reliving those epic childhood moments. Now that they’ve got money to spend, millennials are a big reason why remakes and remasters are so popular. They’re not just stuck in nostalgia; they’re actively shaping the market. And it’s not just a passing phase – studies like the one from ExpressVPN show that their love for gaming is here to stay, even outpacing the enthusiasm of the Gen Z crowd.

Challenges in the gaming industry

The gaming industry has faced mounting pressures due to escalating consumer expectations for high-quality content delivered quickly, driven by rapid technological advancements and fierce competition. Developers now need larger teams and more time to produce content that meets these expectations.

In response to the industry’s overgrowth during the Covid-19 pandemic and the current economic challenges, developers and investors have adopted a more conservative financial approach. This cautious stance has led some to focus on game renewals to mitigate development risks while still delivering high-quality products.

The Last of Us, developed by Naughty Dog and Sony Interactive Entertainment, serves as a prime example of the longevity that remakes and remasters can offer. Launched in 2013, the game has seen updated versions released with each new console generation, ensuring it remains relevant and accessible to gamers on any platform. This strategy has kept The Last of Us in the spotlight, contributing to its enduring success and even inspiring a hit television series in 2023.

Analyzing the optimal timing for game renewals

Likewise, game renewals offer other developers a way to keep their franchises relevant, expand their consumer base, and build anticipation for future titles. Beyond their direct sales and engagement benefits, remakes, remasters, and ports can reinvigorate interest in the original games, as shown in a Newzoo study. This was evidenced by the launch of the Resident Evil 4 remake in March 2023, which led to a significant spike in monthly active users for the original 2005 version on Steam. These benefits demonstrate the positive impact of well-executed game renewals on a franchise.

Virtuos, in collaboration with IDG Consulting and Strategic Game Consulting (SGC), compiled a comprehensive dataset of over 200 remakes and remasters, complete with sales figures dating back to 2012. Utilizing “Owners,” a metric provided by SGC indicating the number of unique players with a game in their library, as a proxy for sales, this study provided deep insights by cross-referencing this data with consumer reviews and developer interviews of prominent game renewals.

The initial question facing many in the industry is whether to opt for a remake or a remaster. The popularity of remasters surged in 2014, coinciding with the release of the PS4 and Xbox One. Developers leveraged the enhanced graphical capabilities of these new consoles to update the visuals of their most successful and beloved titles, resulting in a positive reception from players, as indicated by strong sales figures for remasters in that year. Noteworthy remasters from this period include Grand Theft Auto V, The Last of Us Remastered, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection, all launched relatively close to their original releases.

How the remakes and remasters perform over time.

How the remakes and remasters perform over time. (Source – Virtuos).

But the excitement for remasters began to wane in subsequent years. The transition to the PS5 and Xbox X|S in 2020 did not replicate the 2014 success, partly because graphical enhancements were less impactful due to higher expectations and the prevalence of backwards compatibility, diminishing the appeal of purchasing essentially the same game for new hardware.

With the next console generation anticipated around 2028, and rumors of the Nintendo Switch 2 releasing in early 2025, there’s potential for further expansion and success for remakes. The future of remasters, however, hinges on the technological advancements these new consoles offer.

The analysis reveals that remasters launched shortly after their original games tend to perform better, benefiting from the titles’ continued relevance and competitive edge. The most successful remasters, averaging 13.8 million sales, were those released within five years of their originals, primarily in 2014, to capitalize on the new console generation.

This strategy was less prevalent in 2020-2021, with developers choosing to remaster older titles from the PS3 and Xbox 360 era for the latest consoles, resulting in a longer average gap between original and remastered versions. Despite this, the remasters of 2020, such as Saints Row: The Third Remastered and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered did not replicate the success of their 2014 counterparts, largely due to their focus on graphical improvements over gameplay enhancements. Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered, released two years after the original, was a notable exception, achieving significant sales.

Remakes, though, tend to succeed when enough time has passed to allow for significant technological and gameplay improvements. The dataset shows that remakes generally involve games over a decade old, with only a small fraction involving shorter intervals between original and remake versions. Successful remakes often follow a gap of at least 9 years, as seen with The Last of Us Part 1 and Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir. But for games less than a decade old, developers must carefully assess whether the remake will add enough value to justify its purchase.

Nostalgia’s crucial role in video game remakes and remasters

Studies have shown that the appeal of remakes and remasters to gamers often lies in the nostalgia they evoke, allowing players to revisit the fond memories associated with the original titles. For example, a significant portion (36.5%) of players of Black Mesa, a 2020 remake of Half-Life, had also experienced the original Half-Life game on Steam.

The success of a game renewal hinges on the developer’s ability to pinpoint, examine, and highlight the elements that trigger nostalgia among players.

The aspects of a game that players remember most fondly tend to be its standout moments or levels, rather than an all-encompassing recollection of the entire game. These memorable elements can range from the initial discovery of a unique location to an unforgettable line spoken by a favorite character.

Black Mesa (a 2020 remake of Half-Life).

Black Mesa (a 2020 remake of Half-Life). (Source – Virtuos).

This understanding was pivotal for the team behind the Resident Evil 4 remake in 2023. To maintain the game’s nostalgic value, they paid homage to iconic moments, including the Del Lago Easter egg and memorable lines like “Where’s everyone going? Bingo?”

Feedback from players indicates that the Resident Evil 4 remake was well-received by both newcomers and veterans, showcasing the development team’s ability to effectively capture the original game’s spirit. Successfully recreating key moments is crucial for appealing to returning players, ensuring they have a satisfying experience that honors their memories of the original game.

Remakes and remasters offer the benefit of having existing content and the wisdom of hindsight, which is not available when creating new IPs. Developers can use this to their advantage by analyzing the original game’s reception, identifying the aspects that resonated with audiences, and integrating these elements into the remake or remaster.

Therefore, it is essential for developers working on game renewals to conduct research to identify and preserve the elements most valued by players, ensuring these are maintained in the updated version. Do that, and it looks like game remakes are here to stay.

If you’re going to remake a game, think more Free Guy than Pixels. Thanks, The Entire Gaming Community.