Naughty Dog has announced their multiplayer The Last of Us game needs more time, while reports claim Sony is reevaluating its direction.
While gameplay footage of Part II‘s Factions mode leaked back in 2020 and several times thereafter, official information coming from the developer was scarce. Unlike the first game and it’s remaster, the project grew into a stand-alone game. It’s remake, released in 2022 as Part I, didn’t feature a multiplayer mode.
In late May 2023, the studio finally gave an update via the series’ official Twitter, stating the project wouldn’t be done in the near future.
Addressed to “The Last of US fans,” the statement prefaces, “We know many of you have been looking forward to hearing more about our The Last of Us multiplayer game. We’re incredibly proud of the job our studio has done thus far, but as development has continued, we’ve realized what is best for the game is to give it more time.”
However, Naughty Dog also took the opportunity to announce a new game. “Our team will continue to work on the project, as well as our other games in development, including a brand new single-player experience; we look forward to sharing more soon.”
“We’re grateful to our fantastic community for your support – thank you for your passion for our games, it continues to drive us,” the developer concluded.
Even so, Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier had additional insight into Naughty Dog’s decision. Citing “four people familiar with the project,” it was Sony that had cut the development team’s size after an evaluation; reassigning developers to other projects. Reports indicate, however, that Sony is reevaluating the game’s direction.
The multiplayer mode-come-game has been in development for four years, during which time Schreier notes Sony had put large investment into games as a service. As part of this, Sony asked developer Bungie to evaluate it’s portfolio. This was likely to see if there was potential for more live-service titles, and how free-to-play Destiny 2 was performing.
It was at this time Bungie inquired about the multiplayer The Last of Us. Schreier reports that they asked about the game’s “ability to keep players engaged for a long period of time.” Whether Bungie was looking for advice on player retention or if they had doubts over Naughty Dog’s work is unspecified as the question isn’t elaborated upon.
Regardless, it was this question led to the reassessment. Again, there’s no indication what other factors, if any, played a part in making that decision. For example, VGC reports Deviation Games suffered lay-offs, noting in a separate report the studio was working on a live-service title for Sony.
Sony also has a multiplayer Horizon game in development and, as pure speculation, may be afraid of diluting their own portfolio if audiences are spread too thinly between The Last of Us and the aforementioned project.
Games journalist Jeff Grubb had his own thoughts to add, suggesting Naughty Dog may have been resistant to making a live-service title.
“All I’ve heard about this game is that it looks a lot like a studio’s first live-service game, and that Naughty Dog wanted to do things its way, which maybe didn’t bode well for Factions,” Grubb claimed.