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Business Ex-PlayStation boss predicts Sony's PS5 games will cost $200m to make, "3 to 4 game types continue to exist and variety is squeezed out"

May 9, 2019
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The former boss of PlayStation has predicted PlayStation 5 games will cost $200m to make.

Shawn Layden, who held various executive roles at PlayStation before leaving in October 2019, told Bloomberg the cost of game development doubles with every platform.

Budgets for PlayStation 4 games Layden spearheaded each hit $100m, and, Bloomberg reports, Layden predicts PS5 games will each cost $200m to make and prices will only increase from there.

Big game companies will combat this exponential development cost by employing a "de-risk" strategy, Layden suggested, which in turn causes triple-A publishers to become "incentivised toward sequels".

Bloomberg points to publishers chasing trends, quoting Layden as saying: "What happens there is you end up with three to four silos of games or game types that continue to exist, and variety is squeezed out."

Sony is working on a raft of big-budget sequels for PS5 - although most are cross-gen titles that also have a PS4 version. Titles include Guerrilla's Horizon Forbidden West, Polyphony's Gran Turismo 7, and the next God of War from Sony Santa Monica.

Meanwhile, Days Gone developer Bend Studio is working on a new IP, and Uncharted and The Last of Us developer Naughty Dog is working on a standalone multiplayer game, as well as, reportedly, a remake of The Last of Us.

Bloomberg did question Layden about his own role in the creation of this sustainability issue while at PlayStation - after all, the former exec was chairman of SIE Worldwide Studios up to late 2019, before which PlayStation had released a number of eye-catching PS4 exclusives, such as Uncharted 4, Horizon Zero Dawn, God of War, Days Gone and Marvel's Spider-Man.

"I think I contributed a part into showing the world what amazing gameplay can look like," Layden responded.

Sony is of course set to unveil a "look into the future of PS5" this week during a PlayStation Showcase livestream that features news from PlayStation studios, as well as "some of the industry's most imaginative developers", on games releasing this year "and beyond".

 

tommib

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Maybe it will be a good thing if the whole AAA system is unsustainable and implodes during this generation. Could be a way for publishers to rethink a model that is now falling into the same bet-all-money-into-1-blockbuster that Hollywood is trapped in. Maybe then we get away from the obsession to emulate the movie business and start giving alternative projects the spotlight they deserve.
 

Stuart360

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How much does a game like Rider's Republic cost?
Pure guess here but i'd bet around 20mil, maybe 30mil tops. Steep was hardly a big seller, and there are no lenthy cutscenes with named voice actors and all that.
 
Oct 30, 2011
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How is this any different than what went on under Shawn Layden in the PS3/4 days?

We've been getting the same "type" of games for a very long time. It's just now those games are even more expensive to make, but also of much higher quality, and sell a lot more.

I don't think the AA-tier games are being abandoned. Sony is making things like Returnal / Kena on a tighter budget
 
Jan 16, 2020
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How is this any different than what went on under Shawn Layden in the PS3/4 days?

We've been getting the same "type" of games for a very long time. It's just now those games are even more expensive to make, but also of much higher quality, and sell a lot more.

I don't think the AA-tier games are being abandoned. Sony is making things like Returnal / Kena on a tighter budget

Yeah i'm getting sick of hearing this now

Budgets for their leading AAA games are going to go up which is obvious, but i'm still waiting for these other games to die out as a result

There was Returnal like you said, Sackboy and i'm pretty sure they didn't go ham on Ratchet & Clanks budget either given how consise of an experience it was
 

Neilg

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It's absolute bollocks. A lot of the tools in new engines don't increase the manpower of artists time now. Increased costs come with a choice of increased complexity.

There will always be rockstar or cdpr happy to funnel all the money they have into making a game, but that's not mandatory.
Just because the avengers movies exist, doesn't mean people stopped making serious dramas on a 10m budget.
 
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DJ Shalad

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Guess they won't hit that $5 billion a month sustainability then.
Money Chicken GIF by happydog
slap slapping GIF
 
May 9, 2019
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How is this any different than what went on under Shawn Layden in the PS3/4 days?

We've been getting the same "type" of games for a very long time. It's just now those games are even more expensive to make, but also of much higher quality, and sell a lot more.

I don't think the AA-tier games are being abandoned. Sony is making things like Returnal / Kena on a tighter budget
Kena is different. It is developed and published by Ember Labs.
 

Knightime_X

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What actor gets paid 100mil?
The point is companies are spending excessive amounts of money on a known super star to either voice over the be scanned in the game.
There is no telling how much Norman Reedus cost for death Stranding.
Imagine spending money for multiple high end actors.

I also call bs on budgets doubling every generation.
Newer engines improve productivity and practicality do half the work with but not limited to procedural generation in open world games.
 
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Stuart360

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Didnt EA or Ubisoft (one of them anyway) say before this gen started that dev costs could actually go down this gen as instead of having a dev spend a day making a chair asset, they can just 3d scan them and get a ready made asset in minutes?.
It makes sense really if you think about it, and asset making is one of the most time consuming and expensive part of game developmet.
I think stuff like this is more brainwashing as an excuse for the 'need' for $70 games.
 
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Hugare

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I'm pretty sure that Sony is aware about something called "profit margin"

If sales start droping, they will make a move and change tactics. Right now, they are doing pretty good.

I love Sony games. But Psychonauts 2 is my GOTY so far. A game made with not even 1/10 of GOW/TLOU 2 budget, probably

So I really hope that more games like Psychonauts become succesful
 

dezzy8

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Stop spending 100 million on a single actor to star in your game.
Facts. They can pay lesser known actors who’d do just as good of a job as these bugs names. I’m not buying for game because you hired Kiefer Sutherland or Walking Dead dude KOJIMA!!
 
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Stuart360

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I think 200mil will be the exception rather than the rule. Plus most first party Sony games sell in the 5-10mil range anyway, which more than covers the dev costs, even including sales and price drops.
Add in the game coming to PC later too and that number doesnt seem quite as big as you initially think.
 

gunslikewhoa

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The point is companies are spending excessive amounts of money on a known super star to either voice over the be scanned in the game.
There is no telling how much Norman Reedus cost for death Stranding.
Imagine spending money for multiple high end actors.

I also call bs on budgets doubling every generation.
Newer engines improve productivity and practicality do half the work with but not limited to procedural generation in open world games.

How much is excessive? How much are they spending? Do you actually have any idea or? Give an example.
 
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yurinka

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I don't think the AA-tier games are being abandoned. Sony is making things like Returnal / Kena on a tighter budget
Moby Games says Returnal's game credits feature 1344 people. Wikipedia says it was under development for more than 4 years. Metacritic of a 85. Returnal is a AAA game.

Sony isn't making Kena, but maybe it's funding it with the moneyhat to keep it timed console exclusive.

How much is excessive? How much are they spending? Do you actually have any idea or? Give an example.
Late PS4/early PS5 Sony games costing around 100-200M in development plus very likely around the same in marketing. Similar AAA publishers being in that ballpark. Games with over 2000 people listed in their game credits, developments of around 5 years on average (some of them even going to 7 or above).


Didnt EA or Ubisoft (one of them anyway) say before this gen started that dev costs could actually go down this gen as instead of having a dev spend a day making a chair asset, they can just 3d scan them and get a ready made asset in minutes?.
The same chair maybe can be done faster now. But now this chair will be way more detailed, the game will be way bigger, way longer, way more dense and populated etc. so there are way more props/types of chairs to do, etc. Every generation the budget increase and there's more work to do unless AAA games stop growing and growing.

There will always be rockstar or cdpr happy to funnel all the money they have into making a game, but that's not mandatory.
Yes, but big AAA publishers want to be in the top of the food chain, so want to and will to compete agains them (against Rockstar, CDPR mess isn't a big deal).

PS5 has variety already. I think they'll have even more variety than the last generation
Yes, and even Sony's exclusives, even if we don't count 3rd parties, always had a lot of variety and PS4 is a great example of that. Look at games like Death Stranding, Dreams, Concrete Genie, MLB, the VR games, the Playlink games, Detroit, Matterfall, Until Dawn, Bloodborne, GT and a long etc...
 
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Sophist

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The point is companies are spending excessive amounts of money on a known super star to either voice over the be scanned in the game.
There is no telling how much Norman Reedus cost for death Stranding.
Imagine spending money for multiple high end actors.

I also call bs on budgets doubling every generation.
Newer engines improve productivity and practicality do half the work with but not limited to procedural generation in open world games.
Today 3d models require facial motion capture which need you to hire actual actors, not only voice actors.
You may also have to hire specific talents. For example, SquareEnix had to hire dancers for the Honeybee Inn sequence in FF7R.
You also need to hire a decent music composer that may ask up to $1 million plus royalties. Then recording the music with an orchestra may cost up to 150 000 per hour.
and so on...
Also, it's the marketing part that is growing the most. Modern Warfare 2 did cost $50 millions to develop then $200 millions to promote.
 

Knightime_X

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Today 3d models require facial motion capture which need you to hire actual actors, not only voice actors.
You may also have to hire specific talents. For example, SquareEnix had to hire dancers for the Honeybee Inn sequence in FF7R.
You also need to hire a decent music composer that may ask up to $1 million plus royalties. Then recording the music with an orchestra may cost up to 150 000 per hour.
and so on...
Also, it's the marketing part that is growing the most. Modern Warfare 2 did cost $50 millions to develop then $200 millions to promote.
So you're implying the vast majority of cost is from promoting.
If that's the case it's no different from any other time.
 

DJ Shalad

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TLOU2 did not cost them $200 million. A team of 500 making 100K each year * 2 (PR, CEO, licensing etc.) = $100 million

I don´t see how a TLOU3 suddenly would just past $200 million or more, are texture "artist" that expensive? Also Layden, Jack Tretton and Fills Resume have joined different mobile-groups-joint-venture company with focus on mobile, max. ROI?
 
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Sophist

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So you're implying the vast majority of cost is from promoting.
If that's the case it's no different from any other time.
marketing is a competition; You want that advertising spot but that another guy also want it too. Advertising costs will grow more and more. As an example, a 30 seconds long commercial during super bowl did cost $700 000 in 1990 but $5 600 000 in 2020 which is x2 every ten years.
 

Men_in_Boxes

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He can't really have said this...

"Favourites like my own, like Parappa and Vib-Ribbon, those things don't seem to get a chance to come out on stage. That's bad for the industry and for fans." - Sean Layden

Jim Ryan should have had his job 5 years sooner if this is really what he believes. My God.
 

MrFunSocks

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Sony already just make the same type of games and endless sequels, and their types of games require bigger and bigger budgets cause they rely on massive set pieces and cutscenes and a focus on graphics. This is only sustainable when they're the clear market leader and media darling.

Microsoft seem to be trying to address this already, having said multiple times that Game Pass means they hope to release smaller games/content more frequently.

Nintendo just rake in the cash because they don't chase big budget cinematic set piece driven graphical monsters, and their hardware matches their ethos. They just make fun games.
 

MrFunSocks

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I think 200mil will be the exception rather than the rule. Plus most first party Sony games sell in the 5-10mil range anyway, which more than covers the dev costs, even including sales and price drops.
Add in the game coming to PC later too and that number doesnt seem quite as big as you initially think.
Sony's first party game sales numbers are always propped up with bundles though, so it's impossible to see how many people actually went out and spent money on their games.
 

kyliethicc

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TLOU2 did not cost them $200 million. A team of 500 making 100K each year * 2 (PR, CEO, licensing etc.) = $100 million

I don´t see how a TLOU3 suddenly would just past $200 million or more, are texture "artist" that expensive? Also Layden, Jack Tretton and Fills Resume have joined different mobile-groups-joint-venture company with focus on mobile, max. ROI?
1 - plenty of devs at Naughty Dog make well over 100k a year
2 - outsourcing
3 - marketing

It was probably at least a 150 million dollar game (including marketing) maybe even 200 million.

He can't really have said this...

"Favourites like my own, like Parappa and Vib-Ribbon, those things don't seem to get a chance to come out on stage. That's bad for the industry and for fans." - Sean Layden

Jim Ryan should have had his job 5 years sooner if this is really what he believes. My God.
Shawn Layden was never CEO. He worked for Jim Ryan as head of 1st party.

Layden replaced Shu Yoshida and got replaced by Hulst.
 
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Shmunter

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This would have nothing to do with next gen as much as it is with the cost of business. Wages, rents, etc.

The same game on PS5 vs PS4 should be cheaper to make on PS5.
 
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Perrott

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"[Vib-Ribbon] wasn't a multi-million seller, but that's not the point" yeah, sure Layden, but that ain't what you told Kojima Productions once you decided to cut their budget and sabotage Death Stranding's development just because it had bad sales potential from your point of view.

You don't get to complain about the industry's variety and creativity in the AAA space after what you've done. Take your Vib-Ribbon speech and shove it up your ass.
 

BadBurger

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I understand he was a game exec for many years, but I'd like to know why dev costs for the PS5 would suddenly double. Nothing fundamentally different is happening. I figured the advances made with the PS5 hardware wise, while retaining the same architecture and I would imagine tools, would make it a little easier.
 
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Kerotan

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Maybe it will be a good thing if the whole AAA system is unsustainable and implodes during this generation. Could be a way for publishers to rethink a model that is now falling into the same bet-all-money-into-1-blockbuster that Hollywood is trapped in. Maybe then we get away from the obsession to emulate the movie business and start giving alternative projects the spotlight they deserve.
If the AAA business fails everything goes GAAS. That is absolute aids.
 

Kerotan

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I understand he was a game exec for many years, but I'd like to know why dev costs for the PS5 would suddenly double. Nothing fundamentally different is happening. I figured the advances made with the PS5 hardware wise, while retaining the same architecture and I would imagine tools, would make it a little easier.
Inflation adds to it and also everything in the west has gotten a lot more expensive over the last 10 years including wages. Plus there's a lot more to them now. Not many titles were hiring entire orchestras 10 years ago!
 

ZehDon

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I don't give a shit about anything from that post other than Naughty Dog working on standalone multiplayer game and Last Of Us remake. This triggers me.

Why the fuck are they not doing a new IP exclusively for PS5?
I think it makes sense. Naughty Dog likely produce some of Sony's most expensive games. Their last title, TLOUII, did well critically, but for such a massive budget title, their earlier games like the Uncharted titles easily eclipsed it in terms of sales. If you want them to continue to throw such big budgets at such divisive titles, they'll need a way to recoup that cost. It'll take them five or six years to do their next original game - they need something to sell in that time. It's like that gag from 'Jay and Silent Bob': "You gotta do the safe picture. Then you can do the art picture." I suspect a standalone multiplayer title is about re-using the TLOUII engine for another title to offset their engine development costs, and to generate a recurring revenue stream that would help them justify spending $200m on another title that half their fans might not like. TLOU remake is likely just to ride the upcoming TV Show and make some easy money.
 
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