New Report Paints Sony As Risk-Averse and Stifling Developers for the Hits

Out with the new and in with the old.

A new story from Bloomberg has shed some light on the current situation surrounding Sony’s first-party philosophy, and it sounds like the company is so dedicated to playing the hits that its studios are feeling suffocated.

There’s extensive reporting in the original story, so I do recommend checking it out if you’ve got the time, but here’s the major beats:

  • Members of Sony’s Visual Arts Service Group, a support studio that helped PlayStation developers finish off games through animation work, began working on a remake of The Last of Us for PlayStation 5. Sony never truly acknowledged the subset of the studio and gave them appropriate funding, and development of the remake has since been transferred over to original TLOU developer Naughty Dog.
  • As a result, the small group of around 30 developers disbanded, several of which left Sony entirely.
  • Sony has told its stable of first-party developers it doesn’t want to focus on smaller games that only do well in Japan, such as Gravity Rush or Everybody’s Golf, and is mostly focused on prestige hits with mass appeal. This is what resulted in the restructuring of Sony’s Japan Studio.
  • Days Gone, Sony Bend’s open-world zombie game, won’t be getting a sequel. Despite being profitable, the studio’s pitch for a second game was reportedly shut down due to the game’s middling critical reception and long development time.
  • Following the turned-down pitch for a Days Gone sequel, Sony Bend was divided into two teams: one to help Naughty Dog with a multiplayer game (presumably the Last of Us multiplayer), and a new game in the Uncharted series under Naughty Dog’s supervision. The higher-ups at Sony Bend were reportedly unhappy with the latter arrangement and asked to be removed from the Uncharted project, and are now working on a new game within the studio. Bloomberg’s report doesn’t say whether or not the Uncharted game has been cancelled outright.

In other Sony news:

There are a few takeaways here. One being that, holy shit, I can’t think of a game in less need of a remake than the original Last of Us when the original PS4 remaster is readily available on modern systems. But also, the entire thing just paints a picture of a more risk-averse Sony than the company was in the PlayStation 3, 4, and Vita era. Where games like Tearaway (and it’s great PS4 remake Tearaway: Unfolded), Dreams, and Puppeteer might not have set the world on fire in the way The Last of Us did, but showed that the platform’s ecosystem was eclectic and had something for everyone.

Comparatively speaking, Sony had been more proactive in creating new IP for each generation, opting to leave series behind in favor of something new. But that another Uncharted was even being considered makes it sound like that’s out the window. Uncharted 4 and the spin-off Lost Legacy came out on the PlayStation 4, but had mostly left those characters in a way that didn’t feel like a sequel lead-in.

Sony’s focus on old games is especially ironic, given that the company is months away from shutting down digital storefronts on multiple devices. Old games aren’t worth preserving if you can’t sell them at full price, am I right?