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Report: Sony’s relentless pursuit of blockbusters is stifling its developers

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Sony’s focus on blockbuster franchises and its star studios is causing unrest at the PlayStation maker. 

That’s according to a new report from Bloomberg, which details how Sony’s unwillingness to grant some of its internal studios more autonomy has created a morale-sapping hierarchy of favoritism within the company. 

It specifically highlights the plight of the Visual Arts Service Group (VASG) — a support studio within Sony that has worked on projects like Marvel’s Spider-Man and The Last of Us — who pushed for more creative control only to be kicked to the curb. 

Those involved told Bloomberg how the VASG sought to lead game direction and create its own projects, eventually leading its founder Michael Mumbauer to form a new development unit within Sony to remake some of the company’s most successful franchises. 

After initially pitching an Uncharted remake (which was knocked back over budgetary fears), the new studio was given the go ahead to remake The Last of Us for PlayStation 5. Yet, despite being handed the keys to a major franchise, Sony apparently refused to officially acknowledge the new team’s existence or provide the funding and support needed to credibly realize the project and make key hires. 

Eight people familiar with the operation recalled how the studio was never even granted its own name, and how Sony eventually allowed Naughty Dog to muscle in and take control of the project, snuffing out the team’s short-lived autonomy and relegating them once again to a supporting role.

The Last of Us remake — codenamed T1X — is reportedly still in production at Naughty Dog with support from the VASG, but Mumbauer and most of his disillusioned team’s key players had left Sony by the end of 2020.

The full report is well worth a read, and also touches on how Sony’s apparent creative tunnel vision has stifled Day’s Gone developer Bend Studio and the recently shuttered SIE Japan Studio.

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