PlayStation Ex-Exec Calls for 12-to-15 hour AAA Games, “Elasticity” on $60 Price Point

Jun 23, 2020
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This past generation was an era of big games, from Red Dead Redemption 2, to The Witcher 3, to countless Ubisoft open-world titles, but it’s also been a time of blooming budgets, countless delays, and an increasing awareness about developer crunch and burnout. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are almost upon us, bringing with them ever more detailed (and expensive) worlds, so question arises – can the industry continue their obsession with size?

Speaking at the Gamelab Live conference, former PlayStation exec Shawn Layden expressed concern about the potential cost of next-gen game development, saying it will inevitably balloon further from the $80 to $150 million required to make a AAA game today. As such, Layden would like to see a return to the smaller 12-to-15-hour AAA games you saw more often during the PS1 and PS2 eras

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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. 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 re-evaluate that. […] Is there another answer? 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.

Layden also broached another hot-button topic – namely, price. The price tag for a new video game has remained $60 for years now, while development costs have increased tenfold, and Layden thinks some “elasticity” may be required.

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.

Being on the verge of “older gamer” territory myself, I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to a return to more concise AAA games. Of course, it depends on the game – open-world titles should probably be longer, but for more linear, narrative-driven games, 12 to 15 is about perfect. Honestly, some recent AAA PlayStation games produced by Layden himself, including God of War and The Last of Us Part II, have felt a bit overstuffed.

What do you think? Would you rather have slightly shorter games, particularly if it meant fewer delays and crunch for the developers? What would you think if a publisher broke that hallowed $60 price barrier for a particularly large game?

Products mentioned in this post

The Last of Us Part II
The Last of Us Part II
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