Former PlayStation Boss Says the Current Triple-A Model is "Not Sustainable"

Former PlayStation Boss Says the Current Triple-A Model is "Not Sustainable"

Shawn Layden thinks the games industry is in for a reckoning in terms of business models.

Every generation, the top-tier triple-A games get more expansive, more ostentatious, and more expensive. According to former PlayStation Worldwide Studios boss Shawn Layden, this business model is "not sustainable". Layden talked about some of the issues he saw during a talk at Gamelab Live, a free online conference featuring several games industry luminaries.

Layden had a 32 year career at Sony and was an executive within the PlayStation division for 20 of those years. He recalled the days when games had $1 million production budgets, at they way up to expensive triple-A titles like The Last of Us Part 2, which was in development when Layden left. He pointed to current budgets of $80-150 million, excluding marketing costs.

"The problem with that model is it's just not sustainable," he said, according to "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."

20 years of managing games is a long time. | Zebra Partners

He mentioned that a whole host of factors continue to strain under the current development model. Team sizes are getting larger and asset creation isn't getting cheaper, especially with the move to 4K. At the same time, while development costs have risen, the price of games has not. "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," he said.

Layden also pointed towards the trend of making longer games. Publishers and developers want more of their titles to be lifestyle games that you can buy and engage with forever. Layden called for a rethink of that idea, noting that not every game concept can be filled out to that level.

"It's hard for every adventure game to shoot for the 50 to 60 hour gameplay milestone, because that's gonna be so much more expensive to achieve," he explained. "And in the end you may close some interesting creators and their stories out of the market if that's the kind of threshold they have to meet... We have to reevaluate that."

The former PlayStation exec also a downshifting in development time and game sizes. "Instead of spending five years making an 80 hour game, what does three years and a 15 hour game look like?" he asked. "Personally, as an older gamer... I would welcome a return to the 12 to 15 hour [triple-A] game. 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."

Layden's comments come around the launch of The Last of Us Part 2, a game he called "the ultimate example" of the PlayStation 4 era. That title was the center of a conversation about crunch culture, with former Naughty Dog staffers talking openly about overwork and high turnover within the company. The game's release has also fuel the discussion around stringent review embargoes and spoiler culture. With the game out, lead developers at Naughty Dog have begun to talk about alternate directions for the story considered during the development process.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Mike Williams

Reviews Editor

M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.

In other news

NPD: PS5 Sets New US Console Launch Records While Switch Holds Strong

A strong debut for Sony hasn't stopped Switches from flying off shelves.

The Last of Us Part 2 Takes Home Top Prize at The Game Awards: Here Are All the Winners

Hades, Final Fantasy 7 Remake, and Among Us did get some well-earned love too.

Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales Receives a Surprise Ray Tracing Performance Mode Update on PS5

Can't choose between 60 FPS and ray tracing? There's a new mode for you.

Quantic Dream Announces Publishing Deal for Dustborn, From the Makers of Dreamfall

Red Thread's dystopian road trip may end up being the first title published by David Cage's newly independent studio.

Need help?

GTA 5 Cheats

Discover all the GTA 5 cheats with this handy GTA V cheats PS4, GTA 5 cheats Xbox One, and PC guide for free GTA money and more. Plus get all the Grand Theft Auto 5 cheats for Xbox 360 and PS3.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Best Mods That You Should Download Now

RDR2 just released for PC players and that means more and more mods are coming in every day. Here are the best mods available right now for Red Dead Redemption 2.

10 GTA 5 Secrets That You Won't Believe

GTA 5 is a massive game, filled with brilliant secrets and Easter eggs. We've rounded up the 10 most amazing GTA 5 secrets.