The Last of Us Part 1 Feels Like a Blatant Money Grab by Sony by Logan Moore for Comicbook.com
My pal Logan Moore wrote up an opinion piece on The Last of Us Part I and its pricing. I thought it’d be fun to respond bit by bit. We’d normally discuss this on a podcast, but given I’m out of town, this asynchronous blog response feels like an in-depth way to keep our usual conversation alive. (Although we have already discussed this yesterday after the reveal).
It’s hard not to feel like Sony‘s upcoming PlayStation 5and PC remake of The Last of Us, which is formally being titled The Last of Us Part 1, is being created for any reason other than to bring in easy money. Perhaps that’s a stupid thing to say given that the entire point of video game development in the first place is for companies to generate profits, but this latest re-release of The Last of Us feels different. Not only is the game not going to contain everything that was seen in the past two versions that were released on PS3 and PS4, but Sony is also asking for a considerable more amount of money to boot.
A considerable amount of more money is $10-20? When The Last of Us launched on PS3 it was $60 and the PS4 remaster started at $60 before being dropped to $50. Monetarily, launching at full price is in line with new releases for Sony.
The question lies in is the narrative and gameplay experience of The Last of Us worth full price in 2022? Anyone could go to a local shop and snag the PS3 game for $10. Millions snagged the PS4 game when it was included with PS+ in October 2019.
I do find it strangely interesting to think about the quality proposition and accessibility. The Last of Us is one of the greatest games of all time and is quite accessible. Compare that to other all timers, like Ocarina of Time. Playing Zelda’s first 3D outing today requires an expensive cartridge, plus the hardware to play, a remake on 3DS, or an $80 a year subscription. In contrast, The Last of Us is playable on three generations of PlayStation hardware and is coming up on nine years since release. Does a younger age and more accessible title make paying new prices undesirable? People will always complain about full prices – look at Skyward Sword HD – but I do enjoy pondering the dynamics of timing and access.
What is surprising, though, is that Part 1 doesn’t even contain everything seen in The Last of Us Remastered. That version of the game, which came out in 2014 on PS4 (for a cheaper-than-normal retail price of $49.99) contained the base game, Factions multiplayer, and the Left Behind DLC. The Last of Us Part 1 is going to contain all of the same single-player content, but Factions is now being left out entirely, likely because a new Naughty Dog multiplayer game in this vein is already on the way.
I agree wholeheartedly that this new Factions game is why there is no Factions in Part I. No multiplayer was included in either Uncharted collection. Is that right? I’m not sure. Those modes are still available on PS4 until those servers get shut down someday, just like the PS3 servers. How many people are clamoring for Uncharted multiplayer?
The unique position of having both the single player and multiplayer in development hasn’t been pulled off by Naughty Dog before. Their multi-team development goal has finally come true it seems. Taking resources away to refresh the original version of Factions with what sounds to be a full-blown sequel to that mode seems wasteful. If this multiplayer game wasn’t a real deal, then its absence in Part I would be significant to me. Knowing a newer (and hopefully better) version—that is its own game—makes that okay to me. Perhaps I’m too easy going or an apologetic fan, but I think this absence is paving the way for a bigger, bolder, better game.
The other reason that this release from Sony feels bizarre is because no one has really been asking for the publisher to remake The Last of Us whatsoever. Despite coming up on the tenth anniversary of its first release, The Last of Us Remastered on PS4 is still a more-than-adequate way to experience and play the original game. The graphical work that has been done in Part 1 seems impressive on Naughty Dog’s part based on what has been shown so far, but this also isn’t a game that seemingly needs to exist right now.
It could be argued that Sony is really only aiming for new players to pick up The Last of Us Part 1, especially since the HBO TV series based on the game is set to release early next year and will by proxy expose new people to the property. And while that would be a feasible conclusion to jump to, PlayStation itself isn’t even marketing the game in this manner. The tagline for The Last of Us Part 1 on PlayStation’s own website is encouraging people to, “Relive the beloved game that started it all – for the PlayStation 5 console.” Sony is merely looking to tap into the audience that has already played The Last of Us because it knows that these same customers will just look to buy it once again. After all, why spend five or more years creating an entirely new game that may not sell well when you can spend a fraction of that development time to re-release an old title that will surely bring in revenue.
I love Logan, but this is a shallow perception of the remake’s existence. While tapping into the existing fanbase is assuredly an angle, new fans and a much wider market are the true goal Sony is chasing. The HBO show is a clear promotional opportunity, which Logan rightly mentions. I suspect sales from both games will get that HBO bump.
The Last of Us as a franchise has sold 28-30 million copies within the last nine years. I feel confident in saying it is PlayStation’s most successful new IP, especially given a series quantity to sales ratio. Before that, the answer would likely be Uncharted.
Now God of War for example, had sold 51 million copies by 2020. With the PC port of God of War (2018), that has likely exceeded 53 million. It took Kratos 17 years to reach that over eight games. The Last of Us has reached over half those numbers in half the time with just two games. The opportunity for growth is substantial.
Sony projects PS5 to surpass PS4, while also anticipating massive growth in PC ports. With Part I coming to both PS5 and PC, the market the company is tapping into far surpasses the fans of the original. It can be hard to think that there are millions that haven’t played The Last of Us, especially when it’s been a part of the conversation ever since it arrived. In some ways, this just feels like a quick stop on the way up even higher.
For the past couple of years, Sony has been making a number of moves associated with PlayStation that show the company is more focused on profits above all else at the moment. Bend Studio’s inability to get Days Gone 2 greenlit, despite the first game selling rather well, is one example of this that we’ve heard about in the past year. The shuttering of Japan Studio last April is another notable occurrence. Despite creating or assisting with the development on a number of beloved games, Sony seemingly decided to do away with Japan Studio just because it wasn’t a division of the company that ever made a ton of money with its releases.
I agree with Logan here. A lot of decisions – by Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo – feel safer than ever before. All these mergers and acquisitions have a feeling of staying ahead and/or alive. If it doesn’t bring in millions, move on to the next thing that will. I’m reminded of a statement I hear Colin Moriarty tout. I don’t have the exact quote, but it follows the line of an opportunity taken means closing the door on others. An example would be Insomniac making a Wolverine game means they are not making some new Resistance game or new IP. Companies are becoming more risk adverse it seems as gaming continues to be the largest grossing entertainment industry in the world.
But with Naughty Dog, Sony is sort of having their cake and eating it to. There’s this remake of one of their most successful games. Then a massive sounding multiplayer game based off that same IP in 2023, which undoubtedly will have microtransactions and/or battle passes. And finally, the team also has a brand new project – presumably a new IP – in development.
Now, is risking all this development on Naughty Dog that big of a risk? No. They are one of, if not the, best developer Sony owns. This is safe-ish. But why spend millions at Bend making Days Gone 2 when Naughty Dog could use some of those millions? Or let Bend make a new IP multiplayer game, which is happening. It’s interesting to see what risks are being taken and what are not.
This $70 price tag on The Last of Us Part 1 also resembles the “controversy” that PlayStation found itself in last year with the upgrade path for Horizon Forbidden West. While it previously seemed apparent that people who bought the PS4 iteration of Forbidden West would later be able to freely upgrade to the PS5 version, Sony instead tried to squeeze a bit more money out of this group and revealed that they would need to pay a small fee to get the next-gen iteration later if they wanted to. After widespread fan outcry Sony ended up reversing course on this decision, but the fact this was even a problem in the first place highlights how PlayStation is operating at the moment.
Xbox has made this cross-gen leap so simple. It’s consumer friendly and inviting. Sony really borked the Horizon and GT7 upgrades when initially announced. At least now there is a clear “you will pay from here on out” line in the sand. Personally, I’m happy to pay the little extra because people work hard to make these games. I can spend ten more bucks. I get that I also have a financial privilege to be so hand wavy about it.
I know this isn’t what Logan is saying here, but I did see some tweets implying that Part I should be a free upgrade. That’s just plain stupid. Clearly this remake is brand new development and will share little with the original game in terms of production. People worked hard on this and deserve to be paid for said work. Now, consumers should vote with their wallet to communicate what price they think this game is worth. It’ll be on sale by the holidays and be discounted beyond that. It’ll hit $50, heck maybe even $40 within its first year on shelves. It’d be nice if Sony had a more competitive price up front, but they don’t. I’m a terrible example anyway: I’m buying the $100 edition. Maybe Logan will be too…
Everything that I have said here is perhaps hypocritical considering that I’m one of those customers that will absolutely be looking to play The Last of Us Part 1 for myself when it hits PS5 in the coming months…
But let’s look at Logan’s final statement.
Still, I can’t help but feel like this is yet another instance where PlayStation is becoming more of a faceless corporate entity that is looking to drive revenue in any way possible rather than trying to meaningfully engage with its audience and listen to what they want. Time will only tell if this proves to be damaging to the company’s reputation, but in an age where Sony quite literally can’t keep up with demand for the PS5, I have a feeling that those operating at a corporate level within Sony are feeling more than happy about where PlayStation is heading.
This, to me, feels like getting old. As I get older, I feel like the wonder and magic is largely gone from the game industry. It can crop up, but the stretches of excitement and hype grow further apart. Corporate ambitions are more clear where charm vanishes. Nintendo consoles used to have catchy tunes and quirky details. Xbox championed voice control in games. PlayStation would throw its own fan event. Now that all has vanished for subscriptions, TV shows, and strategic marketing. The chill of calculation has crept in where the warmth of youthful anticipation used to be. It can be biting.
The days of summer vacation and playing The Last of Us are far behind me. Now I just wait to find time to play a reimagined version of one of my favorites. Perhaps I’m too much of a fan or settled in my preferences. God knows I love a Naughty Dog game. I find discussions surrounding remakes, the market, and development fascinating. Now it’s come for one of my favorites. I’m just happy to have these options at all. Let’s see what Naughty Dog reveals about this remake in the coming months before writing it off entirely.