Remastering Classics: Is it right and to what extent?


Technology evolves continuously. From the beginning when there were black and white TVs to the current HD crop to the future when we might have 4K, 3D and ‘Smart’ content. This in no way means that the content that we have during any particular era is different.

In other words, every era (say B/W, Color, HD, 3D) has its share of good, bad and ok content. In every era we have content that achieves the level of classic. The question is-

“Should the classics be tampered and if so to what extent?”

This thought came to my mind because of the recent announcement of the launch of Age of Empires II on steam. For those who do not know, Age of Empires is one of the most famous and successful real-time strategy games. It was published by Microsoft and created by Ensemble Studios. Even today, it has a cult following in colleges as a multiplayer online game. Even gaming competitions are held for Age of Empires in college festivals in India.

Remastered in HD

This launch for the game has two unique features-

  1. Remastered in HD.
  2. Published over Steam.

Steam is progressively becoming the go-to place for new games as it lets users play games. The primary benefit being that the computer need not be latest in hardware and also the increased the social element that is becoming the crux of online technologies.

Aside from this, when PS3 was launched, the game God of War III was launched along with all its previous iterations.

Closer to home, lets take example from our Indian Film Industry, Two black and white movies have been colored and launched. While, the first one, Mughal-e-Azam had some success, the second one (Naya Daur) failed commercially.

The idea of the companies behind doing this is simple- The idea is proven for success and this reduces the risks by a huge amount. Of course, there are ifs and buts with this as with everything else, but these are minimal compared to a completely new project. The only price to pay is the price of remastering it.

From the point of view of the consumer, the fans get to use the latest technology for the content they like and also give a chance for the new people to rediscover the classics.

It sounds all good but I feel that there is a limit to which this can be or should be done. For example, getting everything to HD is a great idea in my opinion. It also saves the old classic content from perishing. (Like the hard copies of books are being converted to soft copy). On the other hand, converting the B/W to colored or converting any content from the past to 3D seems imperfect to me.

The final content then becomes more of a remix than an authentic experience and while this is done for the mass adoption in most cases (coloring for example), the content originally was made keeping the constraints in mind and hence the impact is not as much as is expected.

Therefore, in my opinion, while improving the quality of content seems the right direction, changing the experience itself is something I am skeptical about.

What do you guys think?

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