Wow, what a journey. In case you haven't heard yet, Media Molecule has decided to cease its live service operations for Dreams, its magnificent and severely under-played PS4 exclusive. The game itself is staying online, and you can continue to play and create to your heart's content, but this marks the beginning of the end. After just over three years, the studio is throwing in the towel and moving onto another project. It's sad, but frankly, not unexpected.
We've always been big advocates for Dreams. In isolation, it's a truly outstanding achievement; the intuitive-yet-deep toolset allows anyone with a PS4 to make pretty much whatever they like. Whether that's a simple field full of flowers, an animated music video, or an entire game with multiple levels, the limits really are down to one's imagination. It lets people express themselves and share that with the world, and it has, ultimately, paved the way for some seriously great creations. It's a wonderful game that contains some real magic among the, admittedly high, concentration of nonsense. In a way, the somewhat chaotic nature of what you can find in Dreams only adds to its appeal, but that's a whole other conversation.
Whether you aim to make top notch platformers or a series of interactive Wallace & Gromit memes, you'll still be able to do that after 1st September. However, Media Molecule, which has been keeping things ticking with annual in-game events and some in-Dreams original games of its own, is making its exit. Unfortunately, the reasons are fairly clear — its player base is tiny, it's nearly impossible to market, and had no other ways of making money.
Back before Dreams, Media Molecule was in a solid position. LittleBigPlanet and its sequel were very successful side-scrolling platformers on PS3, championing user-made content and finding a creative, positive fan base. PS Vita's Tearaway, while taking a slight step away from the creation side of things, never sold bucketloads of copies but was also very well received, and is widely regarded as one of the handheld's best. The latter was a more conservative effort from the studio, albeit an incredibly charming one, but no one could've predicted how big it was planning to go with its PS4 game.
A very early prototype was shown alongside the console's unveiling in 2013. Co-founder Alex Evans presented its 3D modelling tech using PS Move controllers, ending with a demonstration involving dancing puppets and a rock band to play it off. It was an exciting prospect, the promise of making anything you could envision.
However, the road to releasing Dreams in 2020 was a long one. Media Molecule continued showing the game off where and when it was able, and it always looked fascinating and groundbreaking. But the protracted development didn't help the game's momentum one bit; for every dazzling presentation, there was a lengthy wait to follow. On top of that, it became clear that, for all its noble intentions, Dreams lacked a certain something for prospective players to latch onto. You can make anything with this software, but where was its face? By being so admirably broad in its scope, the game never had its Sackboy — something to make it iconic.
That didn't stop eager players from hitting the ground running, though. From the very beginning, even during the game's early access phase, creative users quickly made brilliant, bonkers, and baffling things with Dreams' impressive set of tools. The promise was kept: you can make basically anything and share it with everyone else. It's what remains special about the game today. Though the player base may be small, their drive to create cool stuff will continue past Media Molecule's final update in September, and that's the important thing.
That being said, the studio's contributions will be missed. Regular in-game events gave the game a shot in the arm. All Hallows' Dreams every October was excellent, as was the digital gaming expo DreamsCom and the annual awards ceremony, The Impy Awards. Without these touchstones, the game will lose some of its pulse — but we have a feeling that the community will aim to keep facsimiles of these events going themselves.
Dreams achieved what it set out to do in many ways, but there was always room for it to grow. Porting the game to PS5 and PC would've expanded the audience, though given how complex a project it is, it wouldn't have been a quick job. Adding it to PS Plus would probably help it as well, and there's nothing stopping Sony from doing that, even with the stoppage of updates.
Still, it's just a shame. We don't have a searing hot take on this; it just kind of sucks. Dreams is excellent, and deserved more, but it wasn't to be. Media Molecule remains one of the industry's most ambitious, imaginative studios, and we're of course intrigued to see what it comes up with next, but we'll always look back on Dreams' 10-year journey thinking what could've been.
What do you think about Media Molecule ending support for Dreams? Will you continue playing despite a lack of updates? Discuss in the comments section below.