Things are looking haggard for Sony’s PS5 live service pledge after Naughty Dog announced that its The Last of Us Online project has been given the chop. Sony initially promised a dozen new live service titles would arrive by 2025, but the dream is quickly turning into a nightmare scenario after the company tempered expectations last month.
During November’s Q2 earnings call, Sony president and COO Hiroki Totoki told shareholders that the company would be cutting its perhaps over-ambitious plan to deliver 12 live service games by 2025 in half, stressing the need to meet “quality expectations.” But that’s not to say the canned titles are gone for good, as Totoki also notes that Sony will revisit them down the line.
However, a spanner has already been thrown into the works with the cancellation of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us Online game. In a statement given by the studio, it says that despite its “tremendous potential”, the scale of TLOU Online’s post-launch upkeep became clear during the ramp up to full production, leaving Naughty Dog at a crossroads. “We had two paths in front of us,” the statement reads, “become a solely live service games studio or continue to focus on single-player narrative games that have defined Naughty Dog’s heritage.”
The Last of Us Online was in pre-production for several years, and was initially revealed at Summer Games Fest 2022. The game was set to build upon the Factions mode that was baked into the original TLOU, incorporating original characters and a new US-based location. While we’re gutted to see the project dusted, there’s still plenty to potentially be excited about when it comes to new PS5 games in the live service arena.
Microsoft may have dominated headlines with its high-profile acquisitions, but Sony has also been making moves recently. This year it acquired Firewalk Studios which is currently producing Concord. Other live service titles currently in the works include Fairgame$ from Haven Studios (acquired in March last year) and Marathon from legendary studio Bungie – itself brought into the PlayStation fold in July last year.
While all three games are shooters – some of which we expect to appear in our best FPS games list shortly after launch – they each have their own unique twist. Fairgame$ looks to blend traditional FPS and heist elements, making for a multiplayer sandbox experience that’s reminiscent of Payday 3. Concord, meanwhile, is a space-based PvP shooter that promises a “unique universe of vibrant worlds” and a “rich cast of colorful characters.”
For us, the most exciting title of the trio is undoubtedly Marathon. Although the Marathon release date has been delayed to 2025, the stylish PvP extraction shooter looks to bring together two of the things Bungie does best: gorgeous sci-fi environments and best-in-class gunplay.
Elsewhere in the possible six-game line-up we have the highly-anticipated third-person co-op shooter Helldivers 2 from Arrowhead, which is set to launch soon on February 8, 2024. Plus, there’s the multiplayer Horizon game that was announced by Guerrilla Games back at The Game Awards 2022. Aloy won’t be back for this one, with the studio promising a fresh cast of characters alongside a “unique stylized look.”
With the death of The Last of Us Online, it appears that only five games remain on Sony’s list, unless there is another currently unannounced project we’re yet to hear about. As the industry continues to struggle – especially in the live service space – it’s difficult to predict whether there will be further project cancellations on the road to 2025, as well as how long the games will survive when out in the wild – Naughty Dog foresaw the risks.
While these are PS5 exclusives, most are in development for PC, too. This is perhaps a testament to the growth of that market sector over the past decade, which according to Statista is now as large as its console counterpart. But if any of these games are to thrive, then they’ll need to have the substance to back up their style, especially considering the rise of The Finals as one of the best games around right now.
Though the death of The Last of Us Online comes as a blow to Sony’s live service content plan, its other upcoming offerings are filled with promise that could see them become some of the best PS5 games at launch. At the very least, we’re expecting Marathon to perform well considering Bungie’s expertise at keeping live service titles going long-term, so make sure you get some Destiny 2 time in between now and 2025.