Naughty Dog founder Jason Rubin credits the studio’s partnership with Sony as part of its success, suggesting The Last of Us and Uncharted might not have been made otherwise.
Naughty Dog is a studio with such a vibrant sense of identity that it can be easy to forget it is owned by Sony. Naughty Dog made the decision to sell the studio to Sony more than a decade ago after the working relationship between the two entities had been strengthened by the production of titles such as Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter. Now, years later, Naughty Dog is one of the premier video game studios in the world, and the recent announcement of The Last of Us 2 suggests that it won’t be slowing down any time soon.
According to Naughty Dog founder Jason Rubin, however, it appears that gamers owe a lot more to Sony for the production of games like The Last of Us and Uncharted than expected. According to Rubin, selling the studio to Sony “made sense” for a number of reasons, but one of the primary ones was simply because it was unlikely the studio could make games as memorable and hotly debated as Naughty Dog is renowned for otherwise:
“It was the right decision for Naughty Dog. Look where Naughty Dog is today. As an independent, I don’t think Naughty Dog could have done that…I don’t think you’d have these games.”
Although Rubin doesn’t reference them directly during the interview, which was conducted by IGN, he’s almost certainly referring to The Last of Us and the Uncharted series of games, which were all made after Sony acquired the studio in 2006. While Naughty Dog likely had plans for Uncharted prior to the partnership, Sony’s considerable financial backing made the game so cinematic that the Uncharted series is now getting a movie – or, at the very least, it’s stuck in production hell, which is presumably better than never being considered at all.
Rubin’s comments are particularly interesting given the landscape of video games in 2016. A decade after Naughty Dog sold to Sony, indie studios have seen greater success than ever before, with games like Inside, Furi, and The Witness all making big splashes in the past year alone. Even if Naughty Dog could have gone it alone, however, Rubin indicated in the interview that the studio has no regrets about its decision:
“Sony has been incredible to Naughty Dog, always giving them the assets that they need to compete…most people don’t realize but quite often a game is won because a game got more budget.”
That budget is also a big reason why, even early in development, Naughty Dog can afford to have a writer from the critically-acclaimed Westworld join The Last of Us 2 story team. While it was never in any doubt that Naughty Dog’s decision to sell to Sony made sense financially, the fact that it made sense from a relationship standpoint as well makes it one of the more cheery instances of video game studio purchases in history, and millions of gamers are thankful for the way it all played out.