Naughty Dog needs a break from The Last of Us -.

I love Naughty Dog as a developer. This talented and longstanding company has provided the world with countless great experiences and adventures over the years. Be it Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter, Uncharted, The Last of Us, this developer has long been the gold standard for game making. However, the past few years have been a bit disappointing for Naughty Dog, if you ask me. Since The Last of Us: Part II in 2020, we’ve had a remastered Uncharted collection, a remake of The Last of Us: Part I and a remaster of the sequel. There has been a clear focus on earlier content, and while that earlier content is of excellent quality, this developer has felt stagnant for a while.

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I think Naughty Dog is a good example of how unsustainable AAA development has become. This studio is (like BioWare, CD Projekt Red, Bethesda, the list goes on and on) on its way to releasing a new game every six years or so, a game that costs hundreds of millions of dollars to develop and requires millions of copies sold to break even. Given that it seems like The Last of Us: Part III is still miles away, and after the cancellation of The Last of Us: Factions (a game that I also believe would have been fundamentally wrong to address Naughty Dog’s talents and resources by turning it into a live service developer), it is unclear what the studio’s next game will be. Because of this, Naughty Dog has to find other ways to generate revenue between big tentpole launches, which is why we get cost-effective games, or rather upgrades, like The Last of Us: Part II Remastered.

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Naughty Dog needs a break from The Last of Us

The reason I bring this up is because I think it’s time for Naughty Dog, and other developers who fit into this picture, to change their strategy. As complex as a 30-hour AAA adventure is great to play through, these games take too long to make and cost way too much money. So why not delve back into the treasure trove of IP, or balance content production with smaller-scale projects that can be placed in between? Insomniac is a good example of what this effort could look like, as this great developer has produced Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, all in the time that Naughty Dog has released TLOU: Part II and three remakes/remasters. Oh, and we know Insomniac plans to debut Marvel’s Wolverine relatively soon, and judging by rumors, a Venom spin-off is also planned, while other projects are also in the works, many of which will likely see the light of day long before the next actually new Naughty Dog title.

While I’m not going to tell you that everything Insomniac has made in the past four years is on the same level of genius as TLOU: Part II, their creations felt fresh and fun. Insomniac is a good example of how to use smaller-scale efforts to continually entertain fans between big launches, and I think this is what Naughty Dog should explore. Why not venture into a Miles Morales-sized adventure set in the world of Uncharted ? Maybe a return to Jak and Daxter would be an interesting idea to rival Ratchet & Clank ? Why not try to collaborate with other PlayStation studios on spin-off projects, or even explore the Marvel world with an interesting, tighter adventure that could open the doors to further projects in the future.

The point is, as much as I love a great Naughty Dog title, I’m steadily losing interest in the developer, because right now it’s essentially just a The Last of Us content factory, a factory that seems to only put out updated versions of previous products. At this point, Naughty Dog reminds me of director Quentin Tarantino, who makes very few films very rarely, albeit at a very high level. The difference is that Tarantino is one man, while Naughty Dog is a multi-million dollar company of 100 people. So I would like to see an increased frequency of launches, or smaller experiences that are less risky. At the end of the day, there is no pressure on a spin-off or family platformer to be the next critical masterpiece, unlike the heights we all expectThe Last of Us: Part III to reach.

You might say that having multiple titles in production simultaneously is certainly too much for Naughty Dog to manage, but it has been confirmed that this studio is at least as big as Insomniac in a personnel statistic, and probably even bigger given its storied and successful history. And to add to this, Naughty Dog has been working on multiple projects at once for years, but the projects are just rather predictable or too much of a sign of the times. This developer has been making the live-service Factions for years, while rebuilding TLOU from the ground up for the remake. Naughty Dog has the capacity to manage multiple projects at once, but it just doesn’t seem willing to grow beyond what we know of the studio lately.

I’ve used Insomniac as an example several times, but FromSoftware is another great point of reference, because although this Japanese developer tends toward action-RPGs, the games it makes are unique and very different in a lot of ways. No one compares Elden Ring to Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon because they are so different from the others, and yet all three of these games (two of which won Game of the Year) have debuted since 2019, a year before TLOU: Part II.

I’m not trying to disgrace Naughty Dog, but for a developer that many would consider one of the best of all time, they are without a doubt in a rut. Naughty Dog has potential unlike many other companies in this industry, and yet we are only really aware of their talents once or maybe twice in a decade, and this pretty much means something related to The Last of Us. There has to be a more efficient and cost-effective way to entertain fans, because we can’t keep waiting more than six years for another injection of blood, and my god do we need something else set outside the world of TLOU. And don’t get me wrong, this mentality of new strategy applies to Bethesda Game Studios, CD Projekt Red, BioWare and all the other big AAA studios that tend toward mega-releases that are effectively expected to keep the developer afloat until the next big project debuts six or seven years later. There has to be a better way to work.

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