The Last of Us Rumored Remake a Make-Work Initiative as ND Struggles to Juggle Projects
Last week, Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier set PlayStation fans’ tongues to wagging with an insider article that reported, amongst other things, that Sony had rejected a pitch for Days Gone 2 from SIE Bend Studio and that a remake of The Last of Us was in the works at Naughty Dog. Combined with moves such as the recent shuttering of the legendary Sony Japan Studio, these latest rumors were seen as further evidence that Sony was becoming increasingly conservative under the leadership of CEO Jim Ryan. That “safe” AAA projects would be taking precedent over more creatively-risky fare going forward.
Well, during a recent appearance on the MinnMax podcast, Schreier provided a bit more context for Sony and Naughty Dog’s decision to remake TLOU. Per Schreier, it’s not a case of creative timidness so much as Naughty Dog just needing to keep their staff busy.
What else are [Naughty Dog] going to do right now? [...] You finished The Last of Us 2, Neil Druckmann and some other writers go off in a room somewhere and they say "What do we want to make next?" and you have hundreds of people at the studio who don't have a lot to work on.
There's the multiplayer thing they're doing, I don't know what stage that's in, but I doubt it needs everybody. [...] They had a bunch of people that needed work, and so it was an elegant solution to be, “Let's put them TLOU remake, get them used to working on the PS5, and let's make this happen.” It's something for people to do for the next year or so while the other things are in pre-production.
But shouldn’t Naughty Dog have been ready to jump right into the next thing? Isn’t that what most big studios tend to do? Well, yes, but according to Schreier, Naughty Dog has long struggled with juggling multiple projects.
One of the issues Naughty Dog has run into in the past when trying to do this whole multi-project team thing is that they end up with a bunch of people who just need stuff to do. They call it "feeding the beast." You have all these people and you have to make quick, quick, quick decisions [...] and it can lead to really bad practices. You might be making the wrong decisions and have to re-do them later. So...it's a good solution to have everybody do this thing that is more obvious [like the TLOU remake].
As with any rumor, take this with a dash of salt, although Naughty Dog co-president Evan Wells confirmed the studio’s ongoing issues with multi-project development in a recent podcast appearance of his own (thanks to Video Games Chronicle for the transcription)…
I would say even today we’re just short of [successful multi-project development]. We definitely have multiple projects, but only one that is getting the lion’s share of focus at any time. We don’t have two projects that have several hundred people on them. We have one and then some that are in pre-production, or maybe just creeping out of pre-production, but will have to wait until the main focus has completed before we move everybody off of that project.
According to Wells, Naughty Dog is making “big structural changes” that will perhaps allow them to transition between projects more smoothly. In the meantime, it seems we’ll just have to wait a while for the next big exciting thing from the studio.
What do you think about all this? Given more context, is a remake of The Last of Us a good use of Naughty Dog’s time and resources?