Former PlayStation boss says console exclusivity is a weakness for costly games

Shawn Layden has described console exclusivity as the "achilles heel" of video games that cost more than USD $200 million.
shawn layden playstation console exclusivity

Shawn Layden, former president and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment America, has claimed console exclusivity is the “achilles heel” of video games that cost more than USD $200 million to produce, as it limits their potential market.

Speaking to GamesBeat, Layden discussed a range of factors currently impacting the games industry. Layden has worked for Sony and in the games industry for more than 30 years, and has seen sweeping changes across multiple roles. Based on his experience, he believes that major change is inevitable, and that it will impact the industry, consoles, and players alike.

“The whole idea of platforms is going to change,” Layden told GamesBeat. “The technology is becoming virtually indistinguishable. You could say the difference between what’s in an Xbox and what’s in a PlayStation, pretty much only dogs can hear it.”

Layden believes consoles will become less important in future, and that console exclusivity for major games will become a weakness as technology shifts.

Read: Helldivers 2 Review – Glory to Super Earth

“When your costs for a game exceed $200 million, exclusivity is your Achilles’ heel,” Layden said. “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 cited Helldivers 2 as a great example of “cracking the funnel open.” He believes that PlayStation allowing the game to launch on PC, as well as console, improved the appeal of the game, allowing in new players and boosting its success.

“For single-player games it’s not the same exigency. But 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,” Layden said. “We’re not doing enough to get heretofore non-console people into console gaming. We’re not going to attract them by doing more of the shit we’re doing now.”

Layden believes the real key to attracting more paying customers into the world of video games is to branch out, to try new things, and to allow all players to access games. On balance, Layden believes that making a game exclusive will not drive the amount of console sales needed to justify the overall exclusivity.

To ensure games that cost more than USD $200 million to produce are profitable, Layden claims a new approach must be taken.

While Layden’s opinion is personal, it’s backed by decades of experience working within Sony and PlayStation, and from monitoring decades of change. He has a unique perspective, and one certainly infused with authority. You can read the full interview with Shawn Layden on GamesBeat.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.