God of War Ragnarok has only just launched, so obviously, it’s going to be quite some time before we get even a hint of information on what developer Santa Monica Studio is going to work on next- largely because whatever the studio’s next project turns out to be is most likely in the very early stages of development right now. And yet, given the immense buzz that always surrounds both God of War as a franchise and Sony Santa Monica as a developer, it’s no surprise that already, there’s no shortage of people who’re wondering what lies ahead for them.
And when you look a little deeply at it, you realize that there is quite a bit to talk about here- largely because as is the case with most AAA developers in the industry at this time, Santa Monica Studio may very well have multiple things in the works. After all, the studio’s creative director Cory Barlog very much suggested the same, saying that Santa Monica Studio was “spread out on a lot of different things.” So the question of what its next release will be might have different answers based on multiple factors (though it’s worth keeping in mind that at this stage, the vast, vast majority of that is going to be speculation).
With that said, what exactly are the candidates for what Santa Monica Studio is going to work on next? Other than the development support it has provided as an external team for a vast variety of games over the years – including the likes of Journey, Starhawk, The Order: 1886, and more – God of War has been pretty much the only thing it has worked on. Of course, Santa Monica Studio’s debut title was Kinetica in 2001, but that’s the only non-God of War game the developer has ever made. Since the series’ 2005 debut on the PS2, it’s been all God of War, all the time.
Well, for the most part. It’s not like the developer hasn’t tried to get new properties off the ground. After God of War: Ascension’s critical and commercial disappointments, the next project for Santa Monica Studio was supposed to be a new sci-fi IP. That IP ended up getting cancelled, a lot of folks at the studio lost their jobs, and Sony Santa Monica essentially had to reset again and refocus its efforts exclusively on God of War- which, at the time, was in in its very early conceptualization phase, as per the 2018 title’s official development documentary.
But now that the Norse God of War saga has been wrapped up and the developer and the franchise are probably in the best and healthiest shape of their lives on both critical and commercial level, might it be time for Sony Santa Monica to take another crack at making a new IP? It’s always exciting to see a fresh, new idea being brought to life, especially when it’s being done by a developer as accomplished as this one, so there’ll be no shortage of people who’ll give anything to see Santa Monica Studio try its hand at something completely and utterly new.
Many would argue, however, that God of War itself provides the perfect framework for the developer to keep trying wildly new and different things without having to also take on the risks that would ordinarily go hand-in-hand with the creation of a new IP. After all, Sony Santa Monica already did that once, with the series’ 2018 reinvention maybe so different and so far removed from what older God of War games used to be that it could almost be a new IP in all but name. God of War Ragnarok is the conclusion of the series’ Norse saga, which is something we’ve known since before the game even launched, which means that its next mainline title will likely take us to a new mythological setting (which there are plenty of hints for in the 2018 title as well).
So could it be that while God of War Ragnarok was reaching the final stages of its development, another smaller team within the studio was getting started on setting things up for what the next phase for the series would be? When it was announced last year that Ragnarok would be directed by series veteran Eric Williams rather than God of War (2018)’s Cory Barlog, it was also confirmed that Barlog was working on something else that was in the early stages of production. Might that be the next God of War game, taking us to, say, Egypt? After all, it’s no secret that when Barlog was still ironing out the key details for what God of War’s reinvention after Ascension would look like, he was seriously considering Egypt as a setting, and he has made it clear on a number of occasions that this is a series that may very well jump from mythology to mythology as it continues onward.
Other developments surrounding Santa Monica Studio have also been interesting in that context. Job listings published by the developer have suggested that it’s next project is also going to feature a fantasy setting, and while the assumption has largely been that that’s for a new IP, a fantasy setting could easily also be another God of War game. After all, Egyptian mythology (or any other mythology, for that matter) is still very much a fantasy setting. Wanting minimize the gap between God of War’s Norse saga and whatever comes next may be a factor here- though of course, this is all just a dot-connecting exercise at this point, nothing more.
Interestingly enough, there is a way Santa Monica Studio could still release another God of War title set in the Norse mythology realms. We’re not going to go into too much detail on how, given the spoilers for the recently-released God of War Ragnarok that would involve, but there’s a decent chance that we end up getting a smaller standalone sequel focusing on a different character, something along the lines of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales. As anyone who’s played Ragnarok will know, the game leaves the door wide open for that kind of a future experience. While it’s very unlikely that the next mainline God of War game starring Kratos won’t take us to a new setting (and maybe feature a new gameplay style once again), we wouldn’t be surprised if we got a smaller Norse saga game before that. It would also serve as a solid stopgap between Ragnarok and the studio’s next big game.
Either way, it’s safe to say, that by now, Santa Monica Studio has joined a very small and exclusive list of developers who have such a high level of trust with the masses that, no matter what they work on next, people will flock to it in droves. Whether it’s a new God of War game in a fresh setting or a completely new IP that tries something entirely different, Santa Monica Studio’s incredible track record and consistent knack for making masterpieces ensures that fans are going to be incredibly interested. Yes, it’s going to be a while before we get more concrete details on what that will be- but right now, it seems pretty safe to say that, likelier than not, it’s going to be worth the wait.
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.