Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time developer Sanzaru Games has been bought by Facebook and Oculus. The studio was added to the VR company’s stable of studios yesterday, fresh off the launch of Asgard’s Wrath, an Oculus Rift exclusive that launched at the end of last year.
The announcement posted on Oculus’ website lists the studio’s various achievements in the VR space and talks about how important it is to the company that Sanzaru maintain its culture and be free to operate with the freedom it’s been afforded when independent.
But naturally, there’s no mention of the studio’s other games and collaborations outside of VR. So there’s no real acknowledgement of what this means for other prospective projects Sanzaru could have worked on. What I’m getting at is this deal means Sly Cooper, the series that was revived by the sheer force of Sanzaru higher-up’s passion for it, probably isn’t going to be resolving any cliffhangers the studio left it with, and any hopes that it would quietly died when this announcement was made.
Some of Sanzaru’s earliest projects were working on the remastered Sly Cooper Collection for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. After bringing Sucker Punch Productions’ PlayStation 2 classics to the next generation, the studio pitched Sony on making a fourth game internally. Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time was the result of that pitch and was released on PS3 and Vita in February of 2013. The game was pretty good. It was clearly developed by a team with a lot of love for the series and its characters, and was well-received by reviewers.
But it also ended on a cliffhanger. Thieves in Time, as the title suggests, is about time travel. The game ends leaving its titular hero stranded in ancient Egypt, gazing upon the pyramids with only a hope that his friends will find a way to save him in the future.
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In the seven years that have followed, Sly Cooper’s status as a franchise Sony wants to actively support has been nebulous. In 2016, plans for an animated movie featuring its characters were announced with a trailer, but it was quietly cancelled in favor of a television series developed by Technicolor Animation Productions. As its projected October 2019 air date has come and gone and the series has been removed from Technicolor Animation Productions’ website, it’s unclear at this point what’s happened to that show and if it will ever air.
The silence on the series was broken in a way last year when Sanzaru creative director Mat Kraemer said in an interview that Sanzaru had always intended to wrap up Thieves in Time’s cliffhanger with a DLC level, to the point where the entire plot was written and stashed away in Sanzaru’s archives. These plans were scrapped by Sony, and Kraemer said there was no Sly Cooper game in development at the studio. Kraemer signed off on the subject telling fans that if they wanted another Sly Cooper game to save its hero, they’d have to convince Sony, as it was out of Sanzaru’s hands.
But now, Sanzaru is an Oculus Studio. It will be working exclusively on VR games for Facebook, and no matter what ruckus Sly Cooper fans make, Sanzaru Games won’t be making another game starring the PlayStation mascot. Whatever script is waiting inside the studio probably isn’t going to see the light of day. Some might say Sucker Punch could pick up the mantle, but that studio has been developing games of a different style and scale for the past 15 years, and has little to no reason to return to the series.
All the years between Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves and Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, I never really expected to see Sly again. Not in any capacity that meant he’d be getting his own games, at least. Showing up occasionally in a crossover game like PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale seemed about right, and generally Sony is pretty good about moving on from franchises between generations. And for most of those years I was pretty content with that. The trilogy on PlayStation 2 had ended well enough and all Sucker Punch’s characters were left on pretty positive notes. But then Thieves in Time came around and it not only brought him back, but left his fate so ambiguous that I desperately needed to see him for a fifth game.
For several years I kept up hope that Sanzaru would get to revisit Sly and save him from the ending they misguidedly left him on. There’s a pretty large group of fans who fought that fight for years, and every now and then when I joke about wanting a hypothetical Sly Cooper 5 on Twitter I come across a few more. But I guess at this point there’s not much sense in fighting for it any longer. Was reviving a dormant character worth another adventure as the PlayStation mascot? If by developing it, Sanzaru Games was able to stay afloat and maintain its team’s jobs, sure. But as an industry, maybe we should get better about just letting sleeping dogs lie. Or in this case, letting kleptomaniac raccoons live happily ever after.