Ex-PlayStation Boss Believes Current AAA Development Growth Is Unsustainable

Ex-PlayStation executive Shawn Layden has put forward a case to reconsider the scale and scope of AAA video games, stating that the current large-scale offerings are unsustainable for the industry.As reported by GamesIndustry.biz, Layden discussed the issue at Gamelab Live following a conversation about The Last of Us Part 2, a game that was partially developed during his 25 year tenure at Sony. At approximately 10 hours longer than its predecessor and more technologically advanced, it likely cost a substantial amount more to develop. Yet it still retails for the same price – $59.99. “The problem with that model is it’s just not sustainable,” said Layden. He explained that current generation development costs reach between $80 million and $150 million (excluding marketing costs) for AAA games, with the work taking up to five years to complete. Furthermore, AAA budgets have historically doubled each generation, meaning that PS5 development budgets could hit $300 million.

“I don’t think that, in the next generation, you can take those numbers and multiply them by two and think that you can grow,” he added. “I think the industry as a whole needs to sit back and go, ‘Alright, what are we building? What’s the audience expectation? What is the best way to get our story across, and say what we need to say?’

He pointed out how these budgets are unsustainable if retail prices cannot be elastic. “It’s been $59.99 since I started in this business, but the cost of games have gone up ten times. 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.”

AAA is not going to get any less expensive with the advent of 4K art and the expectation of large game worlds. Layden points out that this could also shut different types of creators out of the AAA business.

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