Home tech Sony's Shawn Layden wants fewer PlayStation games

Sony's Shawn Layden wants fewer PlayStation games

It has always been difficult to make a video game that we want to buy. The Internet makes it even more difficult.

Titles such as the post-apocalyptic adventure game of Bethesda Fallout 76 and the Battlefield 5 war simulator from Electronic Arts have become bags of prominent players on YouTube and Twitter when they were launched last year.

Players and reviewers have criticized Fallout 76 as a poorly done game that offered a new or amusing twist compared to its award-winning predecessor, Fallout 4 of 2015.

Some critics, meanwhile, were angry at EA for portraying a woman in her commercialization of Battlefield 5, a shooting game set during World War II. To make matters worse, the game was incomplete when it was released, lacking a promised real battle mode to compete with Fortnite.

Shawn Layden, former head of the Sony PlayStation team in the United States, now heads his gaming division.

Shawn Layden, former head of the Sony PlayStation team in the United States, now heads his gaming division.

Ian Sherr / CNET

Shawn Layden he has a plan to avoid those mistakes. As former Sony PlayStation boss in the United States and now head of its 13 development studios producing games such as the highly anticipated zombie game The Last of Us Part 2, Layden said he is more willing to delay games to make sure you meet an increasingly high quality bar.

"As an exclusive developer for PlayStation, we must always set the maximum score, to push the technology more than anyone else," he said.

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Troubled fans are not the only obstacle that Layden and his team must avoid. The game may be bigger than ever, but these controversies have become much more than a drama on the Internet. In EA's case, the company's missteps resulted in disappointing sales for Battlefield.

Other game makers have also been hit. Sony's PlayStation 4, considered the world's leading console player in over 94 million units sold over the past six years, has also struggled to make heavy profits during the holidays.

All this led an analyst to predict that this year the gaming industry will have to face its first sales decline in over two decades.

Part of Layden's work is to make sure that Sony gaming studios have fans on the PlayStation with exclusive key games.

Last year, those were titles like Marvel's Spider-Man, which thrilled fans with its dramatic history and detailed reconstruction of New York, winning a place in many game lists of the year . Another of Sony's big releases last year, a new installment in the popular God of War series, did just as well.

The upcoming exclusive games of the company, such as The Last of Us Part 2, an action game inspired by ancient Japan called Ghost of Tsushima, the post-apocalyptic game of the Days Gone motorcyclists and a game of building the world called Dreams, they should be the key outputs on both the PS4 and, if the rumors are true, a potential PlayStation 5 when it is launched in the next two years.

Speaking from his office in San Mateo, California, right on the path of other huge game producers like Nintendo and Electronic Arts, Layden did not discuss the new device. But he said that new technologies that could replace home consoles, such as Netflix-like game streaming technology, are still far from mass adoption.

He also mentioned that Sony is ready to buy other game makers, as it seems to expand the types of games it makes. Not even he is alone. The Microsoft Xbox team has announced several acquisitions of studio games in the last year as games takes more prominence to that company.

Below are excerpts from our conversation with Layden shortly before his opening speech at the DICE video game summit in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

With games like Fortnite: Battle Royale becoming so popular, how do you decide which types of games to play? Whether it's creating a direct "me-too" game or something different?
Even I do not want to enter into me, it seems that I think the world has all the real battle it needs right now.

I think we've done a lot in the last three or four years to take us to a place right now where we're building less games every year than ever, but we're spending more time, more energy, and more money, on getting them done.

So we're hitting all the beats we want, and we're getting critical and commercial acclaim. Now let's see what we could add to our arsenal. I have seen some opportunities in the past, it is an opportunity to look for those that are the best cultural form.

Shawn Layden speaking at the E3 videogames fair in 2017.

Luke Lancaster / CNET

How do you decide which game producers will you buy?
We always explore opportunities. If we find a partner, a team or a game that we think is particularly significant and interesting in a service area, we will try to get it in. We are always open to that kind of experience.

We try to make it really easy for our teams to focus on what our vision is for the future. And we simplified it in "first, better or duty".

If your title is "first" and you create a genre, or "before" and create a new game activity, let's take a look at this. If you are going to make an action adventure game, it is better to be "the best" in the class. And we have the third category called "must", which we must support the platform, we must be present when the new technology comes out.

Do you like motion controllers or VR or something?
Yes. We have to drive.

We talk a lot about how it is said that Apple is creating a game service, is Google has worked with Ubisoft last year to test a possible streaming service, not to mention the EAs announcement of one as well. And Amazon also bought a gaming studio. How do you see all this by changing your world? All of a sudden, they are no longer just Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.
It's an assertion that the games are here to stay. It is growing dramatically, and it is becoming a much broader entertainment landscape. With the bigger players coming in as you said, they will bring new energy, stimulation and excitement.

The PlayStation Now service on the screen of a Dell laptop, which shows the game Shadow of the Colossus.

Sony's PlayStation Now streaming service allows people to play some of their games on the Internet, a bit like Netflix.

CNET

With all this talk in streaming, is it worth it? You have PlayStation Now, and I've used it, but I would not play a shooting game. He does not feel ready to replace my console.
It's definitely one thing The challenge of streaming is that while you get to a place quickly enough that people who live on top of a good node in SOMA or Seoul or Stockholm can get a good life in streaming, if you're PlayStation and you're available in 168 around the world, streaming will be something that will affect certain people in certain places.

But still, for the vast majority of the gaming community, our 94 million PlayStation 4 out there, I think there's a lot of life in a local console.

And also delivered over the non-internet? The first thing I think about when people also talk about downloadable games is the army: there's always a good Internet connection to download games in war zones. They need something that you can bring them into a shipping box. But it is a challenge. When you were developing the PS4, there was talk about making it just downloadable, but you've decided to attack the disk partially because of these reasons.
I do not know what the time line is. If the PlayStation continues to grow at this speed, we can not leave any player behind. But streaming is something in which PlayStation is active and we want to be sure to keep up to date with this technology.

You're not the first big company to give up the big E3 video game in June, but I'm curious about why you chose this year to retire?
When we decided to bring videogames out of the CES, in 1995, during the era of PlayStation 1, E3 served two constituencies: retailers and journalists.

Retailers would come in – you'd see a guy come in and say "I'm from Sears, and I run Hot Wheels, Barbie, VHS and video games." It was a great educational component.

Then you had journalists who had magazines and delivery times and fiddling for the position on the cover. And there was no internet to talk about. So a fair at that time of year for this nascent industry was exactly what we had to do.

Sony has been one of the largest participations in the annual E3 video game program every June.

Josh Miller / CNET

Now we have an event in February called Destination PlayStation, where we bring all the resellers and third-party partners to come to know the story for the year. They are doing buying discussions in February. June, now, it's too late to have a discussion about Christmas holidays with retailers.

So the retail has really diminished. And journalists now, with the Internet and the fact that there are gaming news 24/7, has lost its impact on this.

So the fair has become a fair without many businesses. The world has changed, but the E3 has not necessarily changed with it.

And with our decision to make fewer games – bigger games – for longer periods of time, we came to a point where June 2019 was not the time for us to have a new thing to say. And we feel like we ring the bell and people come here in force, people have expectations "Oh, they'll tell us something".

We are carrying on the conversation, how do we transform the E3 in a more relevant way? Can E3 move on to a videogame fan festival, where we do not get together to drop the new bomb? Is not it just a celebration of games and panels where game developers are closer to the fans?

Almost like the Comic-Con?
Yes, it is probably the trajectory that must follow to maintain relevance.

So what happens to big ads? They simply happen on YouTube? What does this perfect Shawn Layden look like?
In a perfect future of Shawn Layden, I live in Tahiti.

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