Are Definitive Editions and Collections Bringing About Another Dark Age of Gaming?

Back in the mid-late 2000s, I was getting scared that I no longer liked video games. Maybe he adults in my life were right; playing games was just a phase that I was going through. Maybe it was time for me to do my taxes and complain about traffic – or whatever grown-ups do.

Every game just looked like “Gun Shooty Killy 3” to me. Inferior sequels started outnumbering original titles. I felt like an old man being left behind, and for a while I didn’t even understand the appeal of video games. Luckily the sudden – and absolutely necessary – rise of indie games saved me from my doubts. Titles like Super Meat Boy, Portal, and Braid showed what could be accomplished by tiny teams of passionate individuals rather than a corporate monolith, and the Dark Ages ended.

Pictured: Actual fun

Pictured: Actual fun

I’m getting worried again.

Games are being re-released at quite an alarming rate. At first, I was fine with that – enthusiastic, even. God of War deserved to be repackaged in beautiful widescreen on PS3. As did Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, two of the most important games of all time. About a year after that came the God of War: Origins Collection. Which makes sense, I guess… Just because no one bought a PSP doesn’t mean that everyone should miss out on some of its best titles.

Less than a year later, The God of War Saga was released, with five games on one blu ray disc, four of which were included in the previous collections. And that’s just one example; in the two years between the first God of War Collection and The God of War Saga, 20 different collections and HD rereleases were made on Sony consoles alone.

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It’s clear that this is becoming a problem from this massive Wikipedia page, which lists re-releases and remasters of JUST Playstation games. And now it seems like there’s no rhyme or reason as to how long a company should wait before releasing a remastered/ultimate/definitive edition of a game. Naughty Dog waited just 13 months to release The Last of Us Remastered, but Injustice: Gods Among Us has to be the worst offender, with just seven months between the original’s launch and its “Ultimate Edition.”

I understand the reason we want definitive editions. They give some of the last generation’s best games a chance to take advantage of new hardware, and they’re a boon to the many people who made the jump from Xbox 360 to PS4 and missed out on the PS3’s library. I also understand that these remakes take work. I’m sure thousands of collective hours were put into making The Master Chief Collection. I’m also sure it will be wildly fun, but where is the industry headed? Are collections and remasters going to be standard on every new console from now on? Will early adopters have to wade through a sea of rehashes every five years? Or will the tide never end? It could be worse than the sequel Dark Ages of the mid 2000s.

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Definitive editions also devalue the accomplishments of the originals. The Last of Us looks good on PS4, but do you remember how amazing it was to see its heart-stoppingly amazing graphics on the same console that launched with a game like Genji: Days of the Blade? The Last of Us Remastered had to build on the limitations of the PS3, which is why it won’t stand out like it deserves to alongside games purpose-built for the new hardware.

What will rescue us from the Definitive Editions? Even indie devs are susceptible to the lure of HD rereleases. Journey is being repackaged for PS4 with The Unfinished Swan later this year, but at least those support cross-buy from PS3 to PS4 – something AAA titles have yet to show.

UPDATE: The Definitive Edition of this article will be posted January 17th, 2015.