At the end of every year, people brimming with hope eagerly countdown until the clock strikes midnight, ringing in the new year. The end of 2019 was more of the same, but with one glaring difference. 2020 was supposed to be the year that Sony closed out its successful run with the PlayStation 4, and subsequently begin transitioning to the PlayStation 5. With exclusive titles like Final Fantasy VII Remake (timed-exclusive), The Last of Us Part II, and Ghost of Tsushima, 2020 was going to be an epic finale for the PS4.
Unfortunately for us, we live in the darkest timeline.
Shortly into 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic spread like wildfire across the world, causing movies, sports, and all manner of events to postpone or outright cancel. More recently, it even caused Sony to move all upcoming movie release dates to 2021. From the outside-looking-in, it didn’t seem as though video games had been affected by it all that much, outside of a GDC postponement and E3 cancellation. With more studios allowing their employees to work from home, it seemed as if all was well in the virtual world. The reality is, though, it’s quietly affected this industry just as much.
Proof of that came today when Sony Worldwide Studios developer Naughty Dog announced that their highly-anticipated sequel, The Last of Us Part II, is delayed indefinitely. It’s the second time the game has been officially delayed. It was originally slated to release in February, before being pushed back to May.
Unlike other delays that are all about “fine-tuning” or “polishing”, Naughty Dog explained that The Last of Us Part II is actually almost 100% complete. Instead, this delay is more about the overall release than anything else, saying:
“However, even with us finishing the game, we were faced with the reality that due to logistics beyond our control, we couldn’t launch The Last of Us Part II to our satisfaction. We want to make sure everyone gets to play The Last of Us Part II around the same time, ensuring that we’re doing everything possible to preserve the best experience for everyone. This meant delaying the game until such a time where we can solve these logistic issues.”
What this likely means is that, Naughty Dog and Sony have realized that physical copies of The Last of Us Part II will not be ready by May. Many parts of Asia, including China where a lot of product development is outsourced, are slowly and cautiously getting back to work after containing the first COVID-19 wave. Therefore, mass production of physical discs, packaging, and everything else that comes with a release may not be ready any time soon. Add that to the brick-and-mortar stores, along with Amazon deliveries, that are either closed or unable to deliver products in a timely manner and the result is an indefinite delay.
It has forced Sony and Naughty Dog to reflect on when they could feasibly release their long-awaited sequel. Thus, the indefinite timetable. Speculation can be a fool’s errand, but in a year of delays and new console generations, it begs the question, “Will The Last of Us Part II be a PS5 launch title?”.
While it would be a massive disappointment for fans to have to wait until, supposedly, Holiday 2020, the reality is that it would be a huge win-win for Sony. Making it a PlayStation 5 launch title would give all parties enough time to produce as many versions of the game as possible, with the potential to host events later in the year for it. On a console-selling standpoint, having a reputable launch title such as The Last of Us Part II would no doubt teeter undecided players toward their console, rather than the Xbox Series X.
In terms of developing the game for the PlayStation 5, the console’s backwards compatibility would seemingly make it a non-issue. In fact, it would be a similar situation Microsoft is doing with Halo: Infinite and Xbox Series X. One game that can work on both systems, but is optimized on the next-gen console.
Another point that allows this theory to make all the sense in the world is the philosophy Sony had with the PlayStation 4. It was all about the games. Sure, the Xbox systems are more powerful but we have the games to play. It worked amazingly well. Right now, though, with launch details (and even a box design) being kept under wraps, the only potential PlayStation 5 launch title we know about is Gearbox’s Godfall. It may be a great game, but it doesn’t carry the same weight that The Last of Us Part II would. I’d even argue that this sequel is so highly-desired that it could even eclipse Halo: Infinite, which I’m sure will make me blacklisted from future Xbox fanboy events.
Perhaps Sony and Naughty Dog are just monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely, as they have since it first began. It could be that this is just the musings of a stir-crazy gamer and the indefinite delay could be revealed to be October. Nevertheless, you can’t deny that if they make it a launch title, this situation would have afforded them with a golden opportunity to make more off of both the highly-anticipated PlayStation 5 and the even higher-anticipated The Last of Us Part II.