Schrodinger’s Last Guardian
Everyone on the staff noted its absence at E3 this year. It both exists AND doesn’t exist at the same time. The rocky road to completion for Sony’s Last Guardian has become a bit bumpier and harder to follow, after a pair of recently released news stories.
In short, Gamasutra reported earlier this month that Lead Developer Fumito Ueda, mastermind behind Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, had left behind his employment at Sony before completing the third chapter of his game trilogy. Then, last week, Gamestop cancelled preorders on Last Guardian, their automated service claiming that the game was cancelled.
Not so, says Sony, but what is in store for this long-awaited title? More details, but few answers, await…
Rumors began swirling about in November that Ueda, the mastermind behind Shadow of the Colossus, the real star of the film Reign Over Me, had left Sony. The status of his projects were unknown, as were any reasons for his departure. All game fans knew was that it could mean the end of the long-absent Last Guardian project.
Sony confirmed on the 14th, in the above-cited article that I’m going to assume you didn’t click on, that Ueda has indeed left the company. Ueda has been a part of Sony since 1997, and in the fourteen years he’s spent with the company, he has only released those two previously mentioned titles. The last six+ years of his employment have been spent developing Last Guardian, first seen back in 2009, and since kept behind shuttered doors. Despite this glacial movement on game projects, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus have been major hits for Sony, and their influence upon game design has been momentous. No statement has been made by Ueda as to the reasons for his departure.
Despite his leaving Sony in any official capacity, Ueda remains working on Last Guardian as a contracted worker. Sort of a freelance director. He has expressed his desire to see the project through to its completion and he and Sony both look forward to its release.
Despite the messages of goodwill coming from the creator and his bankrolling publisher, something seems to be amiss with Last Guardian, as Ueda is not the only creator to have jumped ship. Yoshifusa Hayama, the Executive Producer of Last Guardian, and Vice President of SCE, left the company to become the Creative Director of Bossa Studios, a fledgling social media company owned by News Corporation (the guys who own Fox). Hayama cited no creative differences with the company, or the game in particular, but rather stated he believed the future of gaming was in this direction, with a focus in online play, where he hoped to bring Facebook and other social media games to a visual level on par with current consoles.
The final odd occurrence came last week when Gamestop’s phone service put out an automated call to their customer base saying that the game had been cancelled, and their pre-orders were to be refunded. While the pre-orders were refunded, Sony denies that the game has been cancelled. Gamestop made a statement, explaining that the game’s release date had been removed, and marked ‘unknown’ in the database. When this happens, its company policy to refund all of the pre-orders, though they don’t have an ‘indefinite wait’ automation release. Sony and Gamestop both expressed their regrets that the premature cancellation announcement may have cost sales from gamers who either won’t realize when the title comes out, thinking it cancelled, or will chose to not pre-0rder a second time.
Regardless, all of these bad tidings can only signify that we’re nowhere near seeing the final product for Last Guardian. Fans of the series will have to hope that the torrent of ill news surrounding the title are just a series of poorly timed coincidences, and not signs of creative malaise, or even death, for the title.