There is no doubt that a lot of aspects of our lives have changed rapidly over the past few months. With a major focus on social distancing and staying home except for essentials. It has changed how many of us have continued to consume our products. This is especially true when it comes to how we consume our entertainment. Many movies have been delayed for 6 months to a year, due to theater closures. While some studios have opted to release their movies to rent and own directly through services such as Google Play, Itunes, and more.
The games industry has also been majorly affected by the pandemic and social restrictions. Many studios have closed doors and begun working from home on the development process. While this has been a learning curve for many developers. The efforts of these studios to keep on working is quite admirable. However, this has also set back many studios in their roadmap towards launch. One of the most widely discussed of these delays was The Last of Us Part II.
The Delay Of The Last of Us Part II
Update: SIE has made the difficult decision to delay the launch of The Last of Us Part II and Marvel's Iron Man VR until further notice. Logistically, the global crisis is preventing us from providing the launch experience our players deserve.
— PlayStation (@PlayStation) April 2, 2020
Many people were certain after the delay of The Last of Us Part II from its February release date that would be the last delay for the game. However, this wouldn’t be the case. Sony had to delay the game indefinitely, not citing a new release date and refunding pre-orders for the game. Sony Interactive Entertainment cited that they had to delay the game due to not being able to provide a launch experience the players deserve. This statement whipped social media into a frenzy, which to be honest was not surprising. The Last of Us Part II is the most anticipated PlayStation title of this generation. It could even be argued that it is one of the most anticipated games of this entire generation.
In an update from the game’s developers Naughty Dog, they further explain why the game was delayed. Citing that it was important that every one of their fans got to experience the game around the same time. As we have seen with the launch Final Fantasy VII Remake, there is nothing worse then copies being released early or staggered. With some people getting their copies up to a week early, while others didn’t get their copies till over a week after launch. It was a nightmare for Square Enix, and it only makes sense that Naughty Dog and Sony would want to skip this sort of fiasco. Especially considering how big of a game The Last of Us Part II is for the PlayStation brand.
Why Not Release The Game Digitally?
Almost hours after this announcement, there began a wave of fans that began asking/demanding what they considered a simple task. Why not just release the game digitally and not worry about a physical release. Many games forgo a physical copy especially in the terms of Indie games. The cost of physically producing a game can be a massive undertaking. It is no secret that many publishers would love to release digital-only as the costs for the production of media would go down. With digital copies being a lot easier to release and control. This would also allow publishers to single-handedly kill the used game market. The used game market has long been a massive enemy to most major publishers.
With all of this being said, it seems like a no-brainer for Sony to release The Last of Us Part II. It saves them money, gets the game into the hands of fans. Then Sony can move its focus onwards to roll out the upcoming PlayStation 5. However, like many things within the industry it is never as simple as it seems. Many people seem to have focused solely on their own experience when vocalizing their desire for this digital-only release. Not everyone finds themselves in the same situation.
But The Digital Market Is Growing?
There has been plenty of data that shows gaming is moving more and more quickly to an all-digital future. Back in 2019, Sony revealed that a stunning 53% of their game sales worldwide came from their digital storefront. It is pretty well-known information that the UK market is predominantly digital. Even using myself as an example, during the last generation I owned almost 90% of my games physically. With the exception of some PS3 titles and the Xbox arcade titles that were not available physically. Now fast-forward to 2020, and outside of collectors editions, I don’t own any physical titles. For context though, I have access to data capless fiber wire internet, with my download speeds being close to almost a GB down.
While a digital future is inevitable at this point, there is no denying that. Most publishers would hugely benefit from it, and make better margins on their releases. However, with ISP’s lagging behind in many countries. It feels like it will be a long time before we truly see an all-digital future. While 53% of PlayStation’s games sales being digital is a massive number, there is still almost another half of the PlayStation market that does not purchase digitally. There is no way, that Sony would miss out on getting software purchases from over half of their PlayStation 4’s that they have sold.
World Wide Appeal Means World Wide Thought
PlayStation is a truly global brand. There are PlayStation 4 owners from North America, to South America and all the way to the Middle East. Gaming as a whole has grown across every part of the world. With this level of expansion, there are challenges that platforms face and that is delivering content to their consumers. In a normal scenario, physical copies and digital copies are plentiful and people from all over the world can access a game at launch.
However, if PlayStation launched The Last of Us Part II on digital services only, there is a large percentage of players who would not get to experience the game at launch. While internet access around the world is constantly growing, many regions simply lack the infrastructure for massive digital downloads. This can be caused by measly download speeds or very low data caps. There are even parts of the United States and Canada suffer from these restrictions.
Leaks, Leaks, Leaks
“What’s the big deal? Some people will have to wait”. It is an all too common sentiment that I have seen mentioned in the past few weeks. However, with the recent leak of key story points and gameplay. This gives people a little bit of an experience of what could happen if this game was released as a digital-only game. Social media has quickly thrown any respect for spoilers to the wind. Between live Tweeting Game of Thrones episodes, to even Final Fantasy VII Remake final boss battles being uploaded to Youtube prior to launch. We have seen it proven time and time again. If you let someone have access before someone else there is a massive chance that they will talk or post about it.
After the release of major plot spoilers and footage, many assumed Naughty Dog would simply release the game digitally. This simply is not how distribution whether physical or digital works. You do not simply flip a switch and the game magically is downloadable. Backend work is required, as well as developer work on patches and last-minute bug fixes that is no doubt happening all the way up till launch. An interesting fact that many have overlooked, is that we have never officially gotten an announcement of the gaming going gold. A game going gold is essentially meaning that the game is finished front to back, and a “master mix” of the game is being used to make physical copies.
All of these different issues and reasons combine to give you a somewhat full picture of why these fan demands were simply unreasonable. Millions of people are excited and anxiously awaiting the release of The Last of Us Part II, and as hard as the wait might be for fans, they won’t have much longer to wait.
While as a fan, I wish Sony could “just release” the game, especially considering the leaks. However, it could lead to a sizable portion of PlayStation owners who could not experience the game properly or at the same time. With the game’s new release date of June 19th, we won’t have to much longer to wait. As distribution begins to slide back into place, a complete and proper launch of The Last of Us Part II will hopefully meet fans’ expectations.