During the latter stages of his tenure at PlayStation, former executive Shawn Layden oversaw some of the biggest first-party projects in his organisation’s history, including Horizon Zero Dawn and God of War. But the suit’s history in the gaming industry, as he’s eager to point out frequently, stretches back decades, to the days of Vib-Ribbon. He’s seen budgets balloon, then, and it’s a concern.
Speaking with Bloomberg, he noted that costs “seem to double” each generation, with some of Sony’s major first-party titles costing up to $100 million on the PlayStation 4. “If we can't stop the cost curve from going up, all we can do is try to de-risk it,” he explained. “That puts you in a place where you're incentivised toward sequels.”
PlayStation’s always mixed sequels with new intellectual property, but as Layden points out, it’s going to get harder to justify those kind of decisions. “What happens is you end up with 3-4 silos of games or game types that continue to exist, and variety is squeezed out,” he explained, also pointing to how publishers are chasing the next billion dollar phenomenon, like Minecraft and Fortnite.
But didn’t Layden, certainly in his latter days, play a part in this trend towards bigger, more expensive games? After all, he would have been involved in signing off on projects like Ghost of Tsushima and The Last of Us: Part II. “I think I contributed a part into showing the world what amazing gameplay can look like,” he said.
Hermen Hulst, the current PlayStation Studios boss, said recently that Sony has 25 PS5 exclusives in development, and pointed out that “nearly half” are new franchises. He also was eager to stress that “there’s an incredible amount of variety” spanning “big, small, [and] different genres”. So it sounds like there’ll be a good mixture of stuff coming out for the foreseeable future, which is reassuring to know.