Naughty Dog says its Last of Us multiplayer game needs more time in the oven

One of the most notable omissions from this week’s PlayStation Showcase was anything from Naughty Dog. Many (including yours truly) expected the studio to reveal more details about its Last of Us multiplayer game, but we’ll need to wait a little longer to learn more about that title.

In a statement posted on Twitter, Naughty Dog said “we’re incredibly proud of the job our studio has done thus far, but as development has continued, we’ve realized what is best for the game is to give it more time.” As such, it now seems unlikely that we’ll hear much about the game during Summer Game Fest (where Naughty Dog offered a first peek at concept art from the project last year) on June 8th or on June 14th, which is the 10th anniversary of The Last Of Us arriving on PS3. 

In a blog post in January, studio co-president and The Last of Us co-creator Neil Druckmann said the studio would “begin to offer you some details on our ambitious The Last of Us multiplayer game” sometime this year. That suggests the studio wasn’t planning to release the title in 2023. In any case, it’s probably a good thing that Naughty Dog is taking its time to get things right. The studio won’t want to be in a position where it’s releasing a game that definitely could have used more time in the oven, as was the case with the buggy debut of The Last of Us Part 1 on PC.

Shortly after Naughty Dog released its statement on Twitter, Bloomberg published a report citing multiple unnamed sources who said the studio is reconsidering the viability of the multiplayer project. The report claims that the project has not been cancelled, but many of the developers working on it have been reassigned to other projects. Currently, a “small group” remains on the project as Naughty Dog evaluates what comes next.

Sony also reportedly asked another of its studies, Bungie, to evaluate the work that Naughty Dog had done on its unnamed Last of Us multiplayer game. Bungie apparently said it had doubts about whether the game could keep players engaged over a long period of time. Given Bungie’s success at that with the Destiny franchise, it makes some sense that the studio was called in for an opinion, though it’s also fair to say Destiny and The Last of Us are wildly different games. 

On a positive note, Naughty Dog says it has other games (plural) in development, “including a brand new single-player experience.” It’s been known for a while that the studio had at least one other game in the works, but it’s not clear whether this single-player title will continue the main story of The Last of Us. Naughty Dog said it looks forward to “sharing more soon.”

“I know the fans really want Last of Us Part 3. I hear about it all of the time and all I can say is that we’re already into our next project, so the decision has already been made,” Druckmann toldKinda Funny in March. “I can’t say what it is, but that’s the process we went through, that there was a lot of consideration of different things, and we picked the thing we were most excited for.”

Update, May 26th 2023, 4:20PM ET: This story has been updated to include details about a report just published by Bloomberg on the future of the multiplayer game.

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MoviePass relaunches nationwide with a new pricing model

MoviePass has been gearing up for a wide relaunch since 2022 when it started beta testing a new subscription format in several cities, and now it’s here. Introducing MoviePass 2.0, or 3.0 depending on who you ask. The phoenix has risen from the ashes t…

YouTube Stories are going away on June 26th

YouTube creators can wave goodbye to Stories, as the service is killing off its version of the feature. Starting on June 26th, it’ll no longer be possible to create a new YouTube Story. Any Stories you post before that date will vanish seven days after they’re uploaded.

YouTube first said in late 2017 that it was testing the format (funnily enough, YouTube Stories were originally called “reels”). The platform changed the name and it started rolling out the feature more broadly the following year.

We’ve seen many social platforms incorporate a Story feature over the last several years after Snapchat popularized the format, most notably Instagram. As with Twitter and LinkedIn, though, YouTube is ditching its take on the feature.

In truth, YouTube probably doesn’t need both Stories and its TikTok-style Shorts, which aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. The service also noted creators can use Community posts to share quick updates with their audiences. YouTube said that, among creators who use “posts and Stories, posts on average drive many times more comments and likes compared to Stories.”

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Get three months of the Paramount+/Showtime bundle for $18

The big streaming story this week is the confusing launch of Warner Bros.’ Max service, but the artist formerly known as HBO is not the only game in town. Paramount+ has been steadily gaining subscribers, thanks in part to a unique bundle that also includes cable stalwart Showtime. This combination platter typically costs $12 per month, but a new promo halves that price for new subscribers.

In other words, you get a full Paramount+ Premium subscription with Showtime for just $6 per month, though this discount vanishes into thin air after three months. The company is hoping you’ll keep the bundle after that, as the combined might of the two streaming services offers a whole lot of content.

Paramount+ is home to all things Star Trek, including the second season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds that premieres on June 15th. It also airs next-day CBS content, live news, plenty of sports, and original dramas that aren’t set in space, like Sylvester Stallone’s Tulsa King and that weird Fatal Attraction reboot. The service also hosts a bunch of hit movies not based on comic books, like Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves and Top Gun: Maverick.

Showtime may not have the content stable of main rival HBO, but it does have plenty of standout shows like Yellowjackets, Twin Peaks: The Return, Billions and Dexter, in addition to recent theatrical hits like The Fabelmans and Everything Everywhere at Once. The deal is live right now and lasts until June 4th.

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Bungie revives ‘Marathon’ as a multiplayer shooter

What do you think Bungie would do for its first non-Destiny game in over a decade? A return to the franchise that helped make it a gaming giant, of course. The developer has unveiledMarathon, a follow-up to the classic first-person shooter series for Macs. This isn’t a sequel or remake, mind you. Instead, it’s a multiplayer “extraction shooter” that has mercenary Runners exploring a lost colony.

While there’s no single-player component, game director Chris Barrett says this will still “feel” like a Bungie game between the mechanics and rich universe. Player actions will also influence the plot — you might find an artifact that unlocks an area for all players. There are persistent zones and seasons, although we wouldn’t expect a repeat of similar elements in Destiny.

Marathon is in development for PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X/S. While there isn’t much more to share at this point, Bungie says the next update will be “much closer to launch” and include gameplay. It’s safe to say there’s a lot riding on this title. It’s proof that Bungie isn’t content to iterate on Destiny forever, and will show what the company can do with a multiplayer-only experience. And for old-time fans, this is a chance to return to a beloved franchise 27 years later.

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‘Neva’ is the next gorgeous-looking game from ‘Gris’ developer Nomada Studio

Gris developer Nomada Studio revealed its next game during today’s PlayStation Showcase. It’s called Neva and it’s scheduled to hit the PS5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X/S and PC in 2024.

The game tells the story of a young woman who forges a bond with a wolf cub that grows and matures over time. The pair will help each other on a journey through a decaying world. Neva features platforming, puzzles and combat, along with handcrafted cinematics, “haunting music” and a minimalist user interface. Based on the trailer and Nomada’s track record, it should be a feast for the eyes too. 

In the meantime, you can check out Gris (one of the most visually arresting games of the last few years) on a number of platforms, including Apple Arcade.

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Hasbro’s augmented reality ‘Twister’ lets you play by yourself

You know about Twister. The famous party game asks 2-3 players to balance their limbs on a series of colored dots, dictated by an increasingly absurd set of instructions. Right hand red. Left foot green. Repeat until multiple people fall on the floor i…

Universal Music Group partners with Endel for AI-generated wellness soundscapes

Universal Music Group (UMG) is partnering with Endel, an “AI sound wellness company” specializing in personalized algorithmic soundscapes, the companies announced today. The partnership aims to let UMG artists create machine-learning-generated sounds f…

Comcast launches $20 live TV streaming service with 60 channels

Comcast is launching a live TV streaming service to rival Sling, FuboTV, YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV and all the rest. It’s called Now TV and it has something competitors lack, an extremely attractive price tag. Now TV includes 60 live channels and a Pe…

US Surgeon General says social media can pose ‘a profound risk’ to teens’ mental health

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has stated in an advisory that “we cannot conclude social media is sufficiently safe for children and adolescents.” Murthy argued that the potential harms of social media outweigh the benefits for younger users.

Citing “a substantial review of the available evidence” on the impact of social media, the advisory says “there are ample indicators” it can “have a profound risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.” It states that, according to Pew Research, as much as 95 percent of US teens aged 13 to 17 use social media while 19 percent said they were on YouTube “almost constantly.”

“Children and adolescents who spend more than 3 hours a day on social media face double the risk of mental health problems including experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety,” the advisory reads. “This is concerning as a recent survey showed that teenagers spend an average of 3.5 hours a day on social media.”

The advisory calls on tech companies to take “immediate action to mitigate unintended negative effects” of online interactions. It also asks lawmakers to “strengthen protections to ensure greater safety for children and adolescents interacting with all social media platforms.”

However, some evidence suggests that social media can be a net benefit for teens. According to a recent Pew Research study, most say they’re more connected to their friends through social media. The study indicated that a majority of 13 to 17-year-olds in the US felt that social media provided them with a space to express their creativity, find support and feel more accepted.

Murthy acknowledged that social media can provide benefits to younger users. However, he has been sounding the alarm bell about youth and teen use of such services for some time.

In January, he told CNN that 13 was “too early” for young people to be on social media (companies in that space typically don’t allow under 13s to use their services without consent from a parent or guardian). “If parents can band together and say you know, as a group, we’re not going to allow our kids to use social media until 16 or 17 or 18 or whatever age they choose, that’s a much more effective strategy in making sure your kids don’t get exposed to harm early,” Murthy told the broadcaster.

There have certainly been well-documented instances of social media negatively impacting teens’ mental health. Still, the advisory is being published at a time when there is a growing appetite among lawmakers for regulating teen use of social media. 

A bill was introduced to the Senate last month that aims to block teens from using social media without parental consent (Utah and Arkansas have both passed statewide legislation on that front). A separate Senate bill called the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) aims to force social media companies to add more protections for younger users. The bill was reintroduced after it failed to reach the Senate floor last year.

Critics say such legislation can infringe on the right to privacy and freedom of speech, among other concerns. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, among others, has argued that social media parental consent laws deprive both young people and adults of their First Amendment rights. As for KOSA, American Civil Liberties Union senior policy counsel Cody Venzke said the bill’s “core approach still threatens the privacy, security and free expression of both minors and adults by deputizing platforms of all stripes to police their users and censor their content under the guise of a ‘duty of care.’” 

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