In early 2007, the first iPhone had just been revealed by Apple president Steve Jobs on a stage in California.
Somewhere in Japan, a small team of acclaimed video game developers was reconvening after a two year hiatus. The goal was simple: to create a third game, as emotionally impactful and precedent-setting as the first two. They had colossal expectations to fill. A simple goal, perhaps, but a deeply challenging one.
The team — “Team Ico” — created two beloved games for the PlayStation 2: “Ico” and “Shadow of the Colossus.” Both are action games with a third-person view, and both follow a single individual through a fantastical world. In “Ico,” you’re a young boy working with a ghost-like entity to escape a massive castle. In “Shadow of the Colossus,” you’re a slightly older boy climbing on top of building-sized creatures in order to take them down.
The games aren’t especially fun to play. What makes people love them is the characters Team Ico created, and the worlds that these characters inhabit.
In “Ico,” the massive castle you’re escaping is actually a tomb where children who look like the main character are sent to die. In “Shadow of the Colossus,” the creatures you’re toppling are seemingly benevolent. Since games tell you to kill ugly, angry creatures, aren’t you supposed to do that here too?
In Team Ico’s third project, “The Last Guardian,” players will once again control a young boy from a third-person perspective. This time, instead of taking down massive creatures, your character is dependent on a kind of cat-bird creature. It looks like this:
Beyond trusting the team that had already built two excellent games, fans were immediately drawn to the world of “The Last Guardian” and its adorably creepy main character when it was originally revealed in 2009 by then PlayStation leader Jack Tretton. Here’s the original teaser trailer, which was apparently sped up to look like the game was in better shape than it actually was:
And here’s the elated fan reaction to the original reveal, back in 2009:
The game then disappeared for years.
It missed its 2011 launch window. Rumours swirled that the project’s director, Fumito Ueda, was no longer working on “The Last Guardian.” Year after year, interview after interview, Sony executives would shrug off questions about “The Last Guardian,” saying little beyond confirming its continued existence.
Then, in 2013, two years after “The Last Guardian” was supposed to launch on the PlayStation 3, Sony announced the PlayStation 4. Many assumed it was the end for “The Last Guardian.” And this year, going into the game industry’s annual trade show (E3), the most ardent of supporters took to internet forums to voice their hope that “The Last Guardian” would once again surface, perhaps on Sony’s newer console.
Unbelievably, eight years after the game began production, Sony’s new head of PlayStation, Shawn Layden, started this year’s PlayStation press conference with just that. People freaked out.
Fans were elated to hear that “The Last Guardian,” miraculously, survived eight years of game development and came out the other side. It now has a 2016 release window. Notoriously, most games take three or fewer years to develop — anything beyond that and things start getting far too expensive to recoup expenses (let alone return a profit).
The story of “The Last Guardian” surviving those eight years was told to Business Insider by Sony Computer Entertainment’s Shuhei Yoshida, the head of SCE’s “Worldwide Studios,” in the video above. In short, he’s the man who makes sure that PlayStation game consoles are full of great games you want to play. As it turns out, he really wants people to play “The Last Guardian.”
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