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The Last of Us Online’s cancellation is the right move for Naughty Dog

After a long period of silence on the project, and numerous reports of a beleaguered and troubled development, Naughty Dog has finally pulled the plug on its The Last of Us online multiplayer project. It was originally planned as an online mode paired with The Last of Us Part II, much like Factions accompanied the first game. But at some point, the scope and direction of the mode was changed and it was decided that it would be a standalone title. Over three years later, with nothing but concept art shown from the game, it has b4een officially scrapped.

While that may come as a disappointment to Naughty Dog fans looking forward to its take on a live-service game set in The Last of Us universe, its cancellation is a necessity for the company. It’s a hard decision that will allow the studio to continue doing what it does best rather than giving in to what’s trendy.

Cutting losses

Naughty Dog’s official statement on why it decided to halt production on this project paints a very clear picture: the studio wanted to put the same amount of time, care, and ambition into every component of The Last of Us Online as it would a single-player title. After evolving into a full live-service effort, upholding that level of quality would have become the studio’s sole focus. Seeing the road it was about to embark on, Naughty Dog had to choose between becoming a studio that only made The Last of Us Online, or one that could continue to create single-player experiences that have helped define PlayStation’s modern image. It was both a hard decision and an obvious choice.

PlayStation will have no shortage of live-service titles in the future. If reports are to be believed, 12 are currently in the works (though that number may now be 11), with half predicted to be released by the end of 2025. Naughty Dog has experimented with successful multiplayer offerings since Uncharted 2, but never anything in the realm of live service. While there was certainly a degree of excitement from fans to see how a studio with such strong narrative and presentational skills would tackle this genre, there was no real evidence to go on that it would be a winning formula. If anything, reports suggested the opposite. Years of delays, reworks, and a negative peer review by Bungie all point toward a project in some form of trouble. Most damning of all, however, was the silence. Besides some stray concept art, virtually nothing about the game was revealed.

The second piece of The Last of Us multiplayer concept art shows two players walking toward a beached yacht.
Concept art for Naughty Dog’s Last of Us multiplayer title. Naughty Dog

Naughty Dog already laid the groundwork for this news months ago when it revealed that, while it was still working on The Last of Us Online, it also had a single-player game entering development. Whether or not the decision was made then or later to fully cut its losses on the game is unknown, but that was a clear signal to fans that it wasn’t going to abandon its roots. The announcement of The Last of Us Online‘s cancellation concludes with the statement that the studio now has “more than one ambitious, brand-new single-player game that we’re working on,” further assuring fans that the Naughty Dog they love with is coming back.

Three-plus years spent on a project that never sees the light of day is not something many studios could endure. The ones who will suffer the most are the developers who spent so many years pouring their passion and efforts into the game, only for it to vanish and to have nothing to show for their work — and it’s even worse for those who were laid off. That should never be a price a studio has to pay for realizing it was going in a direction it wasn’t prepared for. No disappointment over a canceled game should come at the expense of human empathy.

We don’t know what’s next for Naughty Dog besides a return to single-player titles, but that’s not bad news. If anything, it’s better than knowing that the only thing we can expect from one of gaming’s most vital studios for half a decade or more is a microtransaction-filled multiplayer shooter.

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