The Last of Us maker Naughty Dog is reportedly among the latest game studios to be hit with layoffs. As per Kotaku, the first-party PlayStation studio is cutting off at least 25 developers, with the most affected members being quality assurance (QA) testers, whose contracts have been shortened. Affected workers are expected to continue working until the end of October, and they allegedly won’t be receiving any severance payments. Turns out, the full-time staff — last recorded headcount being 400+ in July — are not being laid off, with employees in general being ‘pressured’ to keep the news internal.
While 2023 has been an incredible year for games, the people making them have been suffering for some time now. Massive layoffs, high-ranking executives leaving, and studio shutdowns like we saw with Volition, thanks to the poorly received Saints Row reboot It seems like all it takes for investors to pull the plug now is one bad-selling game, though it’s bizarre to see uber-successful studios like Naughty Dog suffering the same fate. The team kicked off the year on a great note with HBO’s live-action adaptation of The Last of Us, which has now earned 24 nominations at the upcomingEmmy Awards. It’s also weird when you think about Naughty Dog’s prestigious position in Sony’s eyes, with co-President Neil Druckmann claiming that the team has the luxury of creating what it’s passionate about, rather than chasing trends.
Kotaku also touched upon the long-gestating The Last of Us multiplayer spin-off title, noting that the game is ‘ basically on ice’ at the moment. A report from May revealed that development on the game had been scaled back and required more time to cook, as a means to ‘reassess its quality and long-term viability.’ As part of the process, several developers were reallocated to other projects and Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) invited Halo and Destiny creator Bungie to evaluate the zombie-killing multiplayer experience. At the end of the testing, Bungie was unimpressed, raising concerns about the project’s ability to maintain an online player base for long periods, thereby leading to the internal shake-up. For now, though, the San Francisco-set spin-off isn’t cancelled.
It is worth mentioning that the TLOU multiplayer experience would also be the first to not include Druckmann as a lead writer or director. By the end of 2023, he might also be the only one left to lead Naughty Dog, given co-President Evan Wells has chosen to retire after a 25-year stint at the company. Its latest release was in March — the PC port of The Last of Us Part I, which was received poorly due to performance issues. Then there’s also an untitled ‘brand-new single-player’ game that the studio has got cooking, which many are hoping is The Last of Us Part III. An Uncharted sequel is unlikely since Druckmann already confirmed that the team is moving on from that franchise.