I was recently replaying the Uncharted collection and I got to wondering why a studio/publisher would ever stop working on a successful franchise. Uncharted sold 4, 7, 6 (+5 for the legacy collection) million for the first 3 installments, then 15 million for the 4th. What data could they use to just drop the franchise (movie performance notwithstanding)?

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When the studio leadership has a stellar record and wants to work on something else, publishing executives usually let them. Uncharted was a very successful franchise, but it wasn’t Naughty Dog’s first game franchise or first major franchise success. Naughty Dog was responsible for both Crash Bandicoot and the Jak & Daxter series before Uncharted, as well as the Last of Us games that ND built while working on Uncharted. If ND wants to build something else that’s cool and the pitch isn’t insane, Sony is very likely to let them do what they want since they keep delivering great games.

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The last thing Sony wants is to push too many of ND’s developers to jump ship because they get tired of working on the same franchise over and over. It’s normal for some studios to keep working on the same thing year in and year out, but creatives like game developers will eventually want to stretch their creative muscles beyond the things they’ve always been good at. If the publishers refuse to let them, it can hurt morale and drive out the veterans who have been there the longest and have accumulated the most franchise fatigue. That’s really bad since they’re also the ones with all the accumulated tribal knowledge of the franchise and its systems.

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Uncharted is too valuable a franchise to leave fallow even if Naughty Dog leadership doesn’t want to continue working on it. What is likely to happen (or may already be happening) is that Sony is probably looking for a new studio to take up the mantle of developing the Uncharted franchise under some of Naughty Dog’s senior leadership supervision in order to maintain a strong level of quality while the rest of ND works on whatever it is they want to build next. This is what Sony and ND did for Uncharted: Golden Abyss, which was built by Sony’s Bend studio with ND supervision.

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