The continued silence in regards to The Last Guardian has moved out of 'worrying' territory and now become somewhat of a joke. Every few months the question is raised, and every few months the resounding answer back from Sony is that it's still being worked on, ready to wow us in much the same way ICO and Shadow Of The Colossus did. Given Team ICO's track record, you'd be mad to doubt them too… if the thing still even exists.
As it was announced in 2009 (and has been in development since 2007) you're well within your rights to decide that The Last Guardian is never coming out. It's certainly not heading to PS3 anymore – no one would be brave/daft enough to make that call – meaning there's even more reason for concern. Years of work that was already, one would assume, struggling to come together may now be slowly being upscaled to meet the visual demand the masses expect from the PS4. The latest word may be that Sony is waiting to re-announce it, but until it's official, all we have to go on is the fact it's horrendously delayed.
While many may be passed caring now – and all credit to you – it's games like Rain that remind you how important The Last Guardian could be. Along with the likes of Journey, Sony's dedication to the indie scene, and what surrounds it, is admirable; the desire to take ideas more likely to be found in the smaller side of the industry and put a budget behind them more so. Without it we wouldn't have had any of the games mentioned so far in this article, and if we take the Japanese company at its word, it's the reason Team ICO's latest is still alive. Sony is committed to it.
It's something we need, too, even if you'd rather jab your own eye out with a pen than play a game where you stop a young girl being, in a way, eaten by shadows. Titles that genuinely stand out as products that could only exist within the medium are necessary. There's nothing wrong with Call of Duty – it succeeds in what it sets out to do – but the argument that you're more likely to go to the cinema to watch a movie about war than you are one with no dialogue, featuring a boy who really wants to wipe out a species of hairy behemoths is sound. Both work, but, as you'd expect, there's a greater emphasis on the former. The latter has to exist, not only for the sake of diversity, but because it's one of those ideas that you can only really imagine residing in within the world of video games. It's unique.
Rain fits into this category perfectly, offering something that stands out from the crowd, while supporting Sony's ideals. The Last Guardian's importance comes because of its scale: while C.A.M.P.'s idea could've come straight from an indie studio, Team ICO's third game has the budget and presentation to be deemed a 'triple-A' title, even if it won't sell as much as the mighty COD or Battlefield. It brings these sort of concepts to a wider audience, and takes accepted game mechanics and makes them work in a more diverse environment. Sony's continued dedication to the cause is admirable, but on a smaller scale these games can go awry. It's why Linger in Shadows makes as much sense as getting a phone call from a friend saying how much they appreciate you, before said friend knocks on your door and punches you in the face. A bit of filtering and guidance can achieve a world of difference.
There's every chance, of course, that the continuing absence of The Last Guardian is the reason for an upsurge in more niche experiences. Journey had far more weight behind it than some may have imagined, and the fact that Rain even exists is a positive step in its own right. Sony has always been focused in this way, though. It's why ICO came to be in the first place, and why, seemingly, subsequent projects increased in budget and ambition. The opportunity to create something different and original appealed, arguably, even more than a tidy profit (hence why rough figures say Shadow of the Colossus sold around 1.14 million on its release back in 2005, and another million with its resurgence on the PSN).
Ultimately, it's all evidence that Sony's backing of unique content is nothing new. It explains why it's made independent development one of its focuses with the PS4 launch, and why if any title currently in development hell emerges anew it will be The Last Guardian. Those behind the PlayStation understand how pivotal it could be.
Given how much the company has ramped up its promotion of the quirkier side of gaming in recent months, you can expect a lot more of this incoming. Hopefully The Last Guardian will be a part of it.