The Last of Us Part 2 is likely the first of many.
Sony announced earlier this week that the long anticipated The Last of Us Part 2 will be seeing yet another delay – this time, for an “indefinite” period of time. However, this delay is different than the kinds of delays that typically plague just about every big Sony first party release (and especially the Naughty Dog ones) – far from being indicative of development on the game not being complete, Sony is choosing to delay the launch of the game for other reasons entirely.
Those reasons are, of course, the current COVID-19 pandemic that is ravaging the world. We’ve spoken about the far reaching ripple effects the pandemic might have on the gaming landscape previously, when we talked about potential delays for the next generation consoles because of lowered manufacturing capabilities in China, as well as restrictions on global movement of goods. However, it’s not just consoles that are subject to those kinds of delays, games are as well – as yesterday’s news highlights.
By all accounts, development on The Last of Us Part 2 is almost complete. Sony is choosing to sit on the game at this point for logistical and financial reasons. At a time when people are being told to stay in, and almost all retail stores have been told to shut down, coordinating a global launch of a AAA game, with a cross-media marketing effort, is probably very difficult. This is something we have seen with the recent launches of Final Fantasy 7 Remake and Resident Evil 3, both of which have seen mass confusion around the world, as some retailers get the game early, some are delaying shipments to prioritize sales of essential goods, and even the digital launch is in a state of flux, with Square Enix outright moving the pre-load date for the game up by a week.
The Last of Us Part 2 would be subject to the same kinds of problems. And the lack of physical and retail sales would probably hurt Sony here. When they made The Last of Us Part 2, they probably had certain internal projections for how they want the game to do. With retail still likely accounting for half of all software revenue and sales on PlayStation, they would be potentially limiting themselves to only half that number if they went digital-only – not to mention the possibility of them also angering their retail partners, which is something they can’t afford to do with an upcoming next generation console launch.
For all of these points, one counter-argument that I often hear made is Animal Crossing New Horizons. The newest installment in Nintendo’s life sim franchise launched late last month, and broke records around the world, at retail and digitally. The success of Animal Crossing seems to indicate that game sales would benefit massively from people who are now stuck indoors with nothing better to do – and that the struggles that retailers are facing has not had any tangible impact on game sales either.
However, there are multiple reasons why this comparison is not fully 1:1 correct. The most important of these is that Animal Crossing, which provides a unique sort of escapism, is precisely the kind of game that people would look for at a time such as this. Even those who would ordinarily never be interested in video games are picking up Animal Crossing, because its social and cheery nature makes it the perfect antidote to the relentlessly depressing reality we are confronted with on a daily basis. Animal Crossing‘s success may not be indicative of anything other than its own ability to appeal to a lot of people. A video game with a darker premise may not be subject to the same kinds of gains – for proof, look at DOOM Eternal, which we know underperformed at retail in UK relative to DOOM 2016.
DOOM is still a kind of escapist fantasy, mind you – a game all about slaughtering demons in gratuitously over the top ways. A game like The Last of Us, which is set in a ruined world ravaged by a global pandemic, is probably not going to find as many takers now as it might have in ordinarily circumstances.
But it’s not just The Last of Us that will see delays, either. Going forward, we can probably expect most major games slated for this year to see delays of some sort. Ghost of Tsushima appears to be a near certainty, given Sony delayed its other first party games. Cyberpunk 2077 is ripe for a delay, especially given that CD Projekt RED is based in Europe, which has been the epicenter for the global outbreak. Halo Infinite could see a delay as well, particularly if the launch of the Series X is postponed. Even games without confirmed 2020 release dates, such as Elden Ring or Breath of the Wild 2, will probably see delays. The world has come to a pause right now – and game development is no exception to that either.
Some people may be tempted to point out that Nintendo, for example, just had a Direct presentation recently where they confirmed a lot of upcoming Switch games with concrete 2020 release dates. And they would be right, but only partially so, because the Direct was prefaced by the notice that every single release date may be subject to change owing to the unpredictabilities that COVID-19 has brought to the equation.
There has been an undercurrent of denial to a lot of rhetoric and discussion surrounding video games in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. People in general have been unable to accept the very likely possibility that products they are looking forward to may be delayed, as if video games and consoles are magically immune to the forces that affect global economics and supply channels.
But more and more, things are coming to a head now and it may be time to face the facts: as much as you might want to play Cyberpunk and get your shiny new PS5 this year, the overwhelming odds are that you will not be able to. The current pandemic is still in its exponential growth stage, and even it it reaches the top of the curve in the future, it will take months upon months after that to taper off.
It’s depressing, and I’m sorry that things are turning out this way, but denial is no way to deal with facts. As things stand right now, we face the very real possibility that any game or hardware launch you are looking forward to gets delayed, probably indefinitely. If nothing else, at least this gives you a chance to catch up on your backlog.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.