The alarms went off after the recent PlayStation Showcase. Everyone expected to see The Last of Us Factions there, but the game returned only silence for an answer. In the case of a project that was conceived more than four years ago as the multiplayer mode of The Last of Us 2, things are not looking good. At this point we only have a couple of concept art pieces and dozens of rumors about the ups and downs of the project. To make matters worse, after the aforementioned event, it was leaked from Bloomberg that Sony has delayed it because its expectations were not met. And far from denying the information, Naughty Dog hastened to release a statement apologizing... we don’t quite know what for. The company confirmed the delay of Factions and diverts attention with the announcement of a new single-player game. It is time to try to shed some light on the situation. What is going on with the creators of Crash, Jak and Uncharted?
Why did The Last of Us 2 released without multiplayer?
Perhaps the first thing is to clarify this point, as the answer is threefold: a matter of priorities, ambition, and previous experience. Although The Last of Us multiplayer is one of the best that Naughty Dog has ever developed, the company has always been clear that the original game became famous for its story and its single player campaign. For this reason, with The Last of Us 2 they focused all their efforts on improving itself in that regard. If they had time to get an online mode going, great. But it would have to come in the future. It was something secondary and because the story mode of the sequel ended up being so big (we went from the 15 hours of the first one to over 25 hours long), it took up almost all the resources from the developer until its release.
In turn, when multiplayer started its production, Naughty Dog had so many ideas for it that it got a little out of hand. It was getting bigger and more ambitious. So they finally decided to do the same as with Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, which was born as an expansion to Uncharted 4 and became a critically and popularly acclaimed standalone game. Factions also took on a life of its own and they decided to turn it into a project connected from The Last of Us 2. In hindsight, the idea made sense.
Current status of The Last of Us Factions
In his report on the project, Jason Schreier of Bloomberg confirms what we had as an open secret, that The Last of Us Factions is another of the releases with which Sony intended to immerse itself in the world of games as a service (GaaS). The PlayStation brand has long wanted a slice of the pie and The Last of Us community seemed more than open to it (after all, the online of the original game is still alive today thanks to a most faithful fanbase). Naughty Dog set itself the mission of making a title that would last over time, a long-term multiplayer that would last infinitely based on seasons and updates as games like Destiny, Fortnite, and such do now.
What we did not count on was that its development had been so far from expectations that according to Schreier, Sony has reduced the resources allocated to it and has begun to treat it as a side project. It’s said that Naughty Dog now only kept a “small team” on the project, and that many of the initial workers have been transferred to the other new big projects of the studio, of which nothing is known yet. When the company was asked for statements, it chose to remain silent and to say on social media that The Last of Us multiplayer game “needs more time”. Given the timing and the number of months that they have been promising news “soon”, such a lukewarm publication seemed to ratify the information in the article more than anything else.
What role does Bungie play in all of this?
And if that was not enough, Forbes magazine added fuel to the fire and commented that Bungie were the ones that reviewed The Last of Us Factions. Since it became part of PlayStation Studios, the developer of the first Halo games and today the proud creator of Destiny, has become the lighthouse that guides the rest of the first-party teams in terms of online and gaming service. As can be seen, the studio would have asked Naughty Dog several questions about how they intended to monetize the title and retain players in the long term, but the answers would not have been entirely convincing and would not have passed the evaluation, forcing them to rethink everything.
And if you’re wondering “How dare Bungie lecture Naughty Dog”, take into account that for all the masterpieces that Naughty Dog has given us, most of them are single-player. The company doesn’t have that much experience when it comes to multiplayer modes. By contrast, Destiny 2 has proven so reliable that six years after its release it’s still in the top 10 most played from Steam. Bungie has the Coca-Cola formula of live games, and it is normal for them to do supervisory tasks. In fact, and although not many people know it, the studio already advised Sony during the development of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and helped with the conception of that (wonderful) online mode. Don’t blame Bungie for being harsh on The Last of Us Factions. On the contrary.
Should we worry?
Yes and no. It is inevitable to think that after everything that happened, The Last of Us Factions has a long development time left. And if everything narrated is true, it would also be strange if it did not end up being a minor project (which is not the same as bad). It’s a shame, but as much as Naughty Dog has given us so many campaigns to remember, its resume does not guarantee that they will also do great online. In fact, those of Uncharted 3 and 4, for example, were certainly forgettable. And after what happened with the remake of The Last of Us for PC, the developer has proven to be human and sin from time to time.
But do not spread panic. It’s not like Naughty Dog is now canceled outright. Just three years ago we celebrated The Last of Us 2 as one of the best games ever. The fact that we still have no news about its future falls within the normal deadlines, especially if we consider how involved its leaders have been with the HBO series. And with such a background, does anyone dare to bet against them? No matter how angry you are, you just have to be patient. Just take a look at all they’ve done before: