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One of the more noteworthy games released this year is the long-awaited remake of the seminal 1997 game Final Fantasy VII, recreated afresh to resemble a game from this console generation. It’s an impressive work, maintaining the feel of the original while updating its gameplay and depicting its dense city setting in staggering detail. As great as it is, it’s also problematically ‘big’, having taken longer than the original to develop, consuming 90GB of storage, and only covering the first 10 hours or so of the original game, with players now having to wait years in between installments of this remake series.
With the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X on the immediate horizon, this led me to consider whether an increased scale and details of games comes with its own set of problems too. For example, with the FF7 Remake, the increased amount of detail has removed the ability for a single game to convey a story of the same expanse and scale as the original.
As games get bigger and developing takes longer, we are also beginning to see a trend of publishers subsequently trying to extend the life-span of games, with large open-world Xbox 360 and PS3 games like Skyrim and Grand Theft Auto V being ported to nearly every console since, the latter already being announced for the new generation models releasing this year. Grand Theft Auto V, in particular, is an example of continuously expanding upon the game-world created through its online mode, which is still being regularly updated, rather than creating a new game from scratch.
Of course, the more detail and effort that’s put into a game, the more employees will have to work to create them, leading to longer development times as with the aforementioned FF7 Remake, or with the case of Red Dead Redemption 2, allegations of employees being forced to work overtime to meet deadlines for the game. One must bear in mind that the allegations have neither been proven nor disproven, however, one can imagine with something as technologically complex as most modern video games that when troubles arise late in development the only other alternatives would be to ship an unfinished game or to delay it, to potential negative economic consequences for the studio.
However, upon further inspection, many of these problems are the same that have appeared throughout gaming history, just in different contexts. The original FF7 was released across 3 discs which must have seemed massive at the time as splitting the remake into multiple games seems now. Look no further than the infamous E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial for the Atari 2600, in terms of the ethical consequences in desperately preparing a game for release, rushed for release, and subsequently considered one of the worst games of all time. If anything, game developers now have the ability to release patches for games after launch to fix any bugs and glitches. Open world games becoming one of the big trends of the moment is no different from any other trend in gaming and will likely give way to other trends in the future. It is also worth mentioning that the rise of digital game stores makes it much easier to purchase independent games on a smaller scale as well.
So, what does this mean for video games as we move into the next generation of video game consoles? Well, probably the same that it always has; games will continue to come in all shapes and sizes, occasionally following certain trends, and trying to push the boundaries of what came before them. Looking at the PlayStation 5 launch line-up, for example, there is a large range of different games of all genres and sizes. It feels safe to say that regardless of future gaming developments, there will be lots to look forward to come the holidays this year.