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Ex-PlayStation talks about exclusivity, AAA cost and more

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Whenever the subject is exclusive and the speech comes from an ex-PlayStation, the topic usually attracts attention. Especially when that person is Shawn Layden, former head of Worldwide Studios and who is perhaps one of the recent big names in the community's mind due to the success of the PS4.

According to Layden, in an interview with VentureBeat, Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft Gaming, is not wrong in sending his games to Sony, and the Japanese giant also did not adopt a bad strategy when sending his titles to the PC. The reason is simple: depending on the proposal, profit and exclusivity can follow opposite paths.

When it comes to free games and games as a service especially, locking a title to just one platform can be a shot in the foot. Layden understands that the approach needs to be like this:

When your costs for a game exceed $200 million, exclusivity is your Achilles heel. This reduces your potential market. Especially when you're in the world of live service or free-to-play games. Another platform is just another way to open up the funnel, bringing in more people. In a free-to-play world, as we know, 95% of these people will never spend a dime. Business is all about conversion. You have to improve your chances by opening the funnel. Helldivers 2 showed this for the PlayStation, being released for PC at the same time. Again, you open up this funnel wider. You attract more people.

What about single-player games? PlayStation and other giants need to “balance”

As stated above, PlayStation itself, in Layden's view, was right to release Helldivers 2 as a title for PS5 and PC. With this, the company is no longer “taking money from the same people”, it makes the live service run and attracts more consumers. But the approach with single-player games is different:

For single-player games, it's not the same requirement. But if you're spending $250 million, you want to be able to sell it to as many people as possible, even if it's just 10% more. The global installed base for consoles – if you go back to the PS1 and everything else piled up there, everywhere you look, the cumulative consoles never exceed 250 million. Simply no. Dollars increased over time. But I look at it and see that we're just taking more money from the same people. This happened during the pandemic, which caused many companies to invest too much. See our numbers rising! We have to chase that rocket!

For this reason, Layden understands that franchises need to reach people who don't want to play Call of Duty, Fortnite and GTA. In the view of the ex-PlayStation, “companies are not doing enough to attract consumers to consoles”, so a balance is needed in the approach to launches.

And even, Shawn hopes that companies will invest more in double-A games, like Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales, for example. To exemplify this, he made an analogy with the construction of religious times.

If a church is giant, it will receive God in the same way as a church with only four walls and a roof. what did he mean with this? Not everything needs to have thousands of details to be considered a good game and attract players' attention:

I'm afraid we've stuck to the triple-A game model, with 80 hours of gameplay and 50 GB in size, and if we can't achieve that, we can't do anything. I'm waiting for double-A games to return. I'm totally in favor of that.

Image showing former Sony Interactive Entertainment president Shawn Layden in front of a PlayStation panel

Continuing, he mentions how the PS2 era had much more variety compared to the current one. And this culture is being left aside because of the high risk of production:

You had God of War and Assassin's Creed. But you also had Loco Roco and SingStar and Dance Dance Revolution. You had this whole spectrum of entertainment opportunities. Why not place a bet and see what happens? Katamari Damacy, for God's sake, you couldn't build that today because you can't even explain what it is. But now, when each bet is hundreds of millions, the risk tolerance is very low. You end up with imitations and sequels and not much else.

All the spells used by Kratos in the God of War games
(SOURCE: reproduction)

Do you agree with Layden? And how do you think PlayStation and other major publishers should approach this topic? Comment below!

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