Shawn Layden spent 25 years working for Sony, including running PlayStation Worldwide Studios. He made an appearance on Gamelab Live to discuss the current state of the videogame industry with Gamebeats’ Dean Takahashi. The conversation covered a wide range of topics, one of the more interesting points was said by Layden when he described how modern AAA game development is becoming unsustainable.
He recalls the days where the biggest games would have a budget of only $1 million, compared to now where games can consume a budget of $150 million. These numbers are only growing, as the size of AAA games continues to increase, as evident by the recent release of The Last of Us Part 2 which takes 25 hours to complete. The budget for the game hasn’t been disclosed, but it’s worth noting that Naughty Dog spent six years to develop the sequel, as opposed to three and a half years for the original game. Layden puts into perspective the increasing budget and game sizes, saying “The problem with that model is it’s just not sustainable… I don’t think that, in the next generation, you can take those numbers and multiply them by two and think that you can grow…” The fact of the matter is, as the standard for game sizes continues to increase, expenses will do the same, and keeping up with both will eventually become impossible.
Layden fears this forebodes what’s to come, saying “It’s hard for every adventure game to shoot for the 50 to 60 hour gameplay milestone, because that’s gonna be so much more expensive to achieve… you may close some interesting creators and their stories out of the market…” Apart from The Last of Us 2, he does cite other games who fit this bill, including Red Dead Redemption 2 and God of War. These games are highly rated fan favorites, but these same fans may be forced to pay more than the standard $59.99 per game if this trend continues. Layden touches on that point, saying “It’s been $59.99 since I started in this business, but the cost of games have gone up ten times. If you don’t have elasticity on the price-point, but you have huge volatility on the cost line, the model becomes more difficult.” He believes this generation will see the effects of this clash and implores game companies to reevaluate the way they are developing AAA titles.
For the full recap of the interview, click here.