In a statement posted directly to its website, Naughty Dog has announced that it has cancelled The Last of Us Online.
“We realize many of you have been anticipating news around the project that we’ve been calling The Last of Us Online,” said Naughty Dog. “There’s no easy way to say this: We’ve made the incredibly difficult decision to stop development on that game.”
According to Naughty Dog, the decision to halt production of its online game set in The Last of Us universe is due to its realisation that running a live-service, multiplayer game would mean dedicating all their resources to the project, at the cost of the single-player games they are known for.
“In ramping up to full production, the massive scope of our ambition became clear. To release and support The Last of Us Online we’d have to put all our studio resources behind supporting post launch content for years to come, severely impacting development on future single-player games. So, we had two paths in front of us: become a solely live service games studio or continue to focus on single-player narrative games that have defined Naughty Dog’s heritage.”
Naughty Dog also confirmed that it’s still working on “more than one brand new single player game.” This could mean The Last of Us Part 3, but I’m personally hoping to see Naughty Dog launch a whole new IP, maybe returning to the studio’s brighter past as a nice break from the bleakly depressing zombie stuff.
— Naughty Dog (@Naughty_Dog) December 14, 2023
The decision to can The Last of Us may also be party due Bungie. Sony bought Bungie specifically to tap into its live-service talents. According to a report in Bloomberg in May of this year, Bungie had conducted an evaluation of Sony’s in-development live-service projects and had some doubts about Naughty Dog’s plans. According to Bloomberg, the result was that Sony scaled back the project and the whole thing was being reassessed.
Somewhat ironically, Bungie is now the one in serious trouble. Having failed to meet their own revenue projections by a whopping 43%, the newest Destiny 2 expansion being delayed and a sense of unrest and distrust in the Destiny 2 community, there are reports that Bungie is facing losing its freedom within Sony.
As it stands, Bungie may be owned by Sony but it actually operates outside of Sony Studios, providing it with a lot more leeway in terms of how it approaches its games. However, according to a bombshell report by IGN, Bungie’s autonomy is reliant on them meeting certain goals, and if they don’t Sony has the power to dissolve the company’s current board, which is made up of 2 Sony employees and 3 Bungie personnel, and replace it with their own people.
IGN states that this is why Bungie is currently trying to cut costs wherever it can, including letting go of long-time employees and getting rid of a host of employee benefits. The result is what is described as a “soul-crushing” atmosphere and a growing divide between management and the bulk of the development force.
It looks like Jim Ryan’s replacement is going to be stepping into a warzone, at this rate.