Responding to the Pricing of The Last of Us Part I

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.

The Last of Us Part I Announced

Looks like round 10 will have a shiny new coat of paint.

We’ve implemented modernized gameplay, improved controls, and expanded accessibility options in this single-player experience to allow even more individuals to enjoy the game. Effects, exploration, and combat have all been enhanced. Leveraging the PS5’s powerful hardware, we also implemented 3D Audio*, haptics, and adaptive triggers. Both returning fans and new players alike will have the opportunity to experience both The Last of Us Part I and its prequel story Left Behind in a whole new way.

The Last of Us Part I appears to be bringing parity to the duology; on par visual fidelity and gameplay.

I’m impressed with the leap in graphical quality. Neil Druckmann said on the stream that the animators went back to the original mocap footage and referenced Troy and Ashley’s performances. Neat to see the original recordings can still be used. Reminds me of the clip in the Grounded documentary showing off the hand animation process.

Sure the character models are striking, but look at the background. The furniture and environment detail is far more realistic. The camera shot itself has a more cinematic feel. These changes speak to the power gap between the PS3 and the PS5. I wonder when we will think the PS5 version looks old.

The trailer gives off that cinematic feel. It’s one of those strange moments when the remake looks and feels like I remember, but looking back at the launch trailer on PS3 you see how far technology has come. From 720p and an unstable 30fps to 4K 30 or 60 (we’ll have to wait and find out the visual modes) is quite the leap on top of the graphical changes. The PS4 remaster I believe goes to a checkerboarded 4K with 60fps and HDR. We should also remember the cutscenes were pre-rendered on PS3/4. I assume on PS5 they will be real-time. Color me excited for the inevitable Digital Foundry analysis.

As a big fat fan and collector, I’m happy to see a special edition of the game. The Firefly Edition is exclusive to PlayStation Direct. It comes with a stellar looking Steelbook and a re-release of the American Dream comic with new covers all designed by David Blatt. You know I ordered my copy.

What I’m most curious about are the gameplay tweaks. There was no outright mention that the gameplay was being lifted from Part II. It would be quiet difficult to “copy and paste” the fluidity from the sequel into the original scenarios in the first game. They’d have to be redesigned to allow for that range of mechanical freedom.

We’ve implemented modernized gameplay, improved controls, and expanded accessibility options in this single-player experience to allow even more individuals to enjoy the game. Effects, exploration, and combat have all been enhanced.

It’s possible they’ve expanded areas and redesigned combat encounters. Maybe they brought in cut ideas like having Infected and Hunter encounters come up outside of Left Behind. There is interesting potential with a ground-up remake. I’m excited to learn what opportunities the team has taken.

The studio has promised more in the coming weeks and months. With the game only 84 days out, it’s great to have it in our hands so soon.

Naughty Dog’s Second Game in 4K

Ski Crazed, 1986 Apple II – 4K CRT Footage with MiSTER FPGA | Chasing the Stick by Me on YouTube

As I figure out writing Chasing the Stick as a real life book, I have begun slowly gathering my own footage and photos of the games in as high of a quality as I can. This is why I bought and built a MiSTer FPGA console!

So a couple weeks ago, I tested recording my CRT in 4K while playing the second game published by Jason Rubin and Andy Gavin – Ski Crazed for the Apple II. I don’t know quite what to do with the footage, so rather than sit on it, I decided to upload it to YouTube and learn from some mistakes I made.

One setting I need to lock down is the ISO. I had it set to automatic, which led to the blowouts between screen transitions. Also, the audio may not be synced up properly. That’s because I was capturing the audio digitally through the MiSTer’s HDMI port, but I was not capturing the analog sound. So there wasn’t a clean way to sync the two. My apologies.

I’m not confident in the framerate selection either. My Canon EOS 90D captures 4K30. The game runs at 60fps. So do I sacrifice the frames for resolution or give up the 4K dream in favor of a more accurate framerate? I am not sure yet; after uploading and thinking about it, I am sort of leaning toward the frame rate option. We shall see!

That’s No Moon Studio Announced, Former PlayStation Devs Behind It

Game Veterans Establish New Indie Development Studio by Trilby Beresford for The Hollywood Reporter

That’s No Moon Entertainment is led by CEO Michael Mumbauer, former head of PlayStation’s Visual Arts Group. For its debut action-adventure project, the company is backed by a $100 million investment from South Korean developer Smilegate, creators of the CrossFire first-person shooter series.

I have never heard of CrossFire, but Michael Mumbauer’s name is familiar. Mumbauer was the head of PlayStation’s Visual Arts Group, which operates as a support studio. Mumbauer reportedly wanted to remake The Last of Us as a way to get Sony’s attention and pursue standing out as its own team, remaking games and creating new ones. That did not fly. Mumbauer left Sony by the end of 2020.

This is apparently what he has been up to.

There are quite a few PlayStation dev alums at That’s No Moon. Four of the 29 current team members alone are from Naughty Dog. More hail from PlayStation (possibly the Visual Arts Group itself), Sony Santa Monica, and Bend. Others come from Bungie and Activision.

My brain immediately went to what if PlayStation entered a second-party relationship with That’s No Moon, but that sort of seems farfetched, considering how Sony treated Mumbauer’s ambitions for the Visual Arts Group. Maybe if the check is big enough and That’s No Moon keeps creative control. Whatever their game becomes, we won’t see it for a long, long time.

The AIAS Game Maker’s Notebook: Naughty Dog Co-President, Evan Wells

The AIAS Game Maker’s Notebook: Naughty Dog Co-President, Evan Wells

Ted Price chats with Naughty Dog’s Evan Wells about his path towards the games industry, Naughty Dog’s early years, their studio culture, thoughts on leadership and studio growth, their approach to storytelling and how they’ve raised the stakes over the years.

Downloaded and ready to listen. This episode ought to be good.

PlayStation’s Blockbuster Garden

Sony’s Obsession With Blockbusters Is Stirring Unrest Within PlayStation Empire – Bloomberg: by Jason Schreier for Bloomberg

Interesting article to kick start the day. Never a dull moment with Schreier’s reporting.

Sony’s focus on exclusive blockbusters has come at the expense of niche teams and studios within the PlayStation organization, leading to high turnover and less choice for players. Last week, Sony reorganized a development office in Japan, resulting in mass departures of people who worked on less well-known but acclaimed games such as Gravity Rush and Everybody’s Golf. The company has informed developers that it no longer wants to produce smaller games that are only successful in Japan, Bloomberg has reported.

The practical shutdown of Japan Studio was surprising initially. Then Sony confirmed that Team Asobi, those responsible for the highly impactful and successful Astro Bot games was remaining intact. Sony is looking at the numbers, cutting costs by trimming the fat, and leaning into teams and products that generate huge returns on their investment.

That comes off cold and calculated, especially when games can be artistic, quirky, and so on. Sony has contributed to the indie and smaller game scene for decades. It feels strange to see them making bigger swings like this.

But maybe this should not be strange or surprising. Back in 2019, Hermen Hulst was officially promoted to the head of Worldwide Studios and Shuhei Yoshida was put in charge on an indie developer initiative. Yoshida is in charge of courting indie developers and bringing great games to the PlayStation 4 & 5. It seems clear now (hindsight is 20/20) that Sony would break-up their smaller studios from making smaller games to being support studios for their larger teams. Sony is moving their indie and smaller games to external partners and focusing their internal studio budget on their global money makers: the games and studios that bring and keep folks in the PlayStation ecosystem. Even the line between studios is blurred with the branding of PlayStation Studios now.

… [Bend] tried unsuccessfully to pitch a [Days Gone] sequel that year, according to people familiar with the proposal. Although the first game had been profitable, its development had been lengthy and critical reception was mixed, so a Days Gone 2 wasn’t seen as a viable option.

Instead, one team at the studio was assigned to help Naughty Dog with a multiplayer game while a second group was assigned to work on a new Uncharted game with supervision from Naughty Dog.

The time between Bend’s previous game, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, and Days Gone was seven years. Even with Days Gone being profitable, it makes sense to have them help produce two games that will, arguably, be more profitable in a shorter window of time. Naughty Dog cranks out hit after hit, even in the face of intense crunch, and has for years. Exploring crunch and its impact is definitely more Schreier’s wheelhouse and I’ve written about Naughty Dog’s own practices during the PS4 generation. It sounds like having dedicated support teams could help alleviate crunch on some level, helping keep the output and quality consistent, leading to more revenue.

Bend’s developers feared they might be absorbed into Naughty Dog, and the studio’s leadership asked to be taken off the Uncharted project. They got their wish last month and are now working on a new game of their own.

The folks at Bend didn’t sign up for this work though either. I am curious how long this next game will take to be developed, especially if parts of the studio are still assisting with two Naughty Dog projects.

Emphasizing big hits can also be counterproductive because sometimes games that start small can turn into massive successes. In 2020, Sony didn’t put much marketing muscle behind the quirky video game creation system Dreams, by the PlayStation-owned Media Molecule in the U.K. As a result, PlayStation may have missed out on its own version of Roblox, a similar video game tool. Parent company Roblox Corp. went public earlier this year and is now valued at $45 billion.

I feel like this is business-talk for the Bloomberg investment reader. This is not an apt comparison; really, it is complete conjecture. Roblox has been around since 2006. They have built an audience and a product for 15 years before going public. I don’t see Dreams as a one and done style game and tool for development. I’ve been talking about PlayStation getting into the game engine business and Dreams is an essential part to that plan, I believe. Shuhei Yoshida has even talked about a “decade of Dreams.” Sure, talk and action are to different elements to game development and promotion. Dreams did/does have plans to be brought over to PS5 and PC with features to export creations from Dreams. Roblox wasn’t built in a day.

In theory, this [remaking The Last of Us] would be a less expensive proposition than remaking Uncharted, since The Last of Us was more modern and wouldn’t require too many gameplay overhauls. Then, once Mumbauer’s group had established itself, it could go on to remake the first Uncharted game and other titles down the road.

It sounds like they wanted to be Sony’s first party remake studio, at least at first. I predicted this year that Sony would buy Bluepoint Games. I still think that is a possibility and should happen. In the long run, it could be cheaper to buy the best remake studio in the business than develop one from the ground up internally. Microsoft certainly thinks it is cheaper to buy prominent studios in the long run.

“The people funding the work are often risk-averse, and if they have to pick between a team that’s done it before, and someone trying to do it on their own for the first time, I can see why some people pick the prior developer over the latter,” [Dave Lang] said.

Makes sense to me.

Mumbauer’s project, code-named T1X, was approved on a probationary basis, but Sony kept the team’s existence a secret, and refused to give them a budget to hire more people, leading many to wonder if the company was really committed to letting the team build a new studio.

I imagine that “T1X” stood for Thing 1 X. “Thing” was the codename for The Last of Us, so T1 makes sense. “X” is a cool letter to use and could stand for “remake” or anything really.

He thought the remake project was too expensive, according to people familiar with the matter, and asked why the planned budget for T1X was so much higher than remakes Sony had made in the past. The reason was that this one was on a brand new graphical engine for the PlayStation 5.

New game engines are expensive. Hideo Kojima had to shop around for an engine after leaving Konami. He settled on Guerrilla Game’s Decima engine, which took years and money to build. It’s also a widely adaptable engine. As for Naughty Dog, their engine is proprietary. If Sony wanted to remake The Last of Us, it would make sense to use an established engine, rather than build one from scratch, especially when comparing costs to previous projects. Sony’s own remakes were sometimes upscales of PSP games.

Release of The Last of Us Part II had been pushed to 2020 from 2019 and Naughty Dog needed the Visual Arts Service Group to polish it off. Most of Mumbauer’s team, along with some of the 200 or so other staff at the Visual Arts Service Group, was assigned to support Naughty Dog, slowing down progress on its own game.

The Visual Arts Service Group’s main job sounds like it is to be support and wrap-up on projects across Sony’s disciplines. Mumbauer seemed to want to change that, but their first priority would have been to provide support. It makes building your own team, engine, and game all that much more difficult. Really playing against a stacked deck.

Sony sent word that after the completion of The Last of Us Part II, some people from Naughty Dog would help out with T1X. Mumbauer’s team saw this as their short-lived autonomy being stripped. Dozens of Naughty Dog staff were joining the project, and some had actually worked on the original The Last of Us, giving them more weight in discussions about T1X’s direction. The game was moved under Naughty Dog’s budget, which Sony gave more leeway than the Visual Arts Service Group.

Not to sound like a broken record, but this, again, makes sense. It strikes me as more efficient. Naughty Dog made both games, just coming off the sequel. Naughty Dog transitioned their game engine to the new platform early from the  PS3 to the PS4. They did it with The Last of Us last time! This could likely be cheaper for Sony, giving them even more of a return on their investment.

But those who had wanted independence were disappointed. By the end of 2020, most of the T1X team’s top staff had left, including Mumbauer and the game’s director, David Hall. Today, the T1X project remains in development at Naughty Dog with assistance from Sony’s Visual Arts Support Group. The future of the remainder of Mumbauer’s team, which has come to be jokingly referred to as Naughty Dog South, remains unclear.

Their disappointment is understandable and human. I am empathetic toward it. I’ve had my share of projects and visions get pulled out from under me. This group of people had an idea they were passionate about with a new direction to move forward in. Their owner, unfortunately, did not agree with the cost of that vision. It did become a “stay here and keep supporting” or leave situation. Some folks left, hopefully finding the independence they wanted.

This mixture of passion and finances makes decisions like this feel cold. Sony has a whacky legacy with some truly great, small games. As the cost of development skyrockets and broader appeal becomes more necessary to make returns, I can’t blame them for cutting costs by shutting down studios. Hopefully, it is a strategy that pays off. If making more blockbuster games brings in more customers which equals more money, then Sony could create more indie partnerships through Yoshida’s initiative: A rising tide lifts all ships scenario.

Microsoft is raising their tide by buying up elite studios and creating recurring revenue with Game Pass on a monthly basis. It’s consistent and dependable. Heck, I converted to Game Pass Ultimate before the Xbox Series X launched with 2 1/2 years. In the rough year I’ve had the service, I have played one game off Game Pass. When my subscription is up, they hope I stay on board and continue the trend of paying them, whether or not I actually play the games. This plan for revenue allows Microsoft to make more deals, take smaller risks more often, likely giving their teams more opportunities for creative freedom. Microsoft is also not afraid to shut a project down.

Sony is bringing their games to PC and even Xbox! Bringing their huge, extremely popular titles like Horizon: Zero Dawn, MLB The Show, and Days Gone to other platforms helps diversify and increase their income while focusing on making more of those huge titles.

Sony is also leveraging their film making department and relationships to expand their video game IP to wider audiences. HBO is taking a crack at The Last of Us. Ghost of Tsushima just had a movie announced with some of the people from John Wick. The Uncharted movie is still slated for release this year. These partnerships bring more folks into these blockbuster game properties, hopefully bringing in more people to play these games on PlayStation.

Deals like Game Pass or Sony’s Indie Initiative take time to see the fruits of their labor. Game Pass is easier to see now that those fruits are becoming ripe and ready for folks to eat. Sony’s may take similar amounts of time. I genuinely hope these plans and moves pay out. Not only for my own selfish fan desires, but because I can see it lending great opportunity to foster external, new talent. Or Sony is batting down the hatches, closing off their garden, and the fruits will begin to wither away. Either way, it’s going to take time to find out.

Cutting the Hair: The History of Neil Druckmann’s Hair during the PS4 Era

A silver-foxed lining of staying at home in 2020 is that folks around the world are growing out their hair in pursuit of the “man bun.” While the idea of having a man bun is a fantasy for some, one man in the video game industry has been in leveling up his hair stat for over seven years: Neil Druckmann.

Continue reading “Cutting the Hair: The History of Neil Druckmann’s Hair during the PS4 Era”

Part IV: Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

Welcome to Part IV of Chasing the Stick: The History of Naughty Dog during the PS4 Era.

I decided to break-up the six parts of my history into individual episodes as well, for more choice for you, the listener. This episode dives into the rapid, slammed development of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. From pre-production to release in just 15 months, The Lost Legacy is a marvel to explore. I hope you enjoy.

Continue reading “Part IV: Uncharted: The Lost Legacy”

Part III: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Welcome to Part III of Chasing the Stick: The History of Naughty Dog during the PS4 Era.

I decided to break-up the six parts of my history into individual episodes as well, for more choice for you, the listener. This episode is all about the non-stop development of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. I also dig into how the team designed Nathan Drake’s final game. I hope you enjoy.

Continue reading “Part III: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End”

Part II: The Last of Us

Welcome to Part II of Chasing the Stick: The History of Naughty Dog during the PS4 Era.

I decided to break-up the six parts of my history into individual episodes as I decided to break-up the six parts of my history into individual episodes as well, for more choice for you, the listener. This episode discusses how Naughty Dog managed developing for two console generations, as well as how much of an impact The Last of Us had for the studio. I hope you enjoy.

Continue reading “Part II: The Last of Us”

Charting Naughty Dog’s Metacritic Scores

With The Last of Us Part II finally released, I decided to make more charts. I did a few within Chasing the Stick: The History of Naughty Dog during the PS4 Era and also did one about the time between announcement and release. Now with the highly anticipated sequel’s reviews published, I thought now would be a great time to look at the studio’s Metacritic* scores since making games for PlayStation.

*Both Crash Bandicoot and Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back do not have Metacritic pages. Their averages were pulled from Game Rankings via Wikipedia*

*The Last of Us Part II’s score was taken on June 17, 2020. This may change since the game is newly released *

I colored the charted by console generation then placed the pertinent game logo on each bar. The lowest score is 76 with Jak X: Combat Racing, which happens to be the first game at Naughty Dog that current Vice President Neil Druckmann worked on before going onto Uncharted. They have two titles tied for the highest score of 96; both Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and The Last of Us Part II.

Their average score (out of all these averages) is 88.94%. They have not had a game below 80 since 2007, with 6 out of the 9 games released since then being in the 90s.


Now that I’ve actually beaten The Last of Us Part II, if I scored reviews, I’d agree with the 10/10 reviews. I haven’t read or watched any yet: I wanted to keep my head clean and clear so I can come up with my own take as I write my own review.