December 2011 was not a good month for The Last Guardian. Sony stepped up to confirm rumors that Team Ico’s visionary designer, Fumito Ueda, had left the company, and that the game’s Executive Producer jumped ship to head up a London studio focused on making social network games. Capping it all off, GameStop began contacting customers with The Last Guardian pre-orders, claiming the game had been cancelled (it hadn’t, and GameStop apologized for the error).
Fortunately, the situation wasn’t quite as dire as it initially appeared. Despite separating from the development team he had been a part of for more than a decade, Ueda continues to work on The Last Guardian as a contractor. Now, Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida has come forward to reassure fans that progress is being made on the game, and that there may yet be future collaborations between Sony and Ueda.
Though work on The Last Guardian continues unabated, it has been ages since any fresh details — screenshots, trailers, anything — have come to light. Other than the bonus content included in the retail release of last year’s Ico and Shadow of the Colossus Collection (now available from PSN, as well), both Sony and Team Ico have remained notably quiet about the game.
That may be starting to change. Speaking with 1up at the DICE conference, Yoshida directly addressed the progress being made on the game, and the level of Ueda’s continued involvement.
“[Ueda] comes in every day, and he’s probably one of the people who works the longest hours. The project has been making progress, but slow progress. So that’s tough, but we haven’t changed any focus. It’s still a really important project and a vision we want to see realized, and Fumito’s vision is really causing a very difficult challenge for the developers, so there’s some scrapping and rebuilding — iteration in the process. That’s why [it's taking so long].”
When asked about the prospects for future collaborations between Ueda and Sony, Yoshida was quick to show enthusiasm for the idea.
“If this project goes well — you know, fingers crossed — we’ve worked with him for a long time so yeah I certainly hope we can maintain a relationship.”
The importance of The Last Guardian to Sony and the PlayStation 3 is understandable. The game has been in development for more than six years, and Sony’s financial investment alone must be, to put things lightly, significant. There is likely also an element of corporate pride involved. Sony has long supported risky, big-budget titles focused on a singular — and not necessarily commercial — creative vision. Team Ico’s previous games certainly qualify, as does the more recent Heavy Rain.
Is there still a chance that The Last Guardian could be both an artistic triumph for Ueda and a sales success for Sony? What do you think?
The Last Guardian is currently in development for the PS3.
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