The Last of Us Part 2, Sony’s post-apocalyptic survival game set decades into a pandemic that nearly wipes out humanity, has become one of the company’s fastest-selling games ever. The company said it tallied more than 4 million copies sold to customers through June 21, after its release on June 19.
The game follows characters from 2013’s blockbuster The Last of Us, a grizzled smuggler named Joel and a gay teenager named Ellie, four years after they traveled across the country facing down gangs, militias and other desperate survivors. The game also centers on a pandemic fungus that takes over people’s brains and disfigures their bodies.
The Last of Us Part 2 was praised by critics for its detailed visuals, voice acting and gameplay. Some portions of the internet however criticized the game’s story and its marketing, which omitted surprise twists. Still, that hasn’t kept millions of people from purchasing and playing.
The Last of Us Part 2 is a brilliant work of art
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“The Last of Us Part 2 represents large scale innovation in gaming with a great blend of excellent gameplay mechanics and masterful storytelling,” Eric Lempel, senior vice president of worldwide marketing for Sony PlayStation, said in a statement. “We strive to bring you unique, engaging experiences.”
Sony’s financial success with the Last of Us Part 2 is the latest example of how popular video games have become in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic happening in the real world, which has infected nearly 10 million people and killed more than 484,000 patients since it was first detected in December. Governments around the globe have ordered millions of people to shelter at home, in hopes of slowing the virus’s spread. That’s helped to contribute to record video game sales as people turn to games like the world building games Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Minecraft, the demon shooter Doom Eternal and the battle royale game Fortnite as both entertainment and a way to digitally connect with friends.
For Sony, the Last of Us Part 2’s first week sales tally beat out other hit games it made in the past seven years, including Marvel’s Spider-Man and the adventure game God of War. It also follows 2013’s The Last of Us, which was the fastest-selling exclusive game for the PlayStation 3, selling 3.4 million copies in its first three weeks.
Sony said its tally for sales of The Last of Us Part 2 takes into account returns or canceled preorders.
Naughty Dog, Sony’s video game studio that made the game, is known for its intricate stories and dramatic games. The studio also made titles such as the well-received adventure series Uncharted.
With the Last of Us, Sony’s team shifted from the adventure genre to survival drama. The first game included regular scenes of brutal fighting and gory deaths. With the sequel, the company made it even grittier. Neil Druckmann, vice president of Sony’s Naughty Dog studio and the game’s director, said in a 2018 interview with Variety that his team doesn’t use the word “fun” to describe The Last of Us Part 2, but rather prefers you feel the stakes for your character.
“If we’re going to tell this story, we have to go there. We have to make you feel uncomfortable,” he explains.” I don’t want you to willy-nilly commit these acts. I want you to feel these moments.”
That visceral gameplay came up in some reviews.
“It’s a hard game to stomach,” wrote Kallie Plagge in her review for CNET sister site GameSpot. “At times, the pain you inflict feels so senseless that it can leave you numb. It’s all messy and bleak and made me profoundly sad for myriad reasons, but the more I reflect on it, the more I appreciate the story and characters at its core.”
The story and its characters turned off some people in various corners of the internet, though. They responded to early leaks about the game, then reviews, and then the game’s release with vitriol that continues to fuel thought pieces, angry YouTube videos and barrages of tweets a week after the game’s release.
“While there are some honest players who simply didn’t like The Last of Us Part 2’s story direction, many of the people tanking the game’s score on Metacritic or tweeting abuse on Twitter aren’t interested in an honest appraisal,” CNET’s Daniel Van Boom explains in his piece dissecting the internet hate.
Sony’s Druckmann, for his part, said in a statement that he’d set out “to tell a new kind of story, one that deals with difficult themes and would challenge you in unexpected ways.”
“Hearing how the experience has resonated with so many of you and witnessing the type of thoughtful discussions it has sparked has been so incredible,” he added. “The Last of Us Part 2 was made possible thanks to the efforts of the hundreds of talented and passionate developers here at Naughty Dog. We can imagine no greater honor than seeing that same passion mirrored by the people playing it.”
Update, 7:18 a.m. p.m.: Corrects date of game’s release.