If there is one practice that has become widespread in the past few years, it’s remastering and porting titles to new platforms. During this current generation, the PlayStation 4 was the first to receive this mass migration of titles with God of War III, Gravity Rush, Uncharted, and more. Now with the Nintendo Switch being the dominating force that it is, we are now also seeing titles headed towards the Switch. Droves of games from previous generations are now working their way over to the current generation in new forms. Yet, every time the industry goes through this process, the fans that purchased the earlier games are forgotten. They are left with either the older product with no easy way to upgrade to the new one or are forced to shell out the full price of the enhanced version but must start from scratch.
Either option isn’t a good one.
Keeping Your Save
A “simple” solution to this problem would be enabling a way for players of previous versions of these titles to have a way of transferring their existing files. While technically, this is a little harder than just “make it so,” the benefits of this would likely outweigh the extra work required. Consider a game like Hyrule Warriors, which is being enhanced and brought over to the Switch. Both the Wii U and 3DS versions of the game have the same fundamental mechanics and story; the only difference is what was built on top. The 3DS version has a few more characters and features that don’t exist in the original Wii U versions, but the base remains the same. The complication in porting over saved data won’t be from creating equivalencies across versions because they are already the same, but it’s based in the technical differences across versions and how to get that data from point A to point B.
The benefit for this type of game having a way to port over data is huge as Warriors (a colloquial term referring to the style of games largely developed by Omega Force) where games extend far past their story in regards to content. Hyrule Warriors, for example, has a whole other game mode called Adventure Mode that features maps and challenges based off of other Zelda titles that you must traverse through and complete. These can take a great deal of time to complete and represent a whole aspect of the game that many most likely didn’t finish. Most are unlikely to go back to the game now with the Wii U already dead and the 3DS soon to follow, but having it on the Nintendo Switch represents a new opportunity for players to become interested once again. It’s incredibly unlikely that they will purchase the new enhanced edition if all their previous efforts were for naught.
For other titles where the story is most important, having such a feature is paramount to keep players playing. Telltale titles are a perfect example of this, to quote myself in regards to The Walking Dead.
When I first started playing The Walking Dead, I originally started on my Vita…This worked out fine until I learned that Telltale would no longer support the Vita as a platform. This left me at an impasse, should I complete playing Season 2, hoping to transfer my decisions in some manner in the future? Or do I quit while I am ahead, but forsake my Season 1 playthrough’s choices?
In the end, I opted to do neither and simply stop playing. I completely lost my desire to pick up the story as I had lost what I had done and had no easy way to recover my past choices. One of the major draws of Telltale’s games was actively working against me. Rather than fostering a desire to play more, it simply made me put it down due to poor compatibility. Regardless of what platform I choose, I shouldn’t be stuck with that platform when a game is so firmly focused on choices.
In my own personal case, the lack of such a feature actively pushed me away and represents the disconnect between the player and the developer. The player is left wanting to play the new experience but having their previous effort count while the company is left wanting them to purchase the new versions but fails to incentivize them.
If there is no hope of creating a way to retain the value for previous players then certainly there is a way to make the cost have less of a bite. By making the port available at a discounted version for existing players, the amount of value lost would be greatly diminished, as the cost would become less of a factor. With digital games being largely dominant in today’s market, all it would require is a checking of an account, followed by a discount should the other game be purchased digitally. The time invested in the original would be lost in this scenario, but the bite of purchasing a port that you have invested in will diminish. This again, wouldn’t be the best option, but it is an option that could find more players getting the new versions and companies finding more sales.
The goal here is for the players to find value in upgrading to the new enhanced version of a game. Some will be perfectly fine playing the older version, but for those who long to play again on a new platform or format, having some sort of incentive either through a discount or a keeping the value of the previous game is a must. If developers and designers wish to court these players and create more value for their ported products they will need to create incentives. Players want to play these titles again; they just need a reason to play the latest version that is considerate of their earlier patronage.