It's been almost two years since former Sony worldwide studios chairman Shawn Layden very hurriedly left PlayStation, with nothing but a tweet marking his departure. There have always been questions asked about what happened in the time since, but today the businessman announces he has taken up a position on the Streamline Media Group advisory board. Accompanying this is a new interview with GamesIndustry.Biz, where Layden speaks of his fears surrounding studio acquisitions and industry consolidation.
With the costs to produce games always rising (Layden quotes PS4 titles as costing anywhere from $100 million to $150 million to produce, and PS5 games could be upwards of $200 million), he thinks it will be very difficult for smaller developers to compete in the space. He then moves onto the topic of consolidation, warning the industry this isn't the right way of going about its business.
"Consolidation is the enemy of diversity in some ways. It takes a lot of playing pieces off the table as they grow into these larger conglomerates. And again, we end up with this problem with diversity. Music on a revenue basis is probably one fifth of the games space. But their cultural impact is 100x what gaming is. Right now, we are narrowing ourselves down into genres and sequels and certain types of games. Favourites like my own, like Parappa and Vib-Ribbon, those things don't seem to get a chance to come out on stage. That's bad for the industry and for fans. Over time, that leads to a crumbling of the games industry if we just keep talking to the same people and telling the same stories in the same way."
Most recently, Sony has acquired Returnal developer Housemarque, and there's also reason to believe Bluepoint Games has been brought under the hardware manufacturer's wing. Before then it was Marvel's Spider-Man and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart team Insomniac Games. Of course, Microsoft has also been making big-money moves that brought Bethesda and a raft of other developers into its own fold. It's tough to judge whether more acquisitions are on the way, but Layden is clear in his wording: this isn't the way the industry should be going about business if it doesn't want to stifle creativity and diversity.