Video Games

Red Dead Redemption Rerelease Controversy Explained

Red Dead Redemption Rerelease Controversy Ecplained
Image via Rockstar Games.

Rumors have flown about a possible remake or remaster of Rockstar Games’ Western opus Red Dead Redemption for years. So-called insiders were dropping hints, and there were signs that something was in the works, such as a recent update to the game’s logo on Rockstar’s website. On August 7, 2023, the rerelease of Red Dead Redemption was finally announced, and fans lost their minds—for all the wrong reasons. 

What Is The Red Dead Redemption Rerelease?

A part of the reason why people were upset over the announcement is heightened expectations. Red Dead Redemption 2 is an undisputed watershed moment in the history of video games, and many were hoping that Rockstar would update their older game to match it. Some called for the first Red Dead Redemption to be remade as a DLC to its successor, while others claimed that it would be a standalone remake. At the very least, a remaster to spruce up the visuals and bring it natively to current-gen consoles was hoped for and even reported on. 

However, none of that ultimately came to pass. Instead, the rerelease is little more than a simple port of the 2010 original (handled by Double Eleven), bringing it to the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 (and PlayStation 5 through backwards compatibility) for the first time. Presumably no Xbox Series X|S version is included because the game is already playable there through backwards compatibility. The package will include the base game and the horror-themed Undead Nightmare expansion pack, though not the online multiplayer component.

Why Are People Upset?

Again, expectations play a large part in the reaction. Another factor is the continued absence of a PC version of the game, which would empower modders to make all sorts of quality-of-life upgrades not possible on the walled gardens of consoles. However, the biggest backlash has been to the $50 price point. It’s on par with some upcoming flagship releases, including Alan Wake 2 (on PC, at least) and Assassin’s Creed Mirage

In the absence of any new content or notable improvements over the original release, it’s widely seen as a cynical exercise to grab money. That anger is even more pronounced following the chaotic release of the outsourced remaster of Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy — Definitive Edition back in 2021, which was marred by bugs and glitches, odd choices of visual updates, and several other issues. That debacle was compounded by Rockstar removing the earlier versions of the PS2-era Grand Theft Auto games from sale, though that decision was reversed in response to the reception to the Definitive Edition

Also in response, Rockstar reportedly shelved presumably similar remasters of both Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto IV. The reaction to that news was mixed, but the overarching impression that fans have as a result of all of these developments is that Rockstar simply isn’t interested in putting the resources into ensuring its legacy titles are recreated in versions that fans feel are respectful and valuable.

However, Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Take-Two (parent company to Rockstar), doesn’t see things in quite the same way. Shortly following the rerelease’s announcement, he put the onus firmly on what the teams in charge of the games want to do:

“It depends on the vision that the creative teams have for a title, and in the absence of having a powerful vision, for something that we would do with a title, we might bring it in its original form. We’ve done that, and in certain instances we might remaster or remake, so it really depends on the title and how the label feels about it, the platform, and what we think the opportunity is for consumers.”

Zelnick also mentioned that the publisher believes the $50 price point for the release of Red Dead Redemption is “commercially accurate.”

Is Red Dead Redemption Worth $50 in 2023?

Is Zelnick right? The answer to that will, ultimately, be up to the individual. On the one hand, Red Dead Redemption is still regarded as one of the best games of all time, having only lost some of its shine because of how far ahead its sequel is. It still holds up as a powerhouse of emergent gameplay and storytelling in video games. The inclusion of the Undead Nightmare DLC only strengthens the intrinsic value of this new package. 

On the other hand, a version that should be just as good is already available for a fraction of the price if you have any Xbox console from the last three generations. Does the existence of that undercut the value of a rerelease that will make the game available to PS4 or Switch users for the first time?

Personally, I’m not convinced of that. There are technical considerations to new releases of games that don’t apply to films or books, but if the core experience is enjoyable in modern contexts, then there’s no real reason that a game shouldn’t cost the same as on its original release when coming to new platforms. Would a ground-up remake to bring it in line with Red Dead Redemption 2 be preferable? Of course, but negative reactions to The Last of Us Part I proves even that wouldn’t be enough for some people. Would a remaster be preferable? Maybe, but only if it was handled with more tact and care than Grand Theft Auto was. 

So, where does that leave us? Honestly, it leaves the controversy and drama surrounding the rerelease of Red Dead Redemption feeling like a storm in a teacup. There are valid concerns about the ratio between apparent development effort and consumer price point, but is that really worth all the endless words of disdain from dissatisfied fans? Some people will be able to play the game for the first time, and everyone else can simply ignore it, diminishing interest rather than driving it.

About the author

Damien Lawardorn
Editor and Contributor of The Escapist: Damien Lawardorn has been writing about video games since 2010, including a 1.5 year period as Editor-in-Chief of Only Single Player. He’s also an emerging fiction writer, with a Bachelor of Arts with Media & Writing and English majors. His coverage ranges from news to feature interviews to analysis of video games, literature, and sometimes wider industry trends and other media. His particular interest lies in narrative, so it should come as little surprise that his favorite genres include adventures and RPGs, though he’ll readily dabble in anything that sounds interesting.