Would anyone scoff at paying $5 for an enhanced version or collector's edition of Citizen Kane on DVD? If a piece of Shakespeare were released in a special hardbound cover with outstanding cover art, would $10 be too pricey? The likely answer is 'that's a bargain.' Both represent the upper echelon of the two mediums.
What happened to video games then?
While the comparison to literary and film classics may be dubious to some, why does the gaming community look down upon updated releases of historical gaming titles such as Defender? What caused the depreciation of what it undoubtedly one of the greats of the industry?
We posed this question to the forum members of Digital Press, a classic video game website that catalogs and tracks down obscure games in the best interest of collectors. Surprisingly, there was no debate on the positive aspects of these re-releases, with the thread particularly focusing on a recent Xbox Live Arcade release of Defender.
The re-issuing of the Midway title included updated graphics, online play for two players, leaderboards to compare high scores from everywhere in the world for around $5 in Microsoft Points.
Forum member DaBargainHunta made a point that "…grumbling over a $5 charge does seem a bit silly."
He was quick to point out that even with the extra features, many retro gamers already own these games, sometimes in multiple forms. Another $5 could lead to picking up a game they never played from a garage sale or flea market.
The next hurdle is the explosion of emulation. As of today, all of the classic releases to the Xbox Live Arcade are available for free and easily downloaded to your PC. While hardly legal, this puts the games in the same area as illegal music downloads. A recent study conducted by Toronto-based Solutions Research Group showed that only 38% of people found downloading a copyrighted song for free as a serious offense.
The gaming industry struggles in the same way, with both retro and current titles. Digital Press member T2Kfreeker made the obvious point that seems to hold true for piracy of any kind.
"Why would you want to pay for it when you can get it for free, right?"
The extra work spent to update these games is not enough to counter the free versions available elsewhere, apparently.
The final hurdle, which many members pointed out, is that these games are not on any kind of physical media.
Imstarryeyed said, "I think there is a level of tangibility that is present when you actually buy a game versus downloading one from these pay services."