Shawn Layden Would Like to See 12 to 15 Hour AAA Games Return

Shawn Layden, a former executive at PlayStation, would like to see the industry mix up the normal formula for AAA game development.

Shawn Layden, a former executive at PlayStation, is calling for change to the developments of bigger and more expensive games and describes the standard AAA procedure as not sustainable.

Layden spoke with Gamebeat as part of Gamelab Live yesterday where they discussed the development cycle as well as the recently released The Last of Us Part 2.

Layden described the game as “the ultimate example” of a story-driven game during the PS4 lifecycle and also on his watch before he left the company in October of last year.

He stated: “We can make you scream and yell and be horrified — those are the easy ones to get,” he said. “But if we can make you contemplative, sad, that’s really hitting the full gamut of emotional response to the gaming experience.”

However, as time has gone on, the development of games have gotten bigger, bolder, longer, and much more expensive. As Matthew from GamesIdustry.biz stated, The Last of Us takes about 15 hours to beat and took 3 and a half years to finish development. The sequel takes about 25 hours to beat and took 6 years to develop. Sony hasn’t disclosed the budget on those two games, but it is pretty safe to assume that the prices increased as well.

The former exec reminisced when production budgets were roughly $1 million for even the largest games being made and also referred to a common theory that development costs double with each new generation of hardware.

“The problem with that model is it’s just not sustainable,” he said, explaining that the current generation has seen the cost of development reach up to $150 million. “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’s expectation? What is the best way to get our story across, and say what we need to say? 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 reevaluate that.”

Layden also continued on discussing how the price of games has continued to stay where they are at now for quite some time. He stated: “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.”

He did discuss a possible solution; a return of shorter game lengths. Personally, as I get older, I have less and less time to complete these gargantuan titles. Layden has that same issue and believes shorter experiences will allow gamers to complete more titles as well as could give players tighter and more compelling stories.

“So how can we look at that and say: 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.

“It’s something I’d like to see a return to in this business.”

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