Exclusivity Is AAA Games’ “Achilles’ Heel” Says Former PlayStation Boss

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Shawn Layden, the former CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, has never been shy about sharing his thoughts on the state of the industry, and this time he’s taking aim at console exclusive titles. In an interview with GamesBeat, the industry veteran has called AAA console exclusives an “Achilles’ heel,” saying companies need to consider how the market has changed.

“When your costs for a game exceed $200 million, exclusivity is your Achilles’ heel,” Layden said, agreeing that releasing games across platforms is essential to market growth. “It reduces your addressable market. Particularly when you’re in the world of live service gaming or free-to-play.”

“Another platform is just another way of opening the funnel, getting more people in. In a free-to-play world, as we know, 95% percent of those people will never spend a nickel. The business is all about conversion. You have to improve your odds by cracking the funnel open,” Layden continued. “Helldivers 2 has shown that for PlayStation, coming out on PC at the same time. Again, you get that funnel wider. You get more people in.”

The same is true for single-player games, Layden adds, though to a lesser extent. “If you’re spending $250 million, you want to be able to sell it to as many people as possible, even if it’s just 10% more.” The rising cost of game development is something Layden has spoken on before, calling it an “existential threat” to the industry and advocating for a return to AA-style games that are smaller in scope.

In the GamesBeat interview, Layden also calls for more innovation especially in the console space, seeing a need for the industry to attract a new audience. “We’re not going to attract them by doing more of the shit we’re doing now,” he says. “If 95% of the world doesn’t want to play Call of Duty, Fortnite, and Grand Theft Auto, is the industry just going to make more Call of Duty, Fortnite and Grand Theft Auto? That’s not going to get you anybody else.”

Now working as an advisor for companies including Tencent, Streamline Media Group, and NFT-focused gaming startup Readygg, Layden often weighs in on the state of the industry, giving his advice as a veteran. The former PlayStation CEO wasn’t a fan of Microsoft’s purchase of Activision-Blizzard, and has warned of the influence of major companies like Netflix, Google, Apple, and Amazon on the gaming ecosystem. Despite his warnings and advice, Layden commented relatively optimistically on the mass layoffs in the industry, saying he doesn’t believe the industry’s demise is anywhere close.