Naughty Dog has announced that it has ceased production on The Last of Us Online, its long-in-development multiplayer title set in its popular post-apocalyptic universe.
A Blog post, Naughty Dog explains that the studio realized it made the “incredibly difficult” decision to cancel the project after it became so big that it needed to devote precious resources to supporting it in the years following release. When faced with the reality that the live service would have to become a studio dedicated solely to supporting the game or continuing to make single-player experiences, it chose the latter.
Here’s Naughty Dog’s full statement:
We realize that many of you are anticipating news surrounding the project we’re calling our last online. There’s no easy way to say this: we made the incredibly difficult decision to stop development on that game.
We know this news will be tough for many who have been passionately following our multiplayer ambitions, especially our dedicated The Last of Us Factions community. We’re equally crushed in the studio as we look forward to getting it into your hands. We’d like to share with you some background on 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 – creating an experience that we feel is unique and has immense potential. As the multiplayer team iterated on their concept for The Last of Us Online during this time, their vision crystallized, the game became more refined and satisfying, and we were excited about the direction we were headed.
In moving towards full production, the massive scope of our ambition became clear. Releasing and supporting The Last of Us Online requires us to put all of our studio resources behind supporting post-launch content for years to come, with a drastic impact on the development of future single-player games. So, we have two options: just become a live service games studio or continue to focus on the single-player narrative games that have defined Naughty Dog’s legacy.
We are extremely proud of everyone at the studio who touched this project. The learnings and investments in technology from this game will be invaluable in how we develop our projects and the direction we lead as a studio. We have more than one ambitious, brand new single player game at Naughty Dog, and we can’t wait to share more about what’s next when we’re ready.
Until then, we are incredibly grateful for your support of our community.
The Last of Us Online concept art
The Last of Us Online was originally intended as a multiplayer mode attached to The Last of Us Part II, serving as a successor to the first game’s Factions mode. However, as its reach expanded, Naughty Dog made the decision to make it a larger standalone experience in 2020, preferring to release Part II’s single-player campaign, which arrived to critical acclaim (while polarizing fans). The Last of Us Online made its more formal debut at Summer Game Fest in 2022, though the studio only revealed concept art and gave no release window.
In January, Naughty Dog released new concept art, promising to share more details about the game later this year. In May, the studio said it needed more time to work on the project amid reports of troubled growth. In October, 25 employees in various departments (mostly QA) were laid off, with reports that development of TLOU Online was effectively “on ice”. A few weeks later, Sony delayed the title along with an unknown number of upcoming live-service titles.
The news serves as a huge blemish on what has been a great year for the franchise. Last month, Sony announced The Last of Us Part II Remastered, a modernized version of the 2020 game that will launch next month with new enhancements and additions like its roguelite mode No Return. HBO’s The Last of Us The series received critical acclaim earlier this year and won the Game Award for Best Adaptation. The franchise even got its own haunted house at Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights. While the writing is on the wall for The Last of Us Online’s demise, it’s sad to know it won’t materialize.