“No One Outside of Naughty Dog Tells Naughty Dog What to Do;” Is this the Secret of ND’s Success?

A few days ago The Last of Us Creative Director Neil Druckmann revealed during an AMA on Reddit that Sony is giving the studio full freedom in deciding whether to shoot for a sequel of the game or to move on to a completely new IP, but apparently, as Druckmann himself told Wired in an interview, there’s more to the pretty peculiar relationship between the Japanese publisher and the prominent first party studio. Naughty Dog has complete freedom in basically every aspect of game design, and that also means that they’re able to include in their games elements that publishers would normally shy away from:

We’re very lucky at Naughty Dog that we get to make our own calls. No one outside of Naughty Dog tells us what to do. But I know when it comes to marketing or other aspects of the industry, those calls are sometimes very precedent-driven. So without being able to point to a game and say that can succeed on the market, you’re going to feel a lot of pressure to not do that. We’re lucky at Naughty Dog that we can ignore those recommendations, but in a lot of other studios, I’ve spoken with people in those studios and they cannot. So hopefully—and this is my personal thing, not a Naughty Dog agenda—in doing something like [Left Behind] in the triple-A space, we can help pave the way for other stuff.

That’s definitely something you don’t see very often in an industry where publishers normally lord over developers with an iron fist, often forcing them to rush titles or to include or exclude this or that element into their games for marketing reasons.

This may very well be one of the secrets behind Naughty Dog’s success. When you’re not shackled by marketing and pseudo-political decisions outside of your own, there’s definitely a lot more you can do to make your games unique.

Join the Discussion

  • Delsin Row

    of course sony should do that. they made the best game of last gan. they made one of the best and beautiful game of last gen ( uncharted) im just happy that i have a platform that naughty is making game for it !

  • Bankai

    According to Steven Ter Heide during an interview at E3, Sony isn’t the kind of publisher who’ll tell you to change your game, which means that they give all of their studios a lot of breathing room. Heavy Rain is a good example because Microsoft (who QD pitched the game to first) wanted to try avoiding controversy by swapping out the kidnapped children for cats, which didn’t sit well with QD who then pitched their idea to Sony.

    More publishers should treat developers like this. If they did, then I’m sure we’d start seeing more creative and wellmade games instead of more Battlefield 4 and Arkham Origins.

    • oGMo


      • Bankai
        • oGMo

          This is MS’s problem. They’re scared to do anything that might be slightly controversial or non-safe. They also want to be hip and edgy.

          They just don’t get it.

        • barkhov

          According to that article, it was only a joke by David Cage.

          (the real talk could be worse than cats though, haha)

        • islan

          Uh .. way to misquote there, man.

          • Bankai

            Except the quote is taken directly from the article, maybe you should look up the definition of “misquote.”

          • islan

            Oh ye gods, do I have to read it for you?

            “Well, we could have kidnapped cats, That’s a different experience!” Cage joked.
            END QUOTE

            Cage joked about replacing the kidnapped children with cats because Microsoft didn’t like the kidnapped children angle. Microsoft did NOT request the children be replaced with cats.


    • jb223

      Totally agreed. It’s such a basic & inherently true thing, the best art is made without corporate interference. At this point, Sony’s Playstation is hands down the most creative of the consoles in terms of taking chances and allowing developers to make the statements they wish to make, and it’s just common sense when it comes to creating media of any type. You could even look at Sony’s other branches to see it in action, Breaking Bad was one of the greatest & most consistent shows of our lifetimes because AMC & Sony allowed Vince Gilligan to create the story he had in his head the way he envisioned it, bottom line be damned. They could’ve stretched that show for multiple seasons most definitely, and they would’ve made a killing off of it, but it would never have been as good as its current form. If the money hands of the world would just relinquish the reins, we could have amazing experiences across all mediums, instead we have to settle for the stray amazing piece of work that trickles through the cracks year after year, pieces of work which thrive because they are trying something different, not in spite of it. For all the talk of people comparing these companies’ business strategies apples to apples, most miss the point entirely by not realizing that yes, Sony is a business, but their actions have proven that they are a business that take their product as seriously as their bottom line in most instances, and that’s certainly commendable in today’s climate.

  • Daniel Dorestant

    If only they let zipper have freedom with Socom 4

    • Bankai

      They did, but Zipper lost their touch long ago.

      • Daniel Dorestant

        Not sure why you think they did but its well documented from ex zipper employees thats Socom 4 is not the game they wanted to make

        • Bankai

          1. S4 was a collaborative effort, meaning Zipper had no right to complain if Sony offered criticism.

          2. Sony still gave them all the time in the world, but they squandered it.

          3. One or 2 anonymous letters doesn’t make something “well documented.”

          • Daniel Dorestant

            1. Sony was Zipper’s employer, when your boss tells you to do something, you do it. In this case it was to cater to the COD fanbase.

            2. It wouldn’t matter if they had 1 yr or 3 yrs, the creative direction of the hame wouldve been the same.

            3. It’s the amount of letters that matter its the confirmed sources… 200 sources of the same news story does not make it anymore true…

            Did you even read the letter?

  • Preston queener

    That’s good,nand going on Naughty Dogs history of games you can tell that with more freedom more amazing games can be made. like drakes uncharted or last of us which blew me away even jack an dexter on the ps2 era. To me they are really talented because of their freedom aspect an just amazing talent.

  • Steph

    Just as it should be, they make good games and do not need people interfering with their process.

  • Craig Sloan

    It’s Naughty Dog they are the best at what they do. You don’t tell Picasso how to paint or Mozart how to play.

  • HipHop1980

    This isn’t news. It’s been known for a long time Sony gives there 1st party Studios Freedom. They why they all so Successful.

    • ImonadrugcalledCharlieSheen

      Thats right, Sony gives their developers the freedom Cliff Bleszinski whines and cries about never getting.

  • Thomas Cai Jinzhan

    If you are naughty dog, creator of games like Crash Bandicoot, Uncharted and The Last of Us, i don’t think the publisher will dare to lord over you. I mean, the resume speaks for itself. I am actually surprised initially that Sony allow ND to do TLOU, an original IP so last in the ps3 console cycle. But it did and TLOU won every award last year and sold gangbusters (for a game that’s released only on 1 console and not a COD type FPS…an impressive feat).

  • ImonadrugcalledCharlieSheen

    No one puts Baby in a corner, and no one tells Naughty Dog what to do.

  • Manoj Varughese

    So will Crash Brandicoot see a release ever?