The former PlayStation president believes PlayStation is overspending and underdistributing

I've always appreciated the candor of Shawn Layden, the former head of PlayStation who left his position as CEO of SIE in 2019. Now that he's left the company, he's become more vocal about his opinions on all things, including his own. Previous company.

Layden gave an interesting interview with GamesBeat This touches on a recurring theme of late, which is the inflated cost of AAA games and how unsustainable they have become, including being a problem for PlayStation.

Now that games cost much more than they used to, the economies of scale for distribution no longer make sense with the limited PS4/5 install base. They're often unable to adequately recoup those costs or make significant profits no matter how many games are sold within the PlayStation ecosystem, and this problem only grows over time. Here's Layden:

“If you're spending $250 million, you want to be able to sell it to as many people as possible, even if it's only 10% more. The global installed base of consoles — if you go back to the PS1 and everything else is crammed in there, wherever you look In time, the cumulative consoles there never exceed 250 million. It doesn't happen. The dollar has gone up over time. But I look at that and I see that we're taking more money from the same people.

Layden cites that PlayStation did a good job with Helldivers 2, releasing that game on PlayStation and PC at the same time, which greatly increased its fortunes. But while PlayStation has committed to doing this with other f2p multiplayer games, it still seems willing to delay PC versions of its big cinematic games for a long time. They are more open to adapting to this period, but it is still a period of delay. And there doesn't seem to be any chance at all of their big games being put on Xbox, something Xbox itself is now starting to address.

As much as I like Layden, I have to take his opinions with a grain of salt, given what he's currently doing. Layden is now an advisor to Readygg, a blockchain/NFT endeavor. Here's how it's described on the site:

“READYgg's Layer 3 platform provides plug-and-play infrastructures built on Layer 0 for seamless interoperability across blockchain networks to integrate web3 functionality and NFT support into any game.”

We certainly haven't seen many mainstream games wanting to incorporate “web3 functionality and NFT support”, as the idea has failed massively in the mainstream gaming scene, and previous oft-cited examples of “success” like Axie Infinity have collapsed. More games are being created but it's still a small scene. Here's Layden's take, addressing skepticism surrounding cryptocurrency gaming:

“That's all blown, I think. A lot of the NFT craze is over now. Crypto is where it is. But we're looking at the enabling technology. There were get-rich-quick schemes three to five years ago. But do these underlying technologies have a greater purpose? They solve problems? I look at READYgg and say, “Can you solve the problem of used digital games? Can we create a market where everyone who has added to the value of that game, largely the developer and publisher, can reap the rewards by reselling that IP?

Yeah, I'm not really optimistic about that, even if I appreciate his larger points about PlayStation and the challenges they face now. I don't think small companies making a bunch of blockchain games with variable revenue models are the answer to larger budget and distribution issues, even if they serve as a niche market. But PlayStation, and other AAA studios, will need to come up with new strategies at some point here.

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