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Opinion: Why The Last Guardian Will Be a PlayStation 4 Game

Posted by Sammy Barker

Blooming great

While the PlayStation 3 has played host to its fair share of genre defining titles, it’s hard to shake the feeling that it’s still missing its most important release. The hotly anticipated Team ICO title The Last Guardian was officially announced almost four years ago, but despite receiving a release date in 2010, its troubled development remains something of a mystery.

Most recently, Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida noted that the team was “working very hard on the game”, including creative director Fumito Ueda, who was subject to speculation that he had left Sony in 2011. The affable executive added that the adventure remains a PS3 game – but we don’t believe him, and these are the reasons why.

Been there before

The Last Guardian’s prolonged development is not a new concept to Team ICO. Back in 1997, the newly formed studio – constructed by Sony Computer Entertainment Japan to bring new types of experiences to its burgeoning PlayStation platform – started work on a three-dimensional adventure for the PSone. The game was ICO, but after two years of production, development was halted. The studio ran into technical difficulties on the aging hardware, and faced a crossroads: terminate the project entirely, adapt its original vision to suit the constraints of the available technology, or switch development to the vaunted Emotion Engine of the unannounced PlayStation 2. The team opted for the latter.

History shows that creative director Fumito Ueda will not adapt his vision to accommodate the hardware

The situation is not too dissimilar to the predicament that The Last Guardian faces today. Shuhei Yoshida has reiterated in multiple interviews that the game’s frequent delays are due to technical issues. “The team is still working on [the game]," he told in August 2012. "There are certain technical issues they've been working on. That's the period of time when the game, looking from the outside, doesn't seem to be making much progress. But internally there is a lot of work going into creating the title."

Yoshida added that the game was playable at one point, but that the “engineering team had to go back and re-do some of the work they’d already done”. There were even rumours that the platform holder had pulled in its top technical teams from Europe and North America to support the production of the project, but an unnamed SCEJ employee summed up the situation more succinctly in an interview with Kotaku last year. “It is a very ambitious project,” he said. Could it be too ambitious for the aging PS3 hardware to cope with?

History shows that creative director Fumito Ueda will not adapt his vision to accommodate the hardware, and with the PlayStation 4 supposedly much more powerful than its predecessor, it’s not hard to imagine the project being moved onto Sony’s next generation platform. The company can’t acknowledge that, of course, because that would be admitting that it has a new system in the works. But perhaps once the manufacturer’s 20th February press conference has revealed the future, we’ll start to learn a little more.

Core appeal

Shuhei Yoshida has already warned fans not to expect The Last Guardian to hit in 2013, suggesting that it’s tracking towards a 2014 release date at the earliest. If it really is still in development for the PS3, then that means that it’s almost guaranteed to arrive after the PS4’s launch, which simply doesn’t make sense for a title with such a hardcore fanbase.

What sets Team ICO apart is its ability to step outside of the boundaries that are ordinarily associated with video games

As the next-generation nears, Sony will almost certainly start to promote its existing console as a more mainstream machine. In fact, it’s already started to happen, with the likes of LittleBigPlanet Karting, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, and Wonderbook: Book of Spells dominating the system’s line-up in 2012. We imagine that such an emphasis is only going to get more pronounced, and releasing The Last Guardian as part of that catalogue simply doesn’t make sense. The game would be much more suitable on PS4, along with the early adopters who are die-hard fans of the brand.

Furthermore, seeing as the platform holder’s next system is unlikely to be backward compatible, the company could also severely hinder sales of the title if it releases the game on PS3. Much of the title’s target audience is likely to upgrade to the PS4, potentially selling their existing games and consoles to help fund the transition. While Team ICO releases are not historically big sellers, given the title’s six year development cycle, the company will want to make back as much money as it possibly can, and thus it will need to ensure that it’s reaching the right market with the game.

Sitting on the bench

For every Killzone game, there is a Halo. For every Gran Turismo game, there is a Forza. For every Uncharted game, there is a Gears of War. But what sets Team ICO apart is its ability to step outside of the boundaries that are ordinarily associated with video games – and that could be an enormous asset for the PS4.

The Last Guardian would draw serious attention to the launch window line-up of the PS4

While it’s true that the developer’s titles haven’t always achieved the commercial success that they deserve, they almost always bring attention to the platforms that they belong to, and there’s no reason to believe that The Last Guardian will be any different. Its release as a launch window game would draw serious attention to the PS4, and would probably have a bigger impact on the platform’s commercial prospects than any of the aforementioned established brands.

In addition, innovation is important. Microsoft has always tried to match Sony’s biggest franchises toe-to-toe, but Team ICO’s titles are impossible to replicate. Releasing the studio’s latest adventure on the PS4 would not only add an exclusive game to the burgeoning platform’s catalogue, but also an exclusive experience, the kind of which that would be unavailable anywhere else. Benchmark titles are rare in any generation, but having one ready within the ordinarily barren launch window would give the platform holder’s next console a huge advantage early on. And you can bet your bottom dollar that the publisher knows that, too.

Do you think that The Last Guardian will release on the PS4? Are you still looking forward to the game? Let us know in the comments section below.

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User Comments (17)



rjejr said:

And the torment continues.

Don't you think comparing Uncharted to Gears of War is a bit insulting to Uncharted? I'll give Gears of War inFamous 1 and 2.



get2sammyb said:

@rjejr Probably. I was just trying to illustrate the point that most exclusives can be "matched" up. I'd probably lump inFamous in the same category as Crackdown.



ShogunRok said:

I think this is looking likely. I mean, we almost know for certain that it isn't coming on the PS3.

Can the same be said for Versus? Probably. Although that'll probably come with a new name and a whole new look at this rate. Or it just might never happen.



InsertNameHere said:

I hope it makes it's debut as a PS4 launch title, it would be a great move on Sony's part. Making it a launch title, would help bring over all the ICO/SoTC fans who are going to be reluctant to buy the system at launch.

This is completely unrelated to the article, but I think Sony should make a Kinetica 2 for the Vita, it was one of the best racing games I played on the PS2 and if I remember right, it was said to be more well done than the Wipeout and F-Zero games that were out at that time. Also, Naughty dog should let Sanzaru make Jak 4, I haven't had a chance to go out and get it yet, but I hear they did a great job on Thieves in Time.

Now on to business. Why does Uncharted constantly get compared to Gears of War? The 2 games have almost nothing in common, and comparing Uncharted to Gears of War always makes me shudder with disgust.



get2sammyb said:

Like I said above, I wasn't directly comparing the titles. I just wanted to illustrate the point that there are similar exclusive titles on PS and Xbox. I understand that, aside from being third-person shooters, there's actually not a lot in common between Uncharted and Gears.



JayArr said:

I have been disappointed so many times I just started thinking of this game as vaporware and quit caring. So when/if it does come out I will be pleasantly surprised.



hamispink said:

I suspect that it will be a PS4 game, but I also suspect that it will be an entirely different game.

There has been praise for Sony going around on twitter after Journey won game of the year at DICE for allowing for huge amounts of creative freedom, but this The Last Guardian's 8+ year development time is an example of the dark side of allowing too much creative freedom, and not forcing devs to stick to and complete their original vision. I feel that in this situation, it would be best to strike a balance between the two.



rastamadeus said:

People bought a PS3 for this game so if Sony don't release it on that console than, frankly, they can do one. Show a bit of loyalty to the people who bought the console.



InsertNameHere said:

@get2sammyb I know, it's just that I hate when people compare the 2. It's even worse when idiots on YouTube say that Uncharted ripped off Gears of War.



rjejr said:

@ThatOneBlackGuy - How can Uncharted rip-off Gears of War, it's Tomb Raider with a guy, and nobody is comparing Tomb Raider and Gears of War.

Though to complete the rip-off cycle I have been calling the new Tomb Raider -Uncharted 4: The Chloe Chronicles (I like the alliteration). If they got Claudia Black to voice Lara Croft it would be even better as she also did the voice of Sam in Gears of War.

It's Claudia Black's world, I just live in it.



Jaz007 said:

Good points, although you forgot about Team Ico releasing SoC on PS2 instead of PS3 when it had some technical problems on PS2



FullbringIchigo said:

to all those asking i think the whole Uncharted/Gears thing comes from the fact they both use a similar cover based shooting mechanic

and as for the Last Guardian being a PS4 that will suit me fine gives me even more reason to buy a PS4 then doesn't it



Kayoss said:

Don't really care what playstation console its coming out for at least it is not cancelled. At the end of the day, ill be happy once they give us a release date. The anxiety and feeling about it being cancelled is worst then which console its coming out for.



Superconsole said:

If this is true then it looks like things are going to get reeeal expensive for me.. So excited for when this finally does surface!! Lovely piece, Sammy.



InsertNameHere said:

@rjejr I've been trying to figure that out as well. Uncharted and Gears have little to no similarities, but Uncharted is a rip-off? That just goes to show how far we've come since the PS2 era.



Ginkgo said:

Unfortunately most games that suffer such a protracted development cycle are patchy and flawed. PS4 or not I hope this game sees the light of day, but I fear it can never now be what it could have been. Being proved wrong will make me happy.



Trikeboy said:

Delaying a game for a new format has worked wonders before. However, it will be a PS3 game ported to the PS4. Nintendo delayed Twilight Princess and added in motion controls so it could be a launch title. A Zelda game at the launch of the Wii got lots of attention from rabid fans (like me). PS3 or PS4, this game looks really good.

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