Brace yourselves Last Guardian fans, as things appear to have potentially taken another turn for the worse. Fumito Ueda, head of highly regarded Team Ico, is rumored to be leaving his post. All may not be lost, as he is said to be staying on in a freelance capacity to see the game through to completion. If true, though, it could be a blow to future potential PlayStation exclusives, with Last Guardian closing a relationship that resulted in critical darlings, Ico, and Shadow of the Colossus.
The rumor, reported by Eurogamer, cites "Japanese game development sources" who say that Ueda's departure is yet another reason for the ongoing delay in the Last Guardian's completion. Sony has already responded to Eurogamer that it does not comment on rumor and speculation; however, given the game's protracted development time and what surely must be mounting internal pressure, it sounds plausible at the very least.
The Last Guardian first surfaced in a leaked early video of Team Ico's next game, then known only by the codename "Project Trico." A full version of the video was shown shortly thereafter along with the official announcement of the game. When exactly development started on the game is the subject of speculation, but the team's prior game, Shadow of the Colossus, released in late 2005 and in 2007 the studio was recruiting for its new game.
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Since the 2009 video, information on The Last Guardian has been hard to come by. Initially targeted for a 2010 release, it wasn't until the 2010 Tokyo Game Show that we learned more. There, Ueda introduced a new trailer that included several scenes thought to be in-game footage. I attended that presentation at which Ueda earnestly expressed the team's commitment to the game and said that they were aiming for a holiday 2011 release.
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This April, news came that The Last Guardian would not make its intended 2011 release, and no update was given on when the game would arrive. When the game then missed E3, it was thought to be a move intended to make it one of Sony's stars at the Tokyo Game Show. Its absence there, though, gave the most telling sign yet that something was seriously amiss.
I hold out hope for the eventual release of Last Guardian based entirely on the strength of the work Team Ico has produced. Both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus stand as two of my most cherished games, and the videos alone for Last Guardian pull me completely in. But I'm not unsympathetic to the production needs of Sony to see the game completed. Let's hope that should Ueda be headed out that Last Guardian will be another brilliant success, and that he finds future opportunities to share his creativity through design teams equally capable of translating that into finished games.