In an extensive interview with GamesBeat (as reported on by gamesindustry.biz), form PlayStation Studios Chairman Shawn Layden spoke about the potentially unsustainable growth of the AAA video game industry.
“The problem with that model is it’s just not sustainable,” Layden says in regards to the development costs of major video games (which he says have ballooned to $80 million and $150 million in some cases). “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. 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?'”
Layden goes on to say that one of the reasons why video game costs have ballooned has to do with the growing expectations for longer video game experiences.
“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,” says Layden. “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.”
Along those same lines, Layden mentions that he’s like to see what “three years” of development for a “15-hour game” looks like as opposed to five years of development for an 80-hour game. Beyond the matter of costs that go along with making longer games, Layden expresses his personal interest in seeing shorter games make a comeback.
“Personally, as an older gamer… I would welcome a return to the 12 to 15 hour [AAA] game,” Layden says. “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. It’s something I’d like to see a return to in this business.”
This all brings us to the matter of The Last of Us Part 2 which some fans have criticized for being too long and drawn out despite its quality. Layden refers to The Last of Us Part 2 as “the ultimate example” of story-driven gaming, but he does seem to at least indirectly include it in the conversation of how every game can’t be expected to include so many hours of story-driven content and incur the production costs that come along with that goal.
While the success of massive titles like GTA 5 does seem to inspire studios to pursue larger projects, the potential inflation of costs associated with the next generation of gaming has left some wondering if we need more AA games and shorter experiences such as Remedy’s Control which are not only less expensive but offer a nice break from the commitment some titles demand.