There’s one sort of game that has exploded in popularity on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch: the port. Games from the sixth and seventh generation are showing up on current systems, with even former exclusives like The Last Remnant coming back. All of the great games that were on the Wii U, but no one played because it was the Wii U, are finding huge audiences on the Switch. It might strike people as odd, especially since this is the first generation where this really took off. But it honestly makes sense.
Companies love the idea of ports for a lot of reasons. A big one has to do with the guarantee that comes with one. Shadow of the Colossus is one of the most critically acclaimed Sony exclusives. So, naturally, Sony is going to keep releasing it on current platforms to help keep it accessible. It knows people will buy it again and again, especially with adjustments and fixes that make it more playable and keep up with modern quality of life fixes. It is a certain cash flow that might not require much effort, but definitely provide a sense of stability and maybe support for other games.
Speaking of effort, a lot of the porting possibilities have to do with the relative ease of taking a game from the previous generation and carrying it forward. The Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster is a perfect example. It first came out on the PlayStation 3 and Vita. But then, it ended up everywhere and on the current generation’s platforms. The same goes for Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMix. Both are situations where it wasn’t too difficult to do the extra translation work on the Final Mix versions of the games released in Japan, work on the textures to get them up to HD quality, release them on the PlayStation 3, then take them to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It was a minimal amount of effort, but also big money.
But what about consumers. Why would ports be good for them too? In some situations, it’s about the benefits that come from the updated releases. Spyro Reignited Trilogy gives people what are arguably the three best games in the series. They look and play better. They’re all bundled together. Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled offered updates from later entries in the kart racer and has built upon the strong, retro foundation with a steady stream of free content. The ports aren’t just the standard games we’ve seen before. They’re bigger and better.
Even when they are almost the exact same game, the increased audience size can make it worth it. Let’s go back to the Switch again, which was mentioned earlier. The Wii U was a flop, but had some critically acclaimed games. These have been brought to the Switch, in same cases barely changed, and been in demand because now they exist where more people can enjoy them. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Hyrule Warriors, Lego City Undercover, New Super Mario Bros. U, and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE all made the jump. While this happens with other games and systems too, the Switch is the perfect example of how willing people are to come back to games again, even if they aren’t that old.
It’s a supply and demand issue. People want ports and are willing to play them. Companies know they would be guaranteed money. It might not even be that difficult of a project to undertake. While it could be frustrating to see the same games again and again, there are reasons it makes sense and, in the meantime, maybe we’ll get to see titles again that we actually want.