Porting is the process by which a game developer takes a
game they have made for one console and decides to create
another version for competing console. Economically, this
is often a good idea for most game developers as they can
get extra mileage out of their game development (character
design, scenario structure and basic coding). But, this is
not to say that porting is all good things. Often, ports come
packaged with flaws, as detailed below.
As a point of clarification, I've seen a number of scenarios
confused with porting. When a developer creates a game for
multiple platforms at the same time, this technically isn't
creating a port of an original game. Most often, the developer
creates a generic base from which to create all of the different
console versions. Also, there are times when a game has started
production for one console and then finds itself shifted to
another in mid-creation. They is a grey area around this process,
because often, most games that suffer this fate look like
they were meant for the previous console.
Allows gamers who don't own the console the game originally
came out on to play it on their console of choice. If you
play games on a budget or just didn't care to buy a competing
console for one reason or another, a promised port of a game
coming to a console you own may make you happy you waited.
Remakes/Classics revisitied - There's nothing like
a little boost of nostalgia to make you pick up a copy of
a re-editioned game from the NES and SNES eras of videogaming.
Both Square (Final Fantasy Anthology, Chronicles) and Nintendo
(Super Mario Advanced) have recently re-editioned previous
hits for the newer generation of gamers. And, it's not unheard
of for other companies (Namco) to re-edition their older games
Making a better game - Porting a game to another console
often allows game developers the opportunity to fix flaws
in the original game. Also, certain games are given additional
features, new story sequences or all new parts to the game.
The Xbox version of Silent Hill 2 has an additional
side-quest starring Maria and the PS2 version of Resident
Evil Code: Veronica X has some additional cutscenes. The
PS2 version of Rez actually benefited from a porting
from the Dreamcast, allowing the game to run at a better framerate.
If you own a number of these competing consoles, it's up to
you as a consumer to decide if the wait is worth it for new
Often games that are ported are built specifically for one
console, utlizing that console's graphical abilities. When
the game is ported over, it has to be rebuilt to successfully
work well on another console. If this conversion isn't performed
successfully, the port is often inferior and flawed. Most
times, ports are compared to the original as a benchmark of
whether the game looks good or not. While this is often not
a bad thing, sometimes it can be unfair, as certain consoles
are better at certain things (texture maps, ambient light
effects) than others.
Console exclusives - One of the strong selling points
for consoles nowadays is the games that are exclusive to that
console. Games made by the console maker (like Nintendo's
Mario series) and by 2nd party developers (companies like
Rare who are owned by the parent company Nintendo) are always
exclusive to that console. What makes the difference is when
third party developers make deals to have games be exclusive
to that console. Even when these deals prove to be limited
time-wise, the fact that a game comes out on a console first
often helps in sales. Some people just don't want to wait
6 months for a port of a game when they can get it for another
Comparison - It's inevitable. People are going to
make comparisons between versions, stating that console A
is inferior because console B's original version of the game
looks better. Meanwhile, console A's version comes with extra,
justifying the purchase of the new copy of the game. There
have been a handful of times where ports have been different
only because of the hardware it's running on and people will
still argue about which version is better. It's all a matter
of taste. Of course, this doesn't excuse games who obviously
don't make the transfer successfully. Unfortunately, a larger
percentage of games that are ported don't look as good as
the original or suffer from flaws.
Consumer cost - Sometimes porting an older game just
doesn't seem like a financially smart thing to do. Games like
Half Life can be bought for the PC at a far cheaper
price than the version that was recently released for the
Impatient gamers - Is it worth the wait to get a game
you could buy on another console? While you're sure that the
game you want to play will look better on console A, it's
already out for console B and won't be ported any time soon.
What do you do? Wait it out or just buy both versions.
What it boils down to is that porting is a decision made
by game companies to earn more money to make new games. The
process may fuel arguments between console fanboys (see The
Console War - Facts and Myths) about which system is better
based on the game selection and flaws of similar titles. For
those who just want to play games, porting can be a hit and
miss deal. You just have to balance out the pros and cons
and hope you get the best version available.