Former PlayStation exec believes current AAA model isn't sustainable going forward

By Sean Carey,
Former PlayStation boss Shawn Layden has called for the industry to reconsider how it handles AAA games and believes that the current AAA development model is not sustainable going forward into the next generation. Layden also wants to see shorter games being developed instead of longer 80-hour epics.

Credit: SonyCredit: Sony

As reported by gamesindustry.biz, Layden spoke about the AAA game development following a conversation on The Last of Us Part II. The sequel is roughly ten hours longer than in length that its predecessor and it took Naughty Dog almost double the amount of time to develop, with production costs most likely being substantially higher. Despite this, the $60/£45 price tag for games has remained the same.

"The problem with that model is it's just not sustainable," Layden said. He then explained that the current cost of development for AAA titles can reach between $80 million and $150 million and the work taking around 5 years to complete. It's widely theorised that cost of development has doubled with each new console generation, meaning we could see game development budges for the PS5 hitting $300 million. "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", Layden continues.

"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?'"

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Layden says that pricing on future AAA games needs to be flexible; otherwise, the AAA model won't be sustainable going forward. "It's been $59.99 since I started in this business, but the cost of games has 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."

Layden believes that developers need to spend less time on bigger and longer games, and instead develop shorter titles of and around 15 hours in length, "Instead of spending five years making an 80-hour game, what does three years and a 15-hour game look like? What would be the cost around that? Is that a full-throated experience? Personally, as an older gamer. I would welcome a return to the 12 to 15 hour [AAA] 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. It's something I'd like to see a return to in this business."

Would you prefer smaller and shorter games of around 15 hours at the $60 price point or longer epics with a higher price tag? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Sean Carey
Written by Sean Carey
Hey everyone! I'm Sean. I have been writing gaming content for various outlets over the past few years while studying a degree in Journalism. I grew up on everything PlayStation — mainly Metal Gear Solid, with a brief foray into the world of Xbox. Nowadays, you'll find me mainly playing multiplayer PC games such as Mordhau, but with the recent addition of the Xbox Games Pass for PC, I'm looking forward to improving my TA Score and completion percentage!