Re-releasing games is nothing new. Sometimes it’s just something as simple as a re-press with a new edition number on the spine of the CD or DVD. Other times, it’s a full re-hash, with new graphics, features, materials and more. Despite all the additions, it’s still the same game, and that, depending on the game itself, could help sell, or help it stick to the shelves.
Games like Chrono Trigger help bring back the rose-tinted views of retro gaming, and seeing the remake of an original, Disgaea: Hour of Darkness for example, rather than a sequel, often is financial sense, as it simultaneously adds a larger audience and gives more to the fans of the series. There are services available like Good Old Games, a website that you can download old titles, complete with remastered bonuses like Soundtracks, Hi-Res images and more, legally, and at a very good price. There are free re-releases, like the recent opening of Quake Live to the public, that are supported by adverts. As long as people play, id software get paid, and the players are just playing the game.
However, re-releasing a game is something that has been around for a long time. If we look at Sega, they have been re-releasing the Sonic and general Genesis titles for a long time. They have recently done it again with Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection if you ive outside of the US), but to much higher acclaim than the previous iterations of the releases. The fact of the matter is that SUGC’s games average out at less than $1 a game. Good Old Games doesn’t charge more than $10 per title. They have taken the bull by the horns, and seen what they can offer to the consumer at genuinely good value, and it has shown in sales figures.
Even titles that are available for download have either been available for less than their original title was, or they have added enough content to justify the ‘new game’ price, or they have done both. The explosion on XBLA and PSN alike of Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix is a perfect example of the point I made earlier. The game cost $15, but the games graphics had been completely redone to match the graphical quality of the console generation that it was released in. A cynic would immediately say that this was just to drum up hype for Street Fighter IV, but a lot of people bought SSF2THDR (sorry for the acronym) to relive the old days of the original Super Street Fighter II Turbo, and didn’t even give the more recent title a second look.
The typical gamer is now matured. No longer is it the early-teen sitting in his bedroom playing on the NES all weekend, and when he gets home after school. They have aged, to the point where they can be re-sold games that were available in their youth. This demographic doesn’t need to ask their parents for money anymore; many of them already are parents. They can go out, buy the game at a cut rate, and enjoy their childhood once again. It is this reminiscence that is driving the re-release market, and the urge from younger gamers to play what their parents played.
Not all re-releases do well in this generation, though. A lot of the re-releases on XBLA and Nintendo Channel (Sonic 2, Gradius, Golden Axe, Galaga, Alien Storm etc) have rarely been spoken of after their release, other than ‘Pick it up on [Collection X]’ when mentioned in passing. They are not good value for money, and therefore, especially in this recent economic climate, are less of a draw than 40 titles for $30.
All these factors add to the result that we see today: Solid re-hashes that give much more, or cost much less. Whether it lasts though, is another question. The explosion of gaming when the PS1 and N64 were around means that from then onward, the consoles sold in much larger numbers. Therefore, there will be more of a chance to play it on the original console. Ten years after it’s release, the PS2 is still selling through it’s slim/PStwo version, and that allows you to play PS1 games. We may have hit the sweet spot in releasing old titles for the consoles, but for gamers who enjoy classic titles, it’s one hell of a sweet spot.