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On The Value Of Old Video Games, And When To Remaster | Column from the Editor

With the PS5, XBox Series X and many complicated upgrades seemingly brought yearly to PC gaming, cult classic hits get left further and further behind in time. Some of these are all-time greats that fans wear nostalgic glasses for, and in some cases, demand a modernized update to or remaster/remake.

Today’s article will discuss a few questions surrounding redoing video games. Specifically, it will delve into when and how a remake is best handled, utilizing a few different examples in the popular franchises of Silent Hill, Life is Strange and Demon’s Souls.

Let’s begin.

Silent Hill is an incredibly popular, classic horror video game franchise. The franchise debuted in 1999 on the PlayStation 1 and continued for a handful of years. In 2012, the Silent Hill collection released on the XBox 360 and PlayStation 3. This collection was basically a port of a few older Silent Hill games, and in that sense wasn’t really a remaster or a remake.

Life is Strange is a well-known, interactive storytelling franchise which debuted in 2015. It has had a few entries into the franchise: The titular first game, the prequel “Before the Storm”, and the sequel “True Colors”, the last of which came out in late 2021. Recently, we got a remaster of the first game and “Before the Storm.”

Demon’s Souls was the masterful FROM Software’s first entry into the ‘SoulsBourne’ franchise, launching in early 2009 before receiving a remaster in tandem with the PlayStation 5’s release in late 2020.

Let’s analyze how these franchises hold up in the modern day. For this, we will be analyzing the value of each franchise and discussing how their approach to remastering has impacted this.

Before we do so, it should be noted that readers should take specific, to-the-penny values with a grain of salt. In 2021, reliable gaming journalist Karl Jobst exposed what is basically an ongoing, enormous Ponzi-esque scheme between companies Wata Games and Heritage Auctions to artificially inflate the monetary value of video games in general. That said, this was mainly encompassing Nintendo games, but specific values should still not be taken too seriously. You can find out more here.

In the realm of monetary value associated with gaming, Silent Hill should be our first focus. As discussed earlier, Silent Hill debuted in the the last year of the 20th century, released games for a handful of years, then basically had an amalgamation of their older games ported into one for the PS3 roughly a decade ago. Let’s see how their online monetary value looks, using completed sales off of EBay and Amazon.

As you can see, on Amazon, you could buy almost eight copies of the ported PS3 version for the same price of just the one original PS2 version. Yet, the PS3 collection has the PS2 game and other content — shouldn’t it be more valuable off that basis alone? After all, it didn’t exactly come out yesterday.

Then there’s this ridiculousness which sold on EBay recently:

40 people bidding on a series of video games which sold for more than $1,500 is quite the feat, huh?

Let’s put that on the back burner for the moment and have a look at how original Life is Strange fares on the EBay market.

These have all sold fairly recently. With the exception of one sale which included very rare items, all of these original copies of the game have sold at pretty modest rates. It should be noted that all of them are available for digital purchase right now. Both XBox and PlayStation provide users with the means to buy video games digitally, Life is Strange being no exception. The remaster to the original game as well as Before the Storm launched recently, and is available for $39.99 — about twice the figure that the originals are selling for on EBay.

That out of the way, let’s have a look at Demon’s Souls — the original.

They seem to be selling at fairly similar rates. It should be noted that Demon’s Souls on PS5 is available off the PlayStation store for $69.99. Additionally, the original PS3 version has long since had its online servers shut down — though a small group of players have developed a workaround for this via the use of private servers. 

So now that the numbers are in front of us, let’s try to make sense of this.

For Silent Hill, the biggest differences between this franchise and the other two discussed should be clear. For one, the franchise is far older than the other two — this means its older games aren’t as readily available. You could walk into GameStop or load an online merchant and quite easily find any Life is Strange or Demon’s Souls game within minutes, and as we’ve seen, they’re quite affordable. Silent Hill games are not available in PlayStation or XBox’s online stores, and you definitely will not find them at a local retailer. 

Rarity makes these games more valuable, clearly. That isn’t a thing in just gaming, either; collectors for all sorts of different niches exist, and the industry of being a seller in these markets can be incredibly profitable if you manage to own a coveted item. One could reference any number of popular franchises with old games that sell quite lucratively. However, it’s worth noting that many of these games are still readily available to play through emulation, though that doesn’t offer the same authentic experience of playing them as originally intended.

PlayStation 4 and XBox One games are still considered “current gen” and thus remain in constant production despite the existence of “next gen” consoles. So Life is Strange games definitely don’t have triple digit value just yet, and may never attain this value until the PlayStation and XBox online stores stop selling them and current gen video games cease to be produced.

You may notice that some of the more valuable games in the examples displayed above see a minor spike in value based on being “factory made” as well as having little to no damage versus significant damage. This means that value is indeed placed into owning the physical copy of the game like a collectable. In that regard, it should be clear why Silent Hill games are so incredibly expensive: Getting your hands on a physical copy is incredibly hard these days.

So now that we’ve discussed monetary value, let’s now link that to the subject of when and how a company should go about remastering their games.

I solemnly believe DONTNOD has mishandled remastering Life is Strange — or perhaps they’ve deliberately done so to keep the third party market of their older games in check for whatever reason. Precedent suggests that remastering a game diminishes the value of the original to at least a moderate extent — PS3 Demon’s Souls is nearly fifteen years old, yet its value is roughly around the same as the remaster which launched just over a year ago. In a few months when Life is Strange’s remaster has cooled off a bit following the post-release spike in sales, it is reasonable to assume its value will also reach somewhat of an equilibrium with its original. Despite the fact that no Silent Hill games have been released in nearly a decade — and no new, original ones for even longer — the game still has immense value and is still very relevant in the video game market. By releasing a remaster not even a decade after the original was produced, Life is Strange not only diminishes the third party monetary value but also will become less memorable within the scope of history as a result.

On the other hand, Konami is an incredibly popular video game publisher responsible for publishing Silent Hill. Its value in yen (Japanese currency) spiked in 2021 and continues to rise early in 2022. They absolutely have the resources to have as many Silent Hill games as they could want remastered. So why hasn’t this happened? It’s been almost a decade and two console generations since Silent Hill has been on consoles.

Finally, with Elden Ring on the horizon and Demon’s Souls Remastered having been released so recently, FROM Software probably isn’t going to look towards remastering something else so soon — especially since they touched up Dark Souls 1 just four years ago. However, if sales are their concern, Demon’s Souls Remastered has already sold more copies than the original ever sold, so they handled it well.

Companies should seek to remaster popular video games no earlier than a new console generation at the very least. Again, DONTNOD is not doing this — Life is Strange released on the PS4 and XBox One and is receiving a remaster at a time when the PS5 and XBox Series X are capable of playing the current gen video games seamlessly. FROM Software did exactly this with Demon’s Souls, waiting two console generations before it got a remaster. With Silent Hill having not graced the shelves since the PS3/XBox 360 era, it is reasonably due for a remake or remaster of some of its older games at some point.

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