Naughty Dog Doin’ it Right: How to Bring a Series to an End

Naughty Dog Games

All good things must come to an end.

Naughty Dog, the developer that brought us games like Uncharted, Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter, and The Last of Us, has proven itself time and again to be a practitioner of this philosophy. Naughty Dog is a professional at bowing out gracefully and knowing when to call it quits. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, for example, was recently released in May 2016, and is officially the series’ final installment. In fact, Naughty Dog announced from the beginning that Uncharted 4 would bring the Uncharted series to a close. Considering the franchise’s popularity and success, it is no surprise that fans were saddened by this announcement. After all, Nathan Drake and the rest of his crew have been with us since 2007. This has been almost a ten-year relationship, and now it has come to a close.

But is that really such a bad thing? Let’s think about it. How often do you play a continuing game series or watch a continuing television show that just needs to die already? There’s no need to point fingers or name names—I’m sure you can think of at least three examples off the top of your head. In spite of the never-ending, drawn-out zombie-fest that these things become, we still continue to play them and watch them. Perhaps a part of it becomes addicting. We know we should give it up but it’s just so awesomely terrible that we can’t.

So what is it that makes Naughty Dog so special, and how are they doing things the “right” way?

Quantity: Sometimes, Less is More

Crash Bandicoot.
Crash Bandicoot.

In comparison to other companies, Naughty Dog hasn’t put out a lot of games in terms of quantity. Some of the games it put out in its early years were so forgettable—and some of them, poorly received—that no one has even heard of them or can even remember them (Rings of Power, anyone?). It wasn’t until the release of Crash Bandicoot in 1996, and later on in 2001 with the release of Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, that Naughty Dog began to make a real name for itself. From that point, it only continued to put to out top-notch work. Come 2007, the Uncharted series and Nathan Drake emerged onto the gaming scene, and Naughty Dog took a different turn from its original platformers. The rest was history.

It all comes down to pacing. Naughty Dog doesn’t hit often, but when it does, it hits hard. This kind of business practice is a true demonstration of the company’s faith in its abilities. Perhaps many companies release so many games, and so often, out of fear that their fans might lose interest if too much time lapses between releases. This isn’t just limited to original releases—remasters, mobile games, and HD collections bridge the gap between installments just as much as new games do, even if only for a little while. For Naughty Dog to pace itself may be a bit of a risk, but the collective critical reception of its games proves that it is entirely possible for a company to slow down on its releases without losing its fans—or its money.

Quality: Too Much of Something Good Can Be Bad

An in-game shot of The Last of Us.
An in-game shot of The Last of Us.

Plain and simple: the games produced by Naughty Dog leave a good taste in your mouth. Like I said before, we Uncharted fans are all probably sad to know that the series has come to an end, but it is a bittersweet moment. The series concludes in a neat way without leaving open ends, and without leaving fans wondering. The Last of Us also follows this pattern. Though there have been talks of a sequel, the first game ended in such a way that if Naughty Dog never produced another TLOU, we fans could rest easily at night, knowing that no questions were left unanswered.

This is another excellent business decision. Say that TLOU was not well-received, yet the ending had been written inconclusively. Where would that leave the developer and/or the publisher? Where would that leave the fans? A game that is not well-received will likely never birth a sequel, which leaves the franchise and the company in a bad spot if they suggest (or explicitly state) that a sequel will follow. This does not apply to TLOU. Likewise, none of the Uncharted games end with cliffhangers. They all come to a neat close, leaving enough room for sequels to follow, and for new fans to jump into the series who have not played the previous installments.

This is the reason why a lot of book publishers don’t want to publish debut novels with cliffhanger endings. It is too much of an investment in something that might not pay off. The practice of writing conclusive stories is a testament to the company’s faith in its abilities to start with a fresh, blank slate for the next game. Naughty Dog often leaves its fans hungry for sequels and follow-up games, but it is good kind of a hunger that will eventually be sated.

Why Should We Care Who We Buy Games From?

All of these points then beg the real question: If we’re going to play the “bad” or “okay” games that are milked to death, as well as the “good” games that know when to quit, what really is the difference? Why should it matter to us, the consumers, if a series comes to an official end or if it continues on and on until the apocalypse comes? If we enjoy the game or the series, should we really be concerned about where the series is headed?

Nathan Drake in Uncharted 4: A Thief's End.
Nathan Drake in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.

We should care because it comes down to quality. It is probably safe to say that we have all been burned by that one game that we pre-ordered or paid full price for that disappointed, whether due to the quality of the game, the length of the campaign, the glitches, or whatever it was that made the game sub-par. It may be difficult, then, to justify spending that money when a consumer lacks faith that the game will be 110% amazing.

That being said, games that meet that expectation of quality (like Uncharted 4) are worthy of the sixty-dollar investment. We consumers can sleep peacefully at night knowing our money did not go to waste. This is the reason why we should care about quality-made games, and the companies that produce those high-quality games. Because let’s be honest: sixty dollars is a small investment. If we are going to pay that much for a video game, it should be well-worth that sixty dollars. There is an old adage that claims “you get what you pay for,” and it goes no differently for video games. We know what we are getting with Naughty Dog. It is known only for producing games that withstand the test of time. The Crash series, the Jak and Daxter series, the Uncharted series, The Last of Us—all of these games represent the company’s aim for quality.

This doesn’t mean that other companies who produce continuing series are “bad” in any sense. However, everything must come to an end eventually, and knowing when to bring things to an end is, again, a true testament to a company’s creative genius and confidence in its abilities to produce something new and fresh. Maybe rehashing and continuing a series with an already-devoted fan base is simply a way of playing it safe. Maybe trying something new is too risky for a company, especially one with its reputation staked on a particular continuing series. Maybe it’s just too darn costly to try something new, so why not keep going with a series that continues to earn a steady amount of revenue?

But in spite of all this, it cannot be ignored that certain companies—like Naughty Dog—set a bar for others to reach. Perhaps other companies will follow in its footsteps soon enough. Such tactics would only be beneficial for us gamers, and in the long-run, for the companies themselves.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. Like I always say every series has an end that lays it to rest, no need for it to be milked just for profit but this is ND we’re talking about here. We’re certain whatever ND pulls out will be amazing, if they ever restricted themselves to one series it will only limit their ability to work on something new.

  2. Lettier

    I think they will focus on the TLOU franchise after Uncharted 4.

    • Probably going to make 2 more The Last of Us games after number 2 and then move on again with something else.

  3. So there’s No Crash bandicoot, No Spyro the dragon, No Sly Cooper, No Jak and Daxter coming on the PS4 then? …And it’s no wonder why i haven’t bought a PS4 yet, there’s barely any mascots left from sony that that stand out as creative unique and different for me to really get into playing and wanting that console..well at least Nintendo is always consistent with it’s consoles you’ll always have good ole Mario and Zelda and Kirby and Donkey Kong and Pokemon and Star fox and Pikmin ect there’s never a dull moment when playing on ALL Nintendo consoles!!!

    • I understand what you’re saying, but there is a certain beauty in that as well. No “mascot” just proves that there is no 1 game dominating that console and instead shows how diverse the game collection really is.

  4. Munjeera

    Nice article. I am not a gamer but found your observations interesting because your comments can apply to so many genres. You are correct because sometimes you can’t help but feel just die already. Some series need to end be it TV or movies or games. Agreed 100%!

  5. Just one more crash game, please, he never got the proper ending.

  6. We all know that WHATEVER Naughty Dog chooses to develop next….whether old, familiar, or brand spankin new……….it’s going to be freakin awesome.

  7. That’s fantastic. They need to do something brand spanking new and bring back inovation like in the 80s and 90s.

  8. Burnette

    The next of us?

  9. Evolving and killing is 2 different things, I respect ND. There are plenty of ways to evolve without changing the tone or the life you brought to a game instead of something entirely new that changes everything like a “jet pack” or making Nathan Drake “African American”…Regardless each there own, but Ive always been a Rockstar kind of prospective. You can make plenty of good games but that doesn’t mean you have to kill them to make something new nor rehash them like A.C.

    • Saturation

      I agree with you. You can continue a series without rehash them. GTA is a good example, the same could be said about Final Fantasy or Sonic games (if we exclude the boom series)

    • They can just take the online multiplayer game modes and maps from uncharted 2,3 and 4 then release it as a stand alone.. and they can keep on making new online maps and modes for it. also there is enough microtransactions garbage in it to buy to keep it afloat for years…

  10. Coleman

    you can bet your butt on that they will release a new game that is very similar to uncharted in the near future…

  11. Sachiko

    They haven’t created a good game since Jak 3.

  12. Naughty Dog puts a lot of work behind their games so if they restrict themselves to Uncharted they miss out on trying to create a new series. I’m anxiously awaiting a new Naughty Dog series.

  13. Since Uncharted is going to end, I bet Sony has already made plans with other studio for an exclusive to fill in the action-adventure-treasure-hunting genre spot that Uncharted will be leaving behind. It’s just a matter of time & a question of whether the future exclusive can actually stand tall with Uncharted. Regardless I hope Uncharted will be making a grand exit so I can continue my life in peace & tranquillity (unlike certain franchise that ended tragically resulting to an emotionally unstable life for almost 3 months)…

  14. ND thinking like a actual smart developer. Im perfectly fine with Uncharted 4 being the last. Would i like there to be a 5 and 6? Sure but im not sure if i would want that. So stay true and do whats right for you.

  15. I wouldn’t mind that they would plan to do their take on fantasy type of a game that seems far different from others.

  16. I just hope the Last of Us movie is good

  17. Siothrún

    Intriguing article. As a gamer/news writer for Zelda Informer, this makes me think more about why Naughty Dog did what they did with some of my other favorite games. It also makes me more grateful that franchises like Zelda are working to reinvent themselves without fading away. I feel like there is a bit of a line that can be followed and that some things about that line form more curves than straight paths.

  18. I’m actually curious to see how they’ll continue The Last of Us. But knowing Naughty Dog, I think the story should be in good hands.
    When playing the Uncharted series and following Nate’s story, I was thoroughly surprised at how better each game became as the series went on. I’m hoping the same goes for TLOS if a new installment does come about.

  19. Gotta miss the days when multiple DLC packs weren’t necessary for enjoying the full, core game.

    • especially when you have to pay an arm and a leg to get the main game, and then you have to sell your other arm and leg to get the rest of the game that the developers decided not to add before release so they can squeeze us for more money.
      Not all of us have money to spare!

  20. I first was introduced to Naughty Dog with Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. I got it when I received a Playstation 3 Bundle as a gift. When I started playing Uncharted 2 I was having the normal beginner issues partially I was new to video games that were in the third person. I was a Call of Duty freak then. As I got playing the game and finally past the beginning level I quickly loved the game. I then purchased the first game and realized that there was a story involved. I praised Naughty Dog for giving me and other gamers an excellent game. Now I just need to get the fourth and final game.

  21. I remember playing crash when I was a kid. I don’t know why but I have a short attention span and can get bored of certain games really fast, so I definitely see how anything good should end when it is still good.

  22. I remember playing crash when I was a kid. I don’t know why but I have a short attention span and can get bored of certain games really fast, so I definitely see how anything good should end when it is still good. Video games are not good for you anyway.

  23. I grew up alongside the Jak & Daxter franchise. As a fan, I would absolutely love to see the story continue. I couldn’t get enough and to this day I still replay all three because I still can’t satisfy the itch.
    Realistically, however, I acknowledge that to continue to add more games to the franchise would destroy the story and ruin the games.

    Similarly, the Dragonball Z series was pushed passed it’s intended end date. Toriyama intended for Cell’s defeat at the hands of Gohan to mark the end of the Dragonball Z franchise. The show would have culminated with Gohan having surpassed Goku and being the defender of planet Earth. As we all know, however, the series was pushed towards the Buu Saga, GT, and Super.

    I believe there are opposing points for every franchise. It’s situational. Contingent on whether the author or artist has genuine ideas to further his or her masterpiece, or is just seeking to provide fan service by prolonging a series that was intended to end.

  24. The Uncharted series made my childhood.

    Long live Sir Nathan Drake.

    Naughty Dog… Thank you

  25. I know that the successor game to the Last of Us was not seen as favorably as the original.

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