(Bloomberg) -- Sony Group Corp. has slowed down development on an upcoming multiplayer game in its long-running The Last of Us video game series as the creators reassess its quality and long-term viability, according to four people familiar with the project.

The team working on the game was scaled back after a recent evaluation, said the people, who asked not to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. A small group remains on the project while the company reevaluates the direction. While the game has not been canceled, many of its developers have been moved to other projects.

Following requests for comment from Bloomberg News, Naughty Dog, the Sony subsidiary working on the project, put out a statement on Twitter saying that “we’ve realized what’s best for the game is to give it more time.”

The Last of Us  franchise began as a video game in 2013, and the various releases have sold more than 37 million units as of December, according to Sony. It has since grown into a larger cultural phenomenon thanks to HBO's TV adaptation, which became one of this year’s biggest hits. The show, which tells emotional stories about humans surviving in a post-apocalyptic world, posted strong viewership numbers. 

Naughty Dog has been developing the multiplayer title for at least four years. It started as a complementary mode to The Last of Us: Part II, the single-player game released in 2020, but the creators grew ambitious and decided to make it into its own game, Naughty Dog said.

Sony has invested heavily in “games as a service,” or video games designed to be monetized beyond their initial sales through ongoing purchases. As part of that push it asked another of its video-game studios, Seattle-based Bungie, to evaluate the games across its portfolio. Bungie raised questions about the The Last of Us multiplayer project’s ability to keep players engaged for a long period of time, which led to the reassessment.

Single and multiplayer games generally require different skillsets to develop. Although Naughty Dog has found some success with multiplayer modes in some of its titles, the company is primarily known for developing single-player hits. Still, fans were excited for the project and raised questions after it was not present at a PlayStation video game showcase this week.

In the statement, Naughty Dog said it will continue to work on this multiplayer project as well as other games “including a brand new single-player experience.” 

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