A report claims that Sony Visual Arts Service Group in San Diego started out as lead developers on the project, but have since been demoted to being a support studio.
The Last of Us has quickly become one of Sony’s most important properties since its inception less than a decade ago. Its two games released so far have enjoyed incredible commercial and critical success, while Sony clearly intends to keep investing in the property, with an HBO adaptation currently in the works, what seems to be a multiplayer game currently being in development (which Days Gone developer SIE San Diego might be helping out with), and one would assume more sequels coming down the line. In addition to that, as per an extensive new report by Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier, a remake of the first game is also being made.
Schreier writes in his report that Sony’s Visual Arts Service Group (VASG) in San Diego was originally leading development on the game. Often used by Sony as a support studio for its blockbuster releases, the team wanted to move into proper development and lead up their own project, though the report describes Sony’s ambivalence to the idea. The development team was never given a proper name, and indeed, while there have been reports that they are working on a new project over the last couple of years, the most Sony has done to acknowledge that is say that they’re working on expanding existing PlayStation franchises.
As Schreier’s report explains, knowing that to be able to move into proper development they’d need to pitch something that would be perceived as a safe bet by Sony executives, they decided to remake a popular PlayStation game for their first project. Their first choice was Uncharted 1, but since that would have required heavy reworking and major investments, decided instead to settle on The Last of Us, which was much more modern and would require fewer overhauls.
When Hermen Hulst was appointed as the head of Sony Worldwide Studios, however, he wasn’t impressed with the work that was being done. Though a section of the game had been developed to show what the rest of it would like and play like, Hulst believed too much money was being pumped into the project (which was internally being called T1X). VASG founder Michael Mumbauer and his team explained that the game needed that much budget because it was being developed on a new graphics engine to leverage the PS5’s hardware, but Hulst wasn’t convinced.
Following the launch of The Last of Us Part 2 (for which VASG provided development support), several Naughty Dog developers were allegedly assigned to the development of the T1X, many of whom had been involved with the original’s development. Meanwhile, the project itself was also moved under Naughty Dog’s budget, giving it more freedom and financial leeway. In other words, Naughty Dog were made leave developers on the remake, with VASG demoted to being a support studio again.
The Bloomberg report goes on to state that following the aforementioned shift, many disappointed VASG employees left, including founder Mumbauer, the remake project’s original director David Hall, and many other top developers who had been involved with the project.