HD Remasters Are Counter To EA’s Business Model

Since at least last year I’ve suspected someone at EA just doesn’t believe in doing HD remasters. Now we have confirmation of this from COO Peter Moore himself.

To me, Moore’s comments sound like they came right off the top of his head and ignore all the nuances of why developers and publishers do remasters as well as why people buy them. Thinking about it though, it makes perfect sense that EA doesn’t do remasters at all.

In a previous post I pointed out that EA pretty much only ever released two remasters during the last console generation: Medal of Honor Frontline HD and the PS3 version of Dead Space Extraction, leaving everyone wondering why the company hasn’t released Mass Effect on the current consoles running in 1080p at 60 frames per second with better textures and all the DLC — which is still stupidly expensive on its own. But that get’s to the point of why EA doesn’t do remasters doesn’t it?

Moore’s comment that remasters just come from companies that are “out of ideas” is completely wrong when you look at Sony releasing an Uncharted collection while working on Uncharted 4, or Microsoft doing a Halo collection while working on Halo 5. I think I’ve also noted before that the assumption that these remasters take resources away from theoretical new games is also wrong. Naughty Dog didn’t make the Uncharted collection, Bluepoint did, and Bluepoint is really just a collection of programmers who remaster games.

Remasters are definitely an extra revenue source, but they also get made to sort of celebrate and preserve classics, which the video game industry doesn’t do nearly as well as other media. Nobody bats an eye when iconic movies from 40 years ago get re-released on Blu-Ray with new film transfers. Grim Fandango kind of had to be remastered because it had become difficult to acquire and run the game on a modern computer without resorting to piracy and modding. I think the problem is EA doesn’t really view most of its games as singular products to be preserved.

EA has been at the forefront of “games as a service.” A couple years ago Moore said “We don’t make offline games anymore.” Most of the games EA makes these days are tied to some kind of offline service involving multiplayer, microtransactions, DLC, or whatever. Many of those services get shut down relatively quickly because EA has newer games it wants you to buy. If EA remastered Mass Effect 3, what would it do with that game’s multiplayer and the whole service surrounding that? Refresh it and expect people to keep playing it? Or rip it out of the game and sell Mass Effect 3 as one static product like all the other remasters are? EA probably expects that audience to move on to Dragon Age Inquisition and eventually Mass Effect: Andromeda.

This is what happens to online games on consoles, and console games in generally really. One big reason for all these remasters is to make up for the lack of backwards compatibility for all these games people obviously still care about. It’s also a big reason there’s so much outcry for more and more games to be ported to PC these days — they simply end up being preserved for longer, with less effort needed to get them running at higher and higher resolutions. It’s why people who installed Counter-Strike 1.6 in 2003 can still play it today. On the business side it’s also how EA itself can release an expansion pack for Ultima Online in 2015 even though the game came out in 1997. Remember those guys who kept playing Halo 2 online on the Xbox 360 until the very end of its service? Luckily, most of the games EA made during the last console generation also have PC versions.

All I’m saying is, remasters are still being made because there is still a market for them. Older games are sold on Steam and GoodOldGames because there is a market for them. I don’t like the prevailing view I see that new games are always the best. My LTTP blog posts have thoroughly disproved that assertion.

BULLETS:

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