Former PlayStation exec on AAA games model: “It’s just not sustainable”

Shawn Layden weighs in on the state of the AAA games business

Shawn Layden, a former executive for PlayStation, has shared his thoughts on the gaming industry’s development model for AAA games.

Layden spoke at a digital version of the Gamelab Live conference, as reported by GamesIndustry.biz, where he made a case for the industry to rethink the AAA development model.

Layden compared when the world’s biggest video games were developed on budgets of around USD$1million to the cost of most AAA games nowadays (between $80million and $150million on average), remarking that “the problem with that model is it’s just not sustainable.”

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He also noted that, despite the increase in development costs, the retail price for games have, for the most part, remained the same over the last 25 years. “It’s been $59.99 since I started in this business, but the cost of games have gone up ten times,” he said. “If you don’t have elasticity on the price-point, but you have huge volatility on the cost line, the model becomes more difficult. I think this generation is going to see those two imperatives collide.”

Layden then explained another reason why AAA games cost so much: its longer run-times. Developing a 30-hour game would cost twice as much as a 15-hour game in terms of manpower alone. Factor in the cost of the latest technology, and the number’s bound to swell.

“Personally, as an older gamer… I would welcome a return to the 12 to 15 hour [AAA] game,” Layden remarked. “I would finish more games, first of all, and just like a well-edited piece of literature or a movie, looking at the discipline around that could give us tighter, more compelling content.”

 

 

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