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Why Sony Won't Release Uncharted 5 Yet

You would think that a fourth sequel to the original Uncharted would be something of a certainty. From the moment Uncharted: Drake's Fortune blew onto the scene in 2007, Sony knew they had a hit on their hands. Since then it has gone on to become one of the most revered series in gaming, achieving massive critical acclaim for its action-packed set pieces and well-crafted narratives.

To date, the series has sold a staggering 41 million copies, with over 13 million of those being shifted in the last year and a half alone – that's over three-quarters of a million copies every month. Clearly then, the franchise still has incredible draw and it would be madness on Sony's part not to capitalize on that. They should commission a new game, and commission it quickly. Right?

Well, as it turns out, there's actually several things to consider before they can even think about releasing a new Uncharted game, if they ever release one at all (which we certainly hope that they do). Here then, are a few of the obstacles that are currently preventing us from gearing up for one more rip-roaring treasure hunt.

Uncharted 4 wrapped things up pretty tightly

For those of you that have yet to finish developer Naughty Dog's magnum opus, I'll keep this part as spoiler free as possible. Suffice to say, by the time the credits roll in Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, we're pretty clear that Nathan Drake's time is up. The clue is in the title.

What this means for any potential sequel is that creating it is going to take a lot longer than it otherwise might – before the writers even put their pen on the storyboard for Uncharted 5, they'll need to have cooked up brand new plan for brand new characters. Although seemingly not wanting to waste any time (and irrespective of Nolan North's heartfelt goodbye to his character still ringing in our ears), this is an avenue Naughty Dog have already begun to explore with the Uncharted 4 DLC, The Lost Legacy, which is distinctly lacking in Nathan Drake. Or any men at all, for that matter.

Naughty Dog have a habit of ending on a high

Even if Naughty Dog hadn't handed Nathan Drake his retirement papers and a gold watch, it seems unlikely that they'd have continued his story anyway. In fact, Naughty Dog seem to have such of a habit of bowing out of franchises at their peak that one wonders if we may even see a fifth Uncharted game at all.

After a couple of solid Amiga games, Naughty Dog burst on the scene proper when, in 1996, they released Crash Bandicoot on the original PlayStation. A critical and commercial success, each numbered entry in the franchise saw both their sales and acclaim grow. IGN called Crash 3: Warped the best platformer since the previous Crash Bandicoot. After that, development moved to a series of third-party companies, and quality began to decline.

Then there's Jak and Daxter, which followed almost exactly the same trajectory in the years following. Fans have been crying out for the next installment of the anthropomorphic platformer for a long time now, but Naughty Dog maintain it just won't happen.

Neil Druckmann is an auteur

Some designers are just as well known for their involvement in the games they're making as much as the games themselves. They like to take full control and oversee every aspect of production, oftentimes taking it upon themselves to act as a spokesperson for the company. Ken Levine, Peter Molyneux, David Cage, Hideo Kojima ... we all know which titles they had a stake in, and – for better or worse – we all know why.

We can now add Druckmann to the list. His writing for apocalyptic fungus-nightmare The Last of Us earned him a BAFTA in 2015, and in 2017 he won Outstanding Achievement in Videogame Writing at the Writers Guild of America awards. His impact at the company can't be overstated – and clearly the people in charge agree, as he's recently been appointed Naughty Dog's new Vice President.

If Uncharted 5 were to happen, it would simply need to meet the high standards Druckmann has set for himself, and that kind of process doesn't happen quickly.

Naughty Dog's distressing departures

Not everyone at Naughty Dog stuck around for a promotion, however. The last year has also seen some key losses from the company, such co-president Christophe Balestra, a 15-year veteran of the company, and more recently, Uncharted 4 and The Last of Us co-director Bruce Straley.

Straley asserts in his farewell blog post that he leaves "Naughty Dog with the strongest team it's ever had", but with him having been at the helm of the two most highly rated games in their catalogue, you can't help but feel that the road to Uncharted 5 may now have a few more bumps in it.

And it doesn't end there. Presumably, one of those 'strong team members' was The Lost Legacy DLC director Shaun Escayg who unfortunately, in January, also announced his departure from the company. It remains to be seen whether anyone else will part ways with the company this year, but fingers crossed they don't, lest those bumps in the road turn to potholes.

Sony's Uncharted film

What would a highly anticipated follow-up to one of the best video games of the year be without a movie tie-in? Well, a lot better probably, but Sony would certainly want to capitalize on the buzz surrounding both.

Ignoring the fact that films about games are notoriously pretty bad, that doesn't stop these flicks from raking in huge sums of money. With a game as prestigious as Uncharted, it can surely be relied upon to make more cash than an obsolete arcade game about a giant monkey. As a point of comparison, the recent Tomb Raider reboot – a series to which Uncharted owes more than a tip of the hat – has taken home over $260 million from the box office so far.

Timing the film and game to release together would make sense for Sony, amplifying awareness for their franchise in two separate markets simultaneously. However, they still don't have much to announce regarding Uncharted's celluloid counterpart, other than the involvement of Shawn Levy – a director with an extremely mixed bag of previous work – and a young Nathan Drake in Tom Holland. It could be a while yet.

The Last of Us Part II is Naughty Dog's current focus

In some ways Naughty Dog are their own competition, with The Last of Us being another massive Sony exclusive catering to the narrative-games-as-good-as-HBO-box-sets portion of the market. Despite the bleaker, more adult tone, The Last of Us shone through with everything that made Uncharted great: the well-told story, the authentic dialogue, and the frantic set-pieces.

Sure enough, it became the best-selling PlayStation 3 game of 2013, which is particularly impressive for a new IP, and everyone knew a sequel would be in the works before the credits even rolled.

Announced during Sony's 2016 PlayStation Experience, The Last of Us Part II still doesn't even have a release date yet. Now, it seems unlikely that Naughty Dog would want to divide their manpower for the sake of starting work on another game simultaneously – particularly one that would do nothing but take attention from the thing they were already making. So, unfortunately, the only aspect we can really be sure about is that while they are focused on this, Uncharted 5 will be sitting on the back-burner.

The multiplayer dilemma

One of the surprise achievements of Uncharted 4 was its multiplayer element. Unlike many of the tacked-on multiplayer components of most story-driven single-player experiences, Uncharted 4's PvP stood out by the virtue of simply not sucking. In fact, it was actually rather good – and solidified the place of multiplayer in any future Naughty Dog games.

But now, with Battle Royale modes being the hot new trend of the online world, and upcoming games such as Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 and Battlefield V including them, Sony and the developers have a tough choice on their hands: refine the tried and true formula they have already offered us, or jump on the competitive bandwagon.

A risk that could certainly pay off, and one that could definitely be made to fit the treasure-tracking theme of the main game – but also one that could easily hamper development in terms of both the time and costs of creating such a feature, being such a radical departure from the 5v5 matches the engine is currently capable of handling.

Sony's exclusives pipeline

Even if Uncharted 5 were confirmed tomorrow, it would still have to get in line. Sony has currently got Microsoft on the ropes both in terms of the quality and sheer quantity of system exclusives waiting in the wings, and they show absolutely no sign of backing down.

For instance, the fourth God of War installment released to near perfect scores across the board. As if that alone were not enough, the exclusives library that Sony still has ready to bang the door down includes multiple sure fire hits such as web-shooting simulator Spider-Man, mildly-oversized-weapon brawler Dissidia: Final Fantasy NT, Sons of Anarchy meets World War Z scare-'em-up Days Gone, David Cage's latest interactive film Detroit: Being Human, horror tropes love letter The Inpatient (a prequel to sleeper hit Until Dawn), and bonkers Japanese crime encourager Yakuza 6, to name a few. By the time its Uncharted's turn again, Sony and our wallets will not be on good terms.

Uncharted 5 could be a launch title for the PlayStation 5

The PlayStation 5 probably isn't that far off. A new, more powerful, console opens up a whole raft of possibilities for the Uncharted franchise in terms of mechanics, but these kinds of technical leaps can be expensive and hard to master. It's no secret that Naughty Dog likes to be on the cutting edge of visual fidelity, and upgraded console hardware nor not, we're sure to see them employing the latest graphical advancements in a new Uncharted game.

Talk has already begun to circulate that Sony's new home console is in the works as a response to Microsoft's brutally powerful Xbox One X, with some rumors going so far as to suggest that dev kits for the machine have already been sent out to developers to play with. It's a juicy prospect indeed, but unfortunately one where the dreaded "wait and see" approach is the only way of knowing for sure.

Ultimately, whether Uncharted 5 is revealed in five months time, or five years, we can be fairly confident we'll be seeing a new game at some point. And based on the legacy of the previous entries, however long it takes, it won't be soon enough.