gaming

Former PlayStation boss criticises studio acquisitions


Layden believes that acquisitions are ultimately a bad thing for the industry (Picture: GamesIndustry.biz)

Shawn Layden has called consolidation the ‘enemy of diversity’ and believes acquisitions threaten to remove variety from the industry.

In the past, Sony hasn’t been shy in criticising Microsoft’s plans to snap up as many studios as it can through acquisitions. And now a former Sony executive has also said that this kind of consolidation is bad for the games industry as a whole.

In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Layden, who was once Sony Interactive Entertainment’s CEO before stepping down in 2019, calls consolidation ‘the enemy of diversity,’ saying that it risks creating a lack of variety.

‘Right now, we are narrowing ourselves down into genres and sequels and certain types of games. 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. Over time, that leads to a crumbling of the games industry if we just keep talking to the same people and telling the same stories in the same way.

‘Consolidation, from a bank ledger side of the calculation, makes sense,’ he continues, ‘Grab up all the resources so the other guy doesn’t get it and put them to task on the thing that you want to have done. But it takes the variety out of the marketplace. That’s my fear. And over time, that is going to make the industry moribund, and it’s going to create a world of sameness.’

Compared to Microsoft, Sony certainly isn’t as interested in making new acquisitions, preferring to invest in the studios it already owns. Although that’s not to say it has no intention of buying out other studios.

Back in 2019, it acquired developer Insomniac Games, which already had a strong relationship with Sony, having created multiple PlayStation exclusives like the original Spyro The Dragon trilogy and the Ratchet & Clank series.

More recently, it bought Returnal studio Housemarque and it’s also been rumoured to be purchasing Bluepoint Games as well, the latter of which has almost made nothing but PlayStation exclusives as well.

Microsoft, on the other hand, has been acquiring studios as early as 2018, such as Obsidian Entertainment, Playground Games, and perhaps most famously Zenimax and all of its studios, including the likes of Bethesda, Arkane, and id Software.

Layden has also expressed scepticism for subscription and streaming services like Game Pass and xCloud, both of which Microsoft has been strongly pushing. While he admits to their positives, he believes they lack a working business model.

‘People don’t buy consoles because they want more steel and plastic in the living room. People buy consoles because they want access to the content. If you can find a way to get the content into people’s homes without a box, then yes, indeed.

‘Everyone has a streaming solution of some form. Most of it is limited by whether you have a decent internet connection. And they haven’t constructed the business model that works yet for that.’

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