Following reports that development on Naughty Dog’s long-awaited The Last of Us multiplayer game had been “slowed down” earlier this year, the studio has announced it’s officially pulling the plug on the project, saying it didn’t want to become a “solely live service games studio”.
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Naughty Dog’s multiplayer game was initially planned to be part of The Last of Us Part 2, but the studio announced it was separating the two halves in 2019. After years of relative silence on its progress, studio co-head Neil Druckmann emerged in January to confirm more would be revealed “later this year” – but instead, May brought the news the project needed “more time”.
Shortly after, a report from Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier claimed Destiny developer Bungie – which had been individually assessing many of Sony’s “games as a service” projects since being acquired by the company – had raised concerns about The Last of Us multiplayer’s “ability to keep players engaged for a long period of time”, resulting in Sony scaling back the team to just a “small group” while it evaluated the project’s direction.
And now, some seven months later, The Last of Us’ multiplayer spin-off has been officially cancelled. “We realise many of you have been anticipating news around the project that we’ve been calling The Last of Us Online,” Naughty Dog wrote in a statement confirming the news on its website. “There’s no easy way to say this: We’ve made the incredibly difficult decision to stop development on that game.”
“We know this news will be tough for many,” it continued, “especially our dedicated The Last of Us Factions community, who have been following our multiplayer ambitions ardently. We’re equally crushed at the studio as we were looking forward to putting it in your hands.”
Naughty Dog says that while The Last of Us Online’s gameplay proved to be both “refined and satisfying” during the pre-production stage of its development, “in ramping up to full production, the massive scope of our ambition became clear.” Essentially, the studio says the resources needed to support “post launch content for years to come” would have severely impacted its ability to develop future single-player games. And when faced with a choice between becoming a “solely live service games studio” or continuing “to focus on single-player narrative games that have defined Naughty Dog’s heritage”, it chose the latter.
“We are immensely proud of everyone at the studio that touched this project,” its statement concluded. “The learnings and investments in technology from this game will carry into how we develop our projects and will be invaluable in the direction we are headed as a studio. We have more than one ambitious, brand-new single player game that we’re working on here at Naughty Dog, and we cannot wait to share more about what comes next when we’re ready.”
The studio is yet to share any details about its “brand-new” single-player projects, but we do know it’s working on a PlayStation 5 remaster of The Last of Us Part 2 for launch on 19th January next year. It adds, among other things, a new roguelike survival mode called No Return.