Four years. It’s been four years since The Last Guardian was officially announced for the PlayStation 3. A leaked video had revealed the project a few weeks earlier, but it wasn’t acknowledged by Sony until the platform holder’s press conference at E3 2009. That early glimpse – a four-and-a-half minute trailer – remains the most that we’ve seen of Team ICO’s mysterious opus, with the feathery favourite slipping into obscurity over the past couple of years. Creative director Fumito Ueda actually announced his departure from SCE in late 2011, but stated that he would remain committed to the game. That, according to Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida, very much remains the case at the time of writing – but will the hotly anticipated adventure ever see the light of day?

In his most recent note on the matter, Ueda-san pointed out that the title is not a priority at first-party developer Japan Studio. “It's under earnest development,” he ambiguously explained. “However, [the team] also has titles like Puppeteer and Knack, and those are taking priority right now.” With the former already out of the door, though, and Mark Cerny’s divisive Crash-meets-Kratos action platformer due out in less than two months, the hope is that the first-party workshop will be turning its attention to the Shadow of the Colossus creator’s heartrending catbird next.

We don’t believe that the game has been cancelled. After all, there have been too many hopeful statements from high-ranking Sony executives to indicate that the project’s been dropped. The platform holder knows that it will gain nothing from stringing fans along, so it’s telling that it fails to rule the release out. At the Tokyo Game Show last week – and at E3 way back in June – Shuhei Yoshida said that the company’s waiting for the right moment to “reintroduce” the title. But when will that actually be?

It all depends on what the project’s core team has been up to for the past 50 or so months, we suppose. There were rumours back in late 2012 that Team ICO was having trouble squeezing its vision onto the PS3, and that it had even employed the help of Sony’s technical teams from around the globe in an effort to solve the problems that it was facing. Reading between-the-lines, it’s possible that the group’s concept was simply too ambitious for the current generation hardware – and Ueda-san has proven over time that he refuses to adapt his design in order to account for the limitations of a specific machine. Way back in 1997, for example, he started work on a three-dimensional platformer for the PSone. That went on to become ICO, which didn’t release until 2001 on the PlayStation 2.

As a consequence, it’s probably safe to assume that the title is a PlayStation 4 game now, and that will make it an important cog in the company’s next generation strategy. While the past four years have rightfully taught us to be cynical when it comes to The Last Guardian, it’s worth noting that the platform holder’s being incredibly coy about its entire first-party lineup for the impending machine. It’s abundantly evident that the firm’s now adopting a different approach when it comes to announcing upcoming games.

And for as farfetched as it may seem, that could theoretically mean that the game is further along than we think, and that the Japanese giant’s merely biding its time before letting the title free. After all, re-revealing the release for the PS4 would certainly prompt a spike in enthusiasm surrounding the device. And with the system likely to suffer from a shortage of software following the launch of inFAMOUS: Second Son early next year, we fully expect the company to restock with new projects from Sony Santa Monica, Media Molecule, and Naughty Dog in 2014. Could the oft-overlooked Japan Studio join in on the fun?

It’s impossible to say without an insight into the title’s current completion status, but clearly the company needs to be careful when it eventually does reintroduce the game. Given the throng of delays that have plagued the adventure’s production over the past few years, the organisation needs to be absolutely certain that the title is almost ready for release. We suspect that few people would trust a trailer without a timeframe attached to it – but similarly, a delay would cut deeper than Agro’s eventual fate. The game simply must be on time if it's to see the light of day again.

Outside of these important considerations, though, we don’t necessarily believe that there’s an optimal occasion to re-announce the release. While it would no doubt make a splash during a major press conference – or televised event such as the VGAs, perhaps – the reality is that The Last Guardian will get plenty of coverage whenever it’s re-revealed. As such, the real impetus remains with Ueda-san and his team to actually finish the game. We’ve started to see some serious improvements in Japan Studio’s output since Sony Santa Monica founder Allan Becker was put in charge. Let’s hope that his presence provides the kick on the cage that Team ICO so clearly need.


When do you think would be the right time for Sony to reintroduce The Last Guardian? Do you even think that the game still exists? Squawk your thoughts in the comments section and poll below.

When should Sony reintroduce The Last Guardian? (34 votes)

I’m tired of waiting, just tell me about the game now

18%

I don’t mind when it’s re-announced, as long as it comes out

35%

I’m happy to wait until next year for more information

24%

I personally don’t think that the game exists anymore

24%

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