Naughty Dog have officially stopped development of The Last Of Us Online, a multiplayer game based on their celebrated McCarthyite (no, not that McCarthy – I mean the novelist) post-apocalyptic action-adventure. Announced in the dusty days of 2018 as a multiplayer mode for The Last Of Us: Part 2, it evolved into a standalone experience with new characters and a new setting, but Sony reportedly scaled the project back earlier this year. Naughty Dog have now formally called it quits, stating that supporting a live service project such as this would have “severely impacted” future single-player game projects. Sony never locked down platforms for The Last Of Us Online, but a PC release was surely on the cards, though I would have expected the game to launch first on PlayStation, as with the original Last Of Us and Uncharted 4.
“We know this news will be tough for many, especially our dedicated The Last of Us Factions community, who have been following our multiplayer ambitions ardently,” reads the statement. “We’re equally crushed at the studio as we were looking forward to putting it in your hands. We wanted to share with you some background of how we came to this decision.
“The multiplayer team has been in pre-production with this game since we were working on The Last of Us Part II – crafting an experience we felt was unique and had tremendous potential,” it continues. “As the multiplayer team iterated on their concept for The Last of Us Online during this time, their vision crystalized, the gameplay got more refined and satisfying, and we were enthusiastic about the direction in which we were headed.
“In ramping up to full production, the massive scope of our ambition became clear. To release and support The Last of Us Online we’d have to put all our studio resources behind supporting post launch content for years to come, severely impacting development on future single-player games. So, we had two paths in front of us: become a solely live service games studio or continue to focus on single-player narrative games that have defined Naughty Dog’s heritage.”
The statement concludes by promising that “the learnings and investments in technology from this game will carry into how we develop our projects and will be invaluable in the direction we are headed as a studio”. It cheekily adds that “we have more than one ambitious, brand new single player game that we’re working on here at Naughty Dog, and we cannot wait to share more about what comes next when we’re ready.” Fingers crossed it’s not another remake or remaster.
The news continues a theme from a financial call in November, in which Sony’s president Hiroki Totoki announced that the publisher would downsize its ambitions for live service projects. The company had planned to launch “more than 10” live service games by March 2026, but Totoki reduced the number to six, noting that “we have not been able to meet the gamers’ expectations, but we are trying as much as possible that this would be played by the gamers and liked by gamers for a long time.”
I can’t say I was wildly looking forward to The Last Of Us Online, inasmuch as the thought of playing another live service game makes me want to put on a bowler hat, collapse my entire body downward into my shoes and waddle out into the street, shrieking. But I had a good time with Uncharted 2’s multiplayer back in my disreputable early career as a console reviewer, and would have been interested to play the original non-standalone multiplayer mode Naughty Dog envisioned for The Last Of Us: Part 2.