Former chariman of Sony Worldwide Studios Shawn Layden has called for the return of the “12 to 15 hour game”, saying that AAA budgets have become unsustainable. This comes via an interview for Gamebeat’s Gamelab Live event, in which Layden argued that AAA budgets have been expanding, while the price for an individual game has remained the same.
“The problem with that model is it’s just not sustainable,” said Layden. “Major triple-A games in the current generation go anywhere from $80 million to $150 million or more to build, and that’s before marketing. It’s a huge up-front cost. Extended over time, it takes three or four or five years to build a game while you’re not getting any return on the investment. You just continue to pay into it looking for the big payoff at the end.
Layden argues that the solution to these ballooning costs is to return to shorter games with shorter development cycles.
“Personally, as an older gamer… I would welcome a return to the 12 to 15 hour 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.”
Either way, Layden expects the status quo to change in the next generation, as development continues to get more and more expensive.
“I don’t think, in the next generation, you can take those numbers and multiply them by two and expect the industry to continue to grow. The industry as a whole needs to sit back and think, “What are we building? What’s the audience expectation? What is the best way to get our stories across, to say what we need to say?” That’s going to cause the industry to look at the kind of games we’re doing, where we go from there, and what we’re putting into them. It’s hard for every adventure game to shoot for 50 or 60 hours of gameplay. That’s going to be so much more expensive to achieve.
“In the end, you may close some interesting creators and their stories out of the market if that’s a threshold you have to meet. If you don’t have 50 hours of gameplay, you don’t have a game? We need to reevaluate that.”