Game developer outfit Naughty Dog hit a bump in the road with the recent announcement that they’d be delaying the highly anticipated follow-up game to their near-perfect 2013 hit, The Last of Us. Then, over the weekend, the wheels just about came off when a supposedly disgruntled employee uploaded tons of major spoiler content for the sequel in a sizable leak that was definitely not okay’d by the studio. Now, Sony’s Santa Monica-based subsidiary–who are also the team behind Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter, and Uncharted–are facing not just a PR crisis but fan backlash on both sides of a widening divide.
While the offending videos uploaded to YouTube have been taken down in the hours since they appeared, the Internet has done its thing and preserved most if not all of them, capturing what’s reported to be just about the entirety of The Last of Us Part 2‘s plot. As Polygon reported, those clips showed major characters’ full story arcs, story progression reveals that occur level by level, and what may be either the definitive or one possible ending of the game, all of which appear to be as recent as February, March, or even April of this year. That ending, which some curious gamers have already peeked at, was destined to be a controversial one even without all the drama from the leaks; it’s already got fans questioning whether they even want to buy the game at all or if they’d rather cancel their pre-order now that they know where TLoS2 is headed. But there’s a bigger problem brewing than plot spoilers.
As both Polygon and Forbes‘ Paul Tassi state, the reportedly intense and unsustainable working conditions at Naughty Dog are in part to blame for the insider decided to leak TLoU2 info. The leaker’s status hasn’t been confirmed, but reports of “The Crunch” pushing workers to the breaking point have been around for a while now. That’s no excuse for an employee undermining and undercutting the hard work of hundreds to thousands of fellow workers, but at the same time, whistleblowers are necessary in systems that take advantage of those said-same workers. (Does every character in your game really need a unique heartbeat if it means giving your employees tachycardia?)
Many of the fans who were already divided over the state of the leak and the spoilers revealed therein quickly turned to personal attacks on Naughty Dog’s VP and creative lead for The Last of Us franchise Neil Druckmann; some defended the studio and its employees, some attacked the game and while others attacked the leaker, and some trolls who love messy drama mucked it up in the middleground by attacking both sides indiscriminately. So, ya know, another day on the internet.
However, neither Naughty Dog, Druckmann, nor Sony have responded to the leak (other than to quietly take down the offending videos), and they haven’t updated fans as to the state of the game and its release. Mum’s the word for now. Stay tuned to see how the powers that be decided to address this PR nightmare, if and when they opt to do so.
Update: Surprise, surprise! To flip the script on negative PR, “amidst some disruptions to [their] working styles”, PlayStation has announced that The Last of Us Part 2 will now arrive on June 19, 2020. (Additionally, Ghost of Tsushima will follow on July 17, 2020.)
Here’s what Hermen Hulst,
I want to personally congratulate and thank both the teams at Naughty Dog and Sucker Punch Productions on their achievements, as we know it’s not an easy feat to reach the finish line under these circumstances. Both teams have worked hard to deliver world-class experiences, and we can’t wait to see what you think of them when they release in just a few short months.
And finally, I want to thank the PlayStation Community for their continuous support and patience.