Ex-boss PlayStation thinks sequel-grinding will only get worse

Shawn Layden – PlayStation’s ex-boss – doesn’t seem to be very hopeful when it comes to the future of gaming. In an interview with Bloomberg, Layden explained why he left PlayStation and what his plans for the future are. But he also philosophized about the future of gaming in general, stating that Triple-A games will only get more insipid as we go. The biggest culprit in this: the cost of making them.

It’s no big secret that making a big game has a big price tag. You don’t go out making a Triple-A game with just a fistful of dollars and a bright idea. According to Shawn Layden, there’s a certain pattern when it comes to the budget. With every generation, the cost of making a game seems to double. And that’s worrisome, he says. Spending millions of dollars on creating a game, just to see it bomb, is becoming more of a risk. That’s why developers go for the sure bet, be it another sequel or a clone of another popular game.

If we can’t stop the cost curve from going up, all we can do is try to de-risk it. That puts you in a place where you’re incentivized toward sequels.

What happens there is you end up with 3-4 silos of games or game types that continue to exist, and variety is squeezed out.

Shawn Layden

On the one hand, Layden makes a valid point. But the interviewer – Jason Schreier in this case – wasn’t born yesterday. He has seen Layden in action when he was steering PlayStation through the gaming landscape. Therefore, Schreier had to ask the former CEO how he feels about the course he chose during his reign, which paved to way for his own doom scenario. Yes, Shawn, why did you go for stunning graphics and big open worlds instead of diversity?

“I think I contributed a part into showing the world what amazing gameplay can look like,” was Layden’s rebuttal. And yes, again he makes a point. Games like Uncharted 4, The Last of Us: Part 2, God of War, and Ghost of Tsushima are all pretty as pretty can be. Heck, most of ’em are even absolute gems. But it also made them very costly, running into a hundred million dollars to make. If you’re going to pour double that figure into making one game, you’re not taking any chances. You’re going for striking visuals that wow gamers.

And that’s where the problem lies. It’s getting harder and harder to impress the crowd. Gamers are so getting used to lifelike visuals that it has become a new standard. People are slowly but surely starting to look for substance over style. That’s why so many small-time indies (Death’s Door, for example) are suddenly getting a lot more appreciation for their effort to change the gaming landscape. And that’s where Layden’s new project comes into play. With Streamline Media Group, Layden wishes to enrich the world of gaming with more diversity and bring balance to it.

“We are now the largest entertainment medium in the world, except on a social impact level we punch below our weight,” Layden said. “My goal in the last act of my career is really to bring more people into gaming creation, more people from all over the world, [and] bring more people into the enjoyment of gaming.”

Good luck with that one, Shawn!