The Last of Us multiplayer spin-off has now officially been canceled. While there are still other live service games in development at PlayStation Studios, Naughty Dog will now focus on single-player experiences.
In a new blog post, Naughty Dog has announced that it “made the incredibly difficult decision to stop development” on the project codenamed The Last of Us Online.
- The studio’s multiplayer team has been in pre-production with the game since the development of The Last of Us Part II.
- Over time, the gameplay got “more refined and satisfying,” and Naughty Dog was enthusiastic about the direction the project was taking.
- As the team approached the full production stage, it realized that the scope of the game’s ambition would force them to put all of their resources into post-launch support of The Last of Us Online.
- “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,” the studio explained, meaning that it chose the second path.
- Naughty Dog will use the learnings and technology from The Last of Us Online in its upcoming single-player projects, adding that it has “more than one” brand new single-player games in development.
Naughty Dog has experience in creating online experiences incorporated in its previous titles like Uncharted 4 and The Last of Us Part I. The multiplayer mode was also initially planned for the TLoU sequel, but then became a standalone project. The studio’s co-president Neil Druckmann announced the game at Summer Game Fest 2022, showing a concept art (can be seen above).
This was in line with Sony’s strategy to develop 12 live service games by the end of FY25 ending March 31, 2026. SIE boss Jim Ryan saw it as an “untapped opportunity” for PlayStation, as the company also planned to significantly increase its investment in GaaS titles.
However, Sony decided to slow down the development of TLoU Online earlier this year following a negative review by Bungie, which was assigned to assess live service titles in development by Sony’s first-party teams. In October, Kotaku reported that production on the game was “basically on ice.”
Last month, Sony president and CFO Hiroki Totoki told investors that the company decided to delay six of its 12 live service games. “Mid-to-long-term we want to [push] this kind of service and that’s the unchanged policy of the company,” he said. “It’s not like we stick to certain titles, but game quality should be the most important [thing].”
Aside from Naughty Dog, other PlayStation teams also had multiplayer games in development, including Fairgame$ from Jade Raymond’s Haven Studios, PvP shooter Concord from Friewalk Studios, and an untitled project from Guerrilla Games. However, it is unclear whether all of these titles will make it to the full launch.
Even Ryan said that it “would be naive” for Sony to assume that all of its upcoming live service games will become hits, so perhaps the company will eventually revamp its strategy and become more picky in terms of new online-based games. Let’s also not forget that in the market occupied by titans like Fortnite, competing for players’ attention and, most importantly, time is getting increasingly difficult.
That’s why we will likely see more big publishers fail in their attemtps to create their own GaaS hits. As former BioWare producer Mark Darrah put it, “you can only do one engrossing live service at a time […] So these live services tend to be dominated by one winner, two or three runners-up, and then a lot of live services that aren’t really surviving.”