Fumito Ueda, whose The Last Guardian must now hold the record for longest-in-development PlayStation 3 game, is rumored to have parted ways with Sony Computer Entertainment Japan. That departure may, in fact, may be among the reasons why The Last Guardian has yet to be released.

As head of Team Ico, Ueda has only been responsible for two previous games, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. However, those two games are landmarks, and have a passionate fan-base throughout the gaming community, from players to press to developers.

Reissued earlier this year in the fantastic Ico & Shadow of the Colossus Collection, the games have aged gracefully, attesting to the fact that Ueda’s spare, emotionally charged designs are married to fundamentally sound, enduring mechanics. If anything, the Collection and its selection of bonus features covering the production of The Last Guardian suggested that the new game may finally be close at hand, making today’s rumor all the more dismaying.

The Last Guardian, with its young male protagonist and startlingly believable creature, has long been expected to split the difference between Ueda’s previous games, and complete a trilogy of sorts. Ueda will allegedly continue to do freelance work on the game until it is complete. Once slated for release this holiday season, The Last Guardian was officially delayed last April, and was also absent from the Tokyo Game Show 2011.

Though his games don’t have the marketplace clout of, say, Shigeru Miyamoto or Hideo Kojima, Ueda’s work at Sony is an important part of the PlayStation legacy. Sony has supported development of The Last Guardian since 2007 — clearly, the company has been willing to invest in Ueda’s vision.

If true, what will Ueda’s departure mean for The Last Guardian? Right or wrong, Ueda leaving Team Ico is likely to affect fan reaction to the game, and any perceived shortcomings blamed on his absence. Meanwhile, after long years of funding the project, Sony needs the game to be a hit. But what kind of marketing support will Sony be willing to commit if the game’s high-profile director quit?

So far, neither Sony, Team Ico, or Ueda have issued any statement on the matter.

The Last Guardian is currently in development for PS3.

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Source: Eurogamer

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