Great Debate: HD vs. BC
In an ideal world, backward compatibility and HD updates would peacefully and happily co-exist. However, Sonys release this week of the God of War Saga and Ratchet & Clank Collection reminds us that this is not the case.
Because the PlayStation 3 was stripped of its ability to run PlayStation 2 games early in its lifecycle, for most gamers, these HD remakes are the only way to revisit Sonys classics, short of dredging up a last-gen console. But maybe thats not such a bad thing. After all, the HD remakes sport a crisp new sheen, one thats far more palatable to current sensibilities. And its not like they play any different.
The next generation of Xbox and PlayStation consoles is coming on, and the rise of HD remakes is sure to add a new wrinkle to the inevitable backward compatibility debate. Having emerged victorious on the question of free-to-play, Hollander Cooper (1-0-0) takes on GamesRadar newcomer Tom Magrino (0-0-0) in...
Great Debate: HD Updates vs. Backward Compatibility
Tom says: HD remakes disincentives devs to support backward compatibility
Tom: Lets take a look at the business here. If someone gets it in their head that they can sell you something, its just business to brutally suppress anything that could inhibit those sales. Backward compatibility is just such a hurdle. Of the big three, Sony took the lead in withholding its legacy catalogue this generation (explicitly to juice PS3 game sales, mind you), and youd better believe that Microsoft and Nintendo have been closely monitoring the outcome.
Cooper: For past generations? Sure, but that ship has already sailed--just as you said, the current gen is already essentially dead when it comes to BC. For the next generation, however, theres still incentive for developers to support BC. Why? Downloadable content. The idea that people can pop in their old game and then spend money on new content? Thats more than enough incentive to have developers begging console-makers to allow current-gen games to play on the next-gen.
Hollander says: Old games look awful in HD
Cooper: Seriously, go ahead and load up a last-gen game on your HDTV and watch as your favorite characters are warped, blurred, and disfigured into a grotesque mass of pixels. Standard definition games simply werent made to be played on high-definition TVs, and it really show. HD remakes, however, acknowledge the resolutionary leap forward the current generation (of televisions) has taken, restoring the games to the way we remember them, instead of the way they actually were.
Tom: According to MarketResearch.com, HDTV penetration stands at just over 25 percent of households worldwide as of the end of 2011. Now, I dont know about my esteemed 25 percenter colleague here, but I dont think game companies should sacrifice backward compatibility just so that the--yeah, Ill say it--elite (and shallow?) few can enjoy prettier graphics.
Tom says: Backward compatibility preserves stylistic integrity of original
Tom: Have you seen the Mona Lisa lately? Still pretty solid, right? Maybe it wouldnt be so hot if some dude ran it through a 3D printer and hung the copy in the Louvre. Games have artistic integrity just the same as other art forms, and running them through the HD machine perverts the idea of time and place that made them so special in the first place. HD updates cheapen what they represent to us; they condescend our ability to appreciate lasting quality.
Cooper: Yes, games have artistic integrity, but last-gen games were made in a time where we used a completely different television technology to view them. Now, with HD, they look blurred and awful without any upscaling, and unless youre asking everyone to have a second TV in every room, its a lot easier for them to either hold on to old consoles or stick to HD remakes. Also, re: your Mona Lisa thing, see this.
Hollander says: If you dont own the old game its often hard to track it down
Cooper: Its idealistic to expect everyone to own every game, and as retailers continue to phase out last generations titles, it becomes more difficult to track them down. What good is backwards compatibility for Marvel vs. Capcom 2 if the game is nearly impossible to find? What about Okami? Or Zone of the Enders? Many of the games getting HD remakes are difficult to find, and they make it easier for more people to play more games.
Tom: Specious argument alert! HD remakes do not predicate availability of legacy titles. For years, game companies have been rereleasing collections of older games on new platforms. Games like Midway Arcade Treasures, Mega Man Anniversary Collection... no, I dont think I even need to go on. Lets just say that if game companies never rereleased a game in its original glory, then the GBA would lose half its catalogue.
Tom says: Backward compatibility has immediacy
Tom: The original God of War hit the PS2 in 2005, and the inimitable God of War 2 followed in 2007. Guess how many times I was able to revisit those stellar hits on my PS3 in the four and two years, respectively, that it took for the God of War Collection to arrive in 2009. Those who answered zippolla get a flaming sword.
Cooper: Yeah, theres something to be said about playing the games you bought for your old system whenever you want--which is why youre able to play them on your old system whenever you want. It might mean keeping your PS2 out for a few extra years, but then you can enjoy the immediacy of the last-generation while the rest of us (or those who didnt own those games in the first place) immerse ourselves in the current one.
Hollander says: HD remakes give games a second chance at success
Cooper: Sometimes publishers promote games poorly, release them at the wrong time, or do something else that results in an awesome title being buried. HD remakes give developers, publishers, and (more importantly) games a second chance to succeed. Okami and Shadow of the Colossus getting new versions--instead of simply being playable on new consoles--gives gamers an excuse to play classics they might have missed, and gives developers another shot at correctly promoting a developers work.
Tom: Hey, look. Another specious argument. Sure, HD remakes give games a second chance for success. But so do standard rereleases. Plus, the nice thing about ports is that theyre comparatively quick to produce, which frees up developers to get back to what they should be doing: making new games. Wouldnt you rather have the folks cranking on new, original content anyway?
Tom says: Backward compatibility guarantees all games live on, not just the curated few
Tom: I know you all. I know that some of you are freaks, if only for certain obscure, niche games. It could be NHRA Drag Racing Countdown to the Championship 2007 or .hack//G.U.vol.2//Reminisce or All Star Pro-Wrestling III, but I can guarantee you that if HD updates become the new norm, there will be exactly zero people on the development side pushing to have these ridiculous, yet cherished, titles remade. With no backward compatibility, expect them to be lost to time.
Cooper: If JoJos Bizzare Adventure could get an HD remake, anything can. But if youre not content waiting for your old, favorite game to be bumped to HD, Ill say the same thing I said earlier: Dont throw away your old console. And dont sell it to GameStop, either--theyll only give you like $20 anyway.
Hollander says: Achievements and trophies give you more reasons to play
Cooper: Gamers have adopted a Pavlovian reaction to the noise of an Achievement or Trophy being unlocked. The telltale ding immediately triggers a sensation of success, and though its minor, it adds incredible replayability to HD remakes. Collecting all of the pearls in Beyond Good & Evil was sort of meaningless before, but now, with the HD version, youre given incentive to continue playing, getting more bang for your buck and attaining new milestones to strive for.
Tom: If you need the tinny sound of a bell to make you feel good about ripping the wings off 100 harpies, then I feel sorry for you. Progressing through good games is a reward unto itself. And sure, there was certainly buzz around unlocking Achievements in the nascent days of the current gen, but does anyone really care about the size of their Gamerscore or Trophy collection these days?
Arguments thus made, Tom and Hollander rest their case. Leave a comment below letting us know who you think won, or if you think theres another angle to the argument altogether. And dont worry about hurting their feelings--theyre more focused on the whole punishment by death thing to fret over dissenting opinions.