The Last of Us Part II Latest COVID-19 Casualty, Delayed Indefinitely
There was a thread on Reddit a few days ago asking something along the lines of, “when did the pandemic become real to you.” For many gamers, today might be that day. It was barely a month ago that people were laughing at Sony for pulling out of PAX East amid growing concerns. Hell, I was at a PAX East meeting when we heard that GDC was canceled. Ever since, the tide of cancellations has been washing over us day after day. First, it was major conventions. Then smaller conventions. Then any kind of premier that might draw a crowd. Then all gatherings in general. With many businesses switching to the digital distribution/delivery model, many people assumed that the video game industry would be the one market not heavily hit by the pandemic. I mean, other than everyone having to work remotely and GameStop being 10 seconds away from lighting its stores on fire for the insurance money.
Today marks one of the first major AAA delays due to the COVID-19 epidemic. And it’s a doozy. In the statement above, Sony Interactive Entertainment has made the difficult call to put the long-awaited The Last of Us Part II on indefinite hold. That’s a huge blow. While this certainly doesn’t mean the game was cancelled, there’s no telling the kind of financial repercussions the delay could have. With no word as to when the new release will be, fans of the series are certainly feeling uneasy. In an attempt to assuage fans, developer Naughty Dog released this statement:
It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first delay The Last of Us Part II has seen. Originally slated to launch February 21st, it was announced back in October that the game would be pushed to May 29th. However, the previous delay was to polish up the game. Fans of the series can be easily sold on waiting a bit for a more polished product. This delay seems to be motivated by the financials (that’s what “logistics” is code for). Gamers, in general, tend to be less forgiving of financially motivated changes. I’m not personally the type of gamer to get upset over a company making a financial decision. But it will be interesting to see how the delay affects the overall hype for the project.
The bigger questions is if this will end up being a solid financial decision. With so many retail stores shutdown, it’s easy to see why any company would be hesitant to release a major title. Boxed retail copies still make up a significant portion of any game’s sales, especially AAA. However, we also have a large population of self-isolating people hungry for entertainment. In the era of digital distribution and Amazon deliveries, it’s never been easier to get games without having to leave your couch. With so many people switching to at-home entertainment delivery options, it will be interesting to see how many of these customers never go back to in-store purchases. It might be the case by the time The Last of Us Part II does release that consumer practices will have shifted substantially as a result of the pandemic. In that case, the lost hype from the delay might actually hurt the game’s sales more than the loss of retail copies. Only time will tell. All I know is that I’m sad about this one.