Ever since the release of the PS4 and Xbox One, Skyrim fans have been longing for a re-release. Already known for its impressive graphics, the idea of seeing Skyrim on the improved graphics of a PS4 or Xbox One was a hope many fans had given up on. All hope was not lost though when last week at the 2016 E3 in Los Angeles, Bethesda made this announcement. Later this October, Skyrim will be re-released with all the bells and whistles that only a next Gen console can provide. Remastering of popular games has become fairly common practice in the game industry. Games such as Final Fantasy X, God of War III, Dark Souls II, The Last of Us and many others have recently released HD versions. Some of these offered little to no extra game material, they were merely made to look better. And gamers were excited. They bought them. They played them. They asked for more, but many others asked what seemed like an obvious question. Why? Why are game studios just gussying up old games instead of making new ones? Have they run out of ideas? Is it just laziness? These are fair questions and ones that deserve exploration.
Game studios don’t arbitrarily choose a game to be remastered. Yes, the game has already been made but the cost of updating it to new graphics and a new console are still high. It makes sense then that if a studio wanted to generate a reliable source of money that remastering a popular game is a pretty safe bet. Much like the movie industry releasing previously established franchises, releasing something with a built-in fan base means there is a built-in income source. Very few people doubted that Star Wars would make obscene amounts of money. There were rabid fans already preparing to throw money at Disney. It’s much less of a financial risk than creating an original work. Sounds like the end of creativity to some, but unless someone is really good at convincing people to hand over millions of dollars for their creative baby, it’s the reality. Plainly put, the reason is money. Yes, yes, a bit of a dirty word but all games need to make money. All gamers know this at least on some level. While they may not be thinking about it as they guide their horse up a vertical mountain side only to have it fall off at the top, everyone knows that if the game doesn’t make money then there’s no hope for more games. And everyone loves more games.
Okay, so why Skyrim? Why not Oblivion or Morrowind? Both are excellent games with loyal followings. But there’s one really good reason why Skyrim was chosen. During the first week of sales Skyrim sold over 7 million copies. Since then sales have topped over 23 million copies. It is in the list of top 20 best-selling games and this even while the gaming industry was experiencing a general slump in sales. This goes back to the previously stated money argument. It just makes good financial sense.
Now that the lecture on fiscal responsibility is over, let’s move on to the fun parts. A remastering of a beloved game will inevitably bring in new players. This is always good for any franchise as it keeps it active and brings in more people willing to throw money at a particular game studio. This means that a studio can bring in new players who either weren’t interested in the game during its original release or have only recently started gaming. There are few things more satisfying than watching a friend experience an awesome game for the first time.
Re-releasing a popular game doesn’t only appeal to new players. Many gamers replay their favorite games over and over years after the game’s original release. Who doesn’t want to see their favorite game lovingly restored? One of the joys of Skyrim and quite possibly the reason for its longevity (let’s not forget it was released nearly 5 years ago) is for is re-playability. How many people can honestly say they’ve finished the game? The average game time for most players hovers around 2-300 hours with a few dedicated (one might say obsessed) players doubling and tripling that number. Way to mess up the curve, guys. Somewhere inside this beautiful open world there’s a cohesive plot, but who cares about ending a civil war or stopping an ancient dragon when you can become leader of a thieves guild, an assassin, or just wander the province collecting every kettle from every house and dungeon and then hoard them in your custom-built home by a lake?
Finally, the biggest reason for a remastered Skyrim. The game is just downright pretty. Skyrim has always been noted for being a graphically attractive game. Even the base PC version was far above the graphics of other games released the same year. Not to mention the vistas, mountains, rivers, and scantily clad giants. And now players can have the improved graphics including new shaders, volumetric god rays, and dynamic depth of field, things previously only enjoyed on a mod laden PC without all of the hassle of downloading and installing those mods then suffering through the inevitable crashing. Speaking of mods. This is the best part of the remastering of Skyrim. Built in, downloadable mods similar to those recently seen in Fallout 4. Ten thousand cheese wheels anyone? The exact mods that will be available haven’t been released yet but there is guaranteed to be hundreds of hours worth of game play.