Former PlayStation studios boss Layden says triple-A budgets aren't sustainable

Former PlayStation studios boss Layden says triple-A budgets aren't sustainable

The ex-head of Sony Interactive Entertainment's Worldwide Studios arm Shawn Layden has said that the current growth of triple-A development budgets cannot carry on.

Speaking at Gamebeat's Gamelab Live event, the former PlayStation exec said that the rising cost of making games is not sustainable. Layden pointed to the increase in budgets in the last console generation alongside the RRP of games staying strong at $60.

"The problem with that model is it’s just not sustainable," he said.

"Major triple-A games in the current generation go anywhere from $80 million to $150 million or more to build, and that’s before marketing. It’s a huge up-front cost. Extended over time, it takes three or four or five years to build a game while you’re not getting any return on the investment. You just continue to pay into it looking for the big payoff at the end.

"I don’t think, in the next generation, you can take those numbers and multiply them by two and expect the industry to continue to grow. The industry as a whole needs to sit back and think, “What are we building? What’s the audience expectation? What is the best way to get our stories across, to say what we need to say?” That’s going to cause the industry to look at the kind of games we’re doing, where we go from there, and what we’re putting into them. It’s hard for every adventure game to shoot for 50 or 60 hours of gameplay. That’s going to be so much more expensive to achieve.

"In the end, you may close some interesting creators and their stories out of the market if that’s a threshold you have to meet. If you don’t have 50 hours of gameplay, you don’t have a game? We need to reevaluate that."

Layden worked at PlayStation for 25 years and left in September 2019 apparently due to a power struggle with SIE boss Jim Ryan over how the company was being restructured.

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Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.