[NOTE: The following news post will contain MAJOR SPOILERS for The Last of Us.]
One of the most talked-about titles of 2013, interest in The Last of Us has remained high – months after release. Last week (at the time of this writing), fans were treated to the short but sweet DLC, “Left Behind” – a prequel story that followed Ellie and her best friend Riley long before the core Last of Us campaign narrative. The add-on was a welcome return to Naughty Dog‘s post-apocalyptic world but with nothing but one more multiplayer DLC pack in the pipeline, Sony gamers have been eager for confirmation that the studio would, eventually, develop a Last of Us sequel.
Despite solid sales numbers and critical acclaim, The Last of Us 2 (or a non-Joel and Ellie spinoff) isn’t guaranteed – due to the studio’s priority for quality storytelling (over easy profits). In fact, according to The Last of Us creative director, Neil Druckmann, there’s only a 50/50 chance that Naughty Dog will ever revisit the budding franchise.
Responding to Naughty Dog fans in a Reddit AMA (ask me anything), Druckmann delivered the controversial news. Answering the question, “How good are the chances of us entering the world of The Last of Us again?” Druckmann stated:
“If you’re asking about a sequel … right now I’d say it’s 50/50.”
Those odds shouldn’t come as a total shock, given that two weeks back, he revealed that the studio was brainstorming ideas for both a Last of Us sequel as well as a new IP.
“We have started brainstorming some stuff. To be honest, some of them are sequel ideas, and some of them are brand new IP — we’ve spent the last few weeks brainstorming new IP. So we have to get some good steps and see… It’s kind of like how we approached Left Behind. Can we tell people a story that’s really worth telling, and that’s not repeating itself? And if we can’t, where can we get inspired — what is something that’s really going to challenge us, and push storytelling in this medium forward?”
Based on Druckmann’s prior comment, it sounds as though the story (and game) that is most exciting to the team will get the green light. After all, the mature subject matter and literary tone featured in The Last of Us narrative won’t be easy to reproduce without a clear direction for how the story (and gameplay) can evolve – and it would be a shame if Naughty Dog forced out a sequel that undercut the impact of Joel and Ellie’s original story. In the past, Druckmann even suggested, in speaking with the PlayStation Blog, that while Joel and Ellie would live-on beyond The Last of Us story, their journey had come to a satisfying end:
“I think the world is ripe for more stories, but as far as the journey Joel and Ellie go on it ends with this game. We were very conscious that we didn’t want to leave this story dangling. If we never do a sequel we’re okay with it, because we told the story we needed to tell.”
Still, even if the we never get a Last of Us sequel, fans shouldn’t expect Joel and Ellie to disappear entirely – because Druckmann would love to see the characters make the jump to another medium:
“I miss them [Joel and Ellie] dearly. I’d love to see them again–maybe in a different medium? We’ll see.”
Gamers who have been following Last of Us news should make the connection that Druckmann is likely talking about a movie – especially since Sony is rumored to be in the early stages of development on a film adaptation. Yet, the very fact that the publisher is planning a potential big screen retelling for Joel and Ellie would, without question, add pressure on Naughty Dog to expand The Last of Us series beyond a single game. Given that a Last of Us movie won’t be out for several years (at least), it’s hard to imagine that Sony would pass on the chance to direct increased branding awareness among moviegoers back toward the game division – meaning that a movie release would be the perfect time for a fresh next-gen Last of Us game to hit the market. Sony did register sequel domains – though they could just be covering their bases.
Since a film hasn’t even been announced (and may never be produced), there’s still reason to believe we’ll never see a Last of Us sequel – especially if the developer’s new IP is even more successful than their last. Yet, would Naughty Dog really give up on The Last of Us entirely? Despite Druckmann’s current estimation of a 50/50 chance, it’s hard to imagine we’ll never get a sequel (or at the very least a spinoff without either Ellie or Joel).
Nevertheless, what could Druckmann have in mind for a future Last of Us installment?:
“There are clickers as big as buildings. Also you have lots of new gadgets and weapons (more lasers!). Oh and Ellie can now control the infected with her new powers. We’d also probably dive into the government conspiracy of creating a secret weapon that broke loose and that’s how the outbreak started. There’s probably a shadowy secret agency in all this that you find out Joel has been a member of this whole time (that’s why he came home late in the prologue!)”
Given the grounded approach to The Last of Us (this isn’t the Dead Rising series after all), the director is clearly teasing fans with such an over-the-top response – one that draws heavily from cliches of the zombie genre.
As a result, whether there’s actually a 50/50 chance we’ll see a Last of Us sequel (or not), there’s one thing we can be 100% sure of right now – whatever Naughty Dog is planning, Druckmann is not yet ready to offer concrete details.
The Last of Us is available now exclusively on PS3.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick.