Today, a new report published by Bloomberg has shed some light with PlayStation and revealed some of the plans for the future which includes a remake of The Last of Us. However, the report has also revealed that PlayStation’s plans and focus on big, AAA exclusives and less on smaller games may be causing some tension between PlayStation and some of their first-party studios. The report focuses on two studios, Sony Corp.’s Visual Art Service Group and Sony Bend.
The Visual Arts Service Group helps finish games off designed at other Sony-owned studios with animation art, or other content and development. Three years ago, some of the devs within the company wanted to have more creative control and lead games through production rather than being a supporting studio. A small team of 30 developers recruited by Michael Mumbauer who took over the direction of the Visual Arts Service Group formed a new development unit that would make something that would expand upon some of the company’s most successful franchises. They planned on a remake of The Last of Us for PlayStation 5.
Visual Arts Service Group was working on the game but things started to shift within PlayStation. Herman Hulst became Head of PlayStation’s Worldwide Studios. He believed that the project was too expensive. Then, Visual Arts Service Group got called in to help finish development on The Last of Us Part II. Eventually, the remake of The Last of Us, code-named T1X moved back over to Naughty Dog, the original developer. This comes after some people at Naughty Dog moving to help out on development for T1X. As of the end of 2020, most of the T1X team’s top staff have left including Mumbauer and the game’s director, David Hall. The Last of Us Part II Remake is being handled by Naughty Dog with assistance from Sony’s Visual Arts Support Group.
Talking about why Sony would focus so much on Naughty Dog and their IPs, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Matthew Kanterman said that the move makes sense as Naughty Dog is “one of the key studios. Sony’s competitive advantage has always been exclusive content over Microsoft and more new games, as well as remakes of classic titles from such a storied team, can help sustain demand for PS5.”
Sony Bend tried to pitch a sequel to its latest game, Days Gone but was unsuccessful. Development was lengthy and the critical reception to the game was mixed, so a sequel wasn’t seen as a viable option. Now, two teams are working on different teams at Sony Bend. One team is helping Naughty Dog with a multiplayer game, possibly The Last of Us Part II multiplayer component that was announced as a standalone experience instead of being part of The Last of Us Part II when it released. A second team was assigned to work on a new Uncharted game with supervision from Naughty Dog. Some of the team at Sony Bend, including some of the top leads were unhappy and left the studio. Sony Bend feared that they would be absorbed into Naughty Dog and asked to be taken off the Uncharted project. Now, Sony Bend is working on a new game of their own that will be part of a brand new franchise.
Sony’s focus on exclusive blockbusters comes at the expense of niche teams and studios. Last week, the company reorganized a development office in Japan which resulted in mass departures of people who worked on some less well-known but otherwise acclaimed games such as Gravity Rush and Everybody’s Golf. Sony has informed developers that they no longer want to produce smaller games that are only successful in Japan. Earlier this year, Sony announced the shutdown of Japan Studio, which developed Ape Escape, The Legend of Dragoon, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Loco Roco, Patapon, Gravity Rush, The Last Guardian, and the Demon Souls Remake.