Why The Last of Us 2 delay is the best news for you and (hopefully) Naughty Dog

The Last of Us 2 delay wasn’t hard to see coming. Everyone is trying to adjust to a radically different work environment and way of life and because of this screeching halt to our culture, games releasing in the next few months (and possibly further out) are naturally going to have a hard time hitting their dates. Naughty Dog’s highly anticipated sequel was directly in the blast radius, unlike games like Doom Eternal, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and the Resident Evil 3 remake, which were all probably too far in development to truly feel the effects of this new world. And while The Last of Us 2 would likely serve as a distraction for many during these times, its delay is not actually terrible news and is possibly the best choice Sony could have made.

Viewed purely through the scope of video games, these last few months have been an incredibly busy time as new hits have come out on a near-weekly basis. Dreams, Nioh 2, Doom Eternal, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, and Control‘s Foundation DLC have all graced us in the past few months in addition to wonderful remasters or re-releases like the Bayonetta and Vanquish 10th Anniversary Bundle, Modern Warfare 2 campaign, Persona 5 Royal, and the oft-forgotten Doom 64. And we’re also right on the cusp of the Resident Evil 3 remake and Final Fantasy 7 Remake (or, in some places, you already have the latter).

ALSO: Resident Evil 3 Remake Review | Seeing S.T.A.R.S.

Every single one of these titles — and FF7 Remake if previews are anything to go by — are fantastic experiences that few have probably completely exhausted. Most people’s backlog from 2020 release games alone is probably going to last for quite some time and will easily extend into the summer, even if we’re all still cooped up inside. There’s just too much to play right now so pushing The Last of Us 2 will give everyone more time to catch up.

The bigger picture

coronavirus

But zooming out and going outside of purely playing the game is more interesting because of the elements at play. While the Resident Evil 3 remake may be able to somewhat dodge this notion, it’s going to hard for some people to want to play a game where a fungus killed many, many people after spreading around like a virus. Video games are usually escapist fantasies, but that’s not as true when there’s a real pandemic happening right now.

Ellie might not be hoarding toilet paper yet that same hopelessness, dread, and the fear of getting infected are too heavy in our real lives right now to be something that some people also want in their entertainment. Of course, some will be able to get lost in The Last of Us 2 regardless, but that number is going to be lower than it would be some other time. While maybe not the most pressing reason to delay the game, it’s a coincidental silver lining.

Addressing the giraffe in the room

Why The Last of Us 2 delay is the best news for you and (hopefully) Naughty Dog

The biggest silver lining for this delay is how it could help Naughty Dog ease some of its abhorrent crunch culture. The famous studio is notorious for its long, heavy work periods where its staff slaves away for a ridiculous amount of hours each day to make sure each game has that Naughty Dog Style™. It would be simple to assume that more time would let them relax, but it isn’t as clear cut as that.

Kotaku’s report on crunch revealed that the opposite is usually true: delays often lead to heavier (or just as heavy) crunch periods. Pushing the game leads to those tiresome hours being elongated over several more months instead of slowing down and spreading those hours over a longer span of time. But as Kotaku’s Jason Schreier reported, this delay might actually be different.

The Last of Us 2, according to his sources (and hinted at in Naughty Dog’s tweet on the subject), stated that the game was basically done and on track for its previous May 29 release date. Crunch didn’t dissipate since they all started working from home, but it was smoothly headed to its goal nonetheless. However, the reality of printing the physical copies of the game was the biggest reason for pushing it back. It appears that Sony couldn’t get the necessary amount of discs out in time or didn’t want to run into other production-related issues as producing and shipping products has gotten more arduous.

Putting it out as a digital exclusive wouldn’t have solved things either. It would not only hurt the publisher’s relationship with retailers, but it also would have punished people who prefer discs and digital owners rushing to Sony’s slowed down servers to download the game. The combination of it being an anticipated sequel with a huge download size on a slow network that also would have alienated some players has a lot of potential to go poorly and likely was another reason to move the game to another date.

Since unforeseen technical issues don’t seem to be the main factor, it seems reasonable that the team can slow down just a bit and hack away at those egregious work hours. That sort of work-life balance is something the team needs to address as, no matter how good these games are, they’re not worth the blood that it takes to create them. It’s just not sustainable and puts too much suffering into the creation process of something that is ultimately not that important in the grand scheme of things. People — especially now — are more important and hopefully this spurs some sort of change within the developer’s culture and ends up being a wake-up call.

The Last of Us 2 sounds like it could have hit its May 29 date yet it’s still great that Sony decided to delay it. The overwhelming deluge of games is enough to keep players busy for quite some time, but it also has bigger implications that made now not the right time for Naughty Dog’s highly anticipated sequel. Its tone does hit a little close to home right now and it also potentially gives Naughty Dog a chance to breathe. These are unprecedented reasons to excuse a game’s delay, but also very humanizing ones, too. And during these times, they’re also the perfect reasons to kick the can (or bottle, in this case) down the road.