Some of the biggest games of the past few years have been remakes of some sort.
At the same, video game developers have released a steady pace of remasters and re-releases, which are also generally met with excitement. Though these enhanced versions aren't the same as remakes, they're all part of a growing trend in the industry to repackage the hits.
So why can’t the video game industry figure out what to call them?
There’s the “Complete Edition.” There’s “Game of the Year Edition.” You basically know what you’re getting: expanded and enhanced versions of the game with all the post-release expansion content included.
In an attempt to pad out the PS5’s fall 2021 lineup, Sony is offering enhanced versions of PS4 classics like Death Stranding and Ghost of Tsushima for the PS5 with the "Director’s Cut" label. It’s proven to be a controversial choice. Relying on an antiquated hypothesis that video games must imitate movies in order to be taken seriously has attracted the ire of the industry’s most editorial minds.
Among them is celebrated game director Hideo Kojima, creator of Death Stranding.
In the film industry, the term Director’s Cut signifies the truest version of the director’s original vision for the project, free of studio interference. But what does it mean when we apply the term to video games?
At its debut last month, Death Stranding: Director’s Cut included new enemies, weapons, a firing range, a racing mode, new story missions, and more. All cool additions — there’s just one problem.
Kojima speaks out
Kojima is one of the video game industry’s most prolific auteurs. Few developers in the industry can match his dedicated following, distinct style, and clear vision. The existence of Death Stranding: Director’s Cut implies this is the “true” version of the game that’s most accurate to his vision.
But that’s not the case at all. Kojima doesn’t even like the title. This week, Kojima explained his objection to the marketing lingo on Twitter:
“A director's cut in a movie is an additional edit to a shortened version that was either released reluctantly because the director did not have the right to edit it, or because the running time had to be shortened. In the game, it is not what was cut, but what was additionally produced that was included. Delector's Plus [sic.]? So, in my opinion, I don't like to call ‘director's cut’ [sic.].”
In other words, Death Stranding: Director’s Cut isn’t more accurate to his original vision; it has new features added after the release.
Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Xbox routinely enhances existing titles for Game Pass subscribers at no additional charge. The same day as Kojima’s comments, Microsoft announced next-gen optimization for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, The Elder Scrolls Online, DOOM Eternal, Greedfall, and A Plague Tale: Innocence. The announcement came just 28 minutes after Kojima’s tweets.
“Know what's better than optimization?” Microsoft tweeted. “Free optimization.” (For the record, Game Pass isn’t actually free, but these upgrades are if you already own the game. Regardless, it’s still a good burn.)
The problem with “director’s cut”
As of July 2021, Ghost of Tsushima and Death Stranding are the only two Sony games getting the “director’s cut” treatment. That said, we expect this branding trend to continue for possible future rereleases of games like The Last of Us Part 2 or God of War.
Video games are already art. Sony marketers shouldn’t need to justify the importance of its games with branding like this. There could be focus group data that disproves that notion, but when the creator of the game criticizes it, and a competitor appears to pounce on that friction, perhaps the strategy should be reconsidered.
Maybe a name like Death Stranding: Director’s Plus would be more fitting?