Naughty Dog has officially ceased development on their much-anticipated multiplayer experience based on The Last of Us franchise. The project, internally referred to as the Last of Us Online or Last of Us Factions 2, had been in the works for years but faced repeated delays and scope changes. Naughty Dog now says canceling it is necessary to focus resources on ambitious new single player experiences.
Years of Uncertainty and Delays
Talk of a multiplayer follow-up to 2013’s acclaimed The Last of Us dates back almost a decade, when the original game’s Factions multiplayer mode built a dedicated fanbase. Naughty Dog director Neil Druckmann teased a standalone multiplayer game as far back as 2014.
In 2018, lead systems designer Robert Ryan suggested an evolution of Factions may be playable in The Last of Us Part II. But the 2019 sequel launched with no multiplayer mode at all. By September 2020, Naughty Dog said multiplayer development was well underway, but also alluded to scope issues.
In April 2022, Naughty Dog said they were redefining the scope of the project to focus more on quality. By October 2022, the game was reportedly being rebuilt from scratch. Insider sources cited ballooning scope, trouble adapting mechanics and systems from mainline Last of Us entries, and attempts to integrate live service elements as ongoing issues.
Eye Toward Ambitious Single Player Experiences
On December 14th, 2023, Naughty Dog at last provided closure by confirming the project’s cancellation. Studio head Neil Druckmann explained needing to scale down the immense undertaking so talented team members can shift focus to several other single player titles in development.
“We have made the difficult choice that The Last of Us multiplayer game will not move forward,” Druckmann said. “Over the last few years, we realized the scope of what we were attempting to build was simply too large to complete in the timeframe we wanted. Instead, we’re focusing our teams on several new narrative single player projects.”
The redirection comes after high-level departures like game director Vinit Agarwal in 2022. Druckmann reiterated that storytelling remains Naughty Dog’s strength, and their next games will double down on that focus. Still, some fans feel strung along after so many indications multiplayer was right around the corner.
What’s Next for Naughty Dog?
Sony Interactive Entertainment put out their own statement supporting Naughty Dog’s choice and teasing multiple PS5 single player titles underway. This could mean a full sequel to 2020’s smash-hit The Last of Us Part II is finally in active development.
Neil Druckmann previously outlined ideas for a The Last of Us Part III starring an older Ellie, potentially alongside Abby from Part II. More recently, Druckmann hinted The Last of Us could become an anthology franchise spanning other characters and time periods.
An eagerly anticipated PS5 entry in Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series also can’t be ruled out. Last year’s Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves brought hero Nathan Drake to PC, stoking speculation his story isn’t finished on PlayStation.
Whatever Naughty Dog tackles next, canceling the ambitious Last of Us Online signals a period of focused execution for the acclaimed studio. Their incredible track record with narrative games like The Last of Us and Uncharted speaks for itself. Now relieved of the long-troubled multiplayer project, Naughty Dog’s talented team is poised to deliver another masterpiece.
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