Thanks to the success of The Last of Us on gaming downloads and TV, Naughty Dog is remastering 2020’s The Last of Us Part II. We have to ask why. There’s little doubt that TLOU Part II is a fantastic game, and the captivating HBO TV show of the same name meant the game’s reach went far and wide, so why remodel?
Before we get into the details, I want to address other games that have had a makeover and not just because they are bug-laden, which happens all too often, but remastered because they were so successful the first time around developers thought they would get another bite out of the already pulverised apple.
Look at RuneScape 2001; the game entered a relatively quiet but hungry scene to some acclaim, and the developer Jagex supported it with updates and tweaks; it played on until 2013. Twelve years of role-play, when multiuser experiences were new to the market, proved lucrative, but the play space was changing, and gamers expected more, so Jagex gave more by releasing Old School RuneScape.
Old School was a play on nostalgia, run on a separate server, and players were encouraged to become a community that could give feedback (free ideas) back to Jagex, who either acted on it or didn’t. The game rumbled on and went mobile in 2018. Some consider RuneScape the best MMORPG of all time, but I think it was just the beginning of better things to come.
Over the following five years, games arrived, got upgraded, and either limped on or died. Warframe (2013) was dull from the start but managed to keep going with a loyal play base who gave Digital Extremes their ideas and saved the game from complete obscurity. It didn’t help that Warframe is in the free-to-play genre that relies on in-game purchases to make money. You can still play for free if you like being called a Ninja.
Destiny 2 was a flop until Bungie Inc. added DLC in 2018 in the form of ‘Forsaken’ - the reboot saved the day, and Gambit mode took D2 to another level - changed to such an extent you could say Forsaken was a completely different game.
Sea of Thieves 2018 and anything called Tom Clancy’s this and that is a firm - no! No matter how many reboots, upgrades, or redesigns. You can’t put a fancy spoiler on a Fiesta and call it a Ferrari.
Now, ‘Cyberpunk 2077’ is a different story; released by CD Projekt Red in 2020, we are unsure if the coronavirus infected this game (or the developer), because it was rolled out with so many bugs it resembled a stray dog. There have been court cases in which the developer has dropped the ‘Projekt Red’ part of their name to become Projekt PL.
The story of this failed rollout will make it into university case studies for years to come - would-be game developers will study the catastrophe that was Cyberpunk 2077 and reimagine how the launch could have happened, avoiding lost revenue and damaged reputations.
PPL released Phantom Liberty and Patch 2.0 in September 2023 to make amends and patch the holes. Sequel rumours remain, but developers say, “Not at the moment.” If you scroll through Reddit, the talk is mainly positive, but as any developer knows, you can’t always please all the people all of the time. In the case of Cyberpunk 2077 Phantom Liberty and Patch 2.0, you can please a few gamers some of the time, but most will just move on to new pastures, and who can blame them?
So we have established that remakes are common, but what about The Last of Us Part II? After some digging, we know that Naughty Dog plans to release a remastered version in Jan 2024, not because there are bugs or glitches but because they want to cash in on the game’s popularity.
And that, my friend, is the crux of this release - cash, dollars, wonga, money. Naughty Dog doesn’t love us so much that they want to give us new, fresh content; they haven’t found new ways to kill zombies; oh no, they want to charge PS5 users a $10 upgrade from PS4.
You do the maths - according to Pedro Pascal, The Last of Us Franchise Crosses the $1 Billion revenue mark, and while that covers the entire franchise, the game, HBO, and the merch, not to mention Pedro’s royalties, it’s still a bundle of cash.
Okay, Naughty Dog and Sony are not in the business of charity, and if the reason is due to a massive technical leap (PS6), we might understand it, but a PS4 game being remastered for PS5, nope, that’s cashing in for the sake of cashing in. We get that people want newness; the way we consume content means if you don’t refresh, you will lose your fan base to the next big thing; however, you can overdo it, and change for the sake of change isn’t always the best move.
With all that said…..where do I pay my $10?
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