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, 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.”


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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