Shawn Layden was until last October the president of Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios, so he was in charge of the studios first party of the Japanese manufacturer, and even if he left his post for several months, he obviously follows the video game news carefully.
During a long discussion during the Gamelab Live, the subject of The Last of Us Part II therefore came logically on the carpet, a game developed by Naughty Dog which he obviously supervised for a long time, and which he presents as “The Ultimate Example” of PS4 Exclusive Narrative Games. A title full of emotions, with graphics and animations crying for realism, but a service life almost twice as long as the first component. And that is very expensive to produce, with production costs between 80 and 150 million dollars over five years on average for games AAA current, excluding marketing costs. Figures that have doubled compared to the previous generation.
The problem with this model is that it is simply not durable. I don’t think in the next generation you can take those numbers and double them and think you can evolve. I think the industry as a whole has to sit down and say, “Okay, what are we creating? What are the public’s expectations? What is the best way to tell our story and say what we need to say? “
It is difficult for each adventure game to target the 50-60 hour game milestone, as it will be much more expensive to achieve. And in the end, you can shut down some interesting designer studios and their stories out of the market if that’s the kind of threshold they have to hit … We have to reassess that.
Going into the next generation is not only an important role in management … It is also, perhaps, really assessing what we can keep putting into games – at what cost can you keep going to create these games?
Another point that Shawn Layden emphasizes, the sale price of video games. Despite the huge increase in production costs, titles have been sold at the same price for very long years, with some AAA € 69.99 in France according to the recommended retail price. And that is a subject that may also need to be reviewed:
Games have been at $ 59.99 since I started this business, but the cost of games has increased tenfold. If you don’t have price elasticity, but you have huge volatility on the cost line, the model becomes more difficult. I think this generation will see these two imperatives collide.
According to the former president of YOU Worldwide Studios, development cost will not go down, you have to invest in art departments, 4K, HDR technology, with people to pay behind:
All costs related to games are labor costs, right? You don’t have to build a factory. You don’t have to turn sand into glass. It’s just creativity and your ability to bring like-minded people together to get something done, but it’s all about people … it’s all the costs associated with it.
So how can we see that and say: is there another answer? Instead of spending five years creating an 80-hour game, what do three years and a 15-hour game look like? How much would it cost?
So, how do we get the video game industry there, financially speaking, while offering great games to players? Well, for Shawn Layden, the solution is all found: develop games AAA shorter :
Personally, as an older player … I would welcome a return to the AAA games from 12 to 3 p.m. I’d finish more games, first of all, and just like a well-produced book or movie, I’d watch the discipline that could give us tighter, more compelling content. This is something I would like to see come back to this industry.
So, Will PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X mark the return of shorter games, but still packed with new technologies, without putting aside the artistic and script elements of the works? Why not, because to use the example of The Last of Us Part II, it is clear that some passages could very well have been shortened to offer a shorter game, but just as interesting. The title is available at € 59.99 at the Fnac.
Also read: The Last of Us Part II: a solo DLC planned? Neil Druckmann responds
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Amaury M. / Clint008
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