PlayStation boss Shawn Layden was on stage at Gamelab in Barcelona late last week. With colleague Mark Cerny asking the questions it wasn't exactly probing, but Layden was still notably forthright about the ups-and-downs of the console platform business.
One part of particular interest was how the company has to find a balance between first-party and third-party support for its platform,something that Layden has string feelings on (transcribed by Venturebeat):
"We’re not here to create games that steal market share from other publishers. Because we manage the platform, it’s not to steal pieces of the pie. It’s to grow the entire pie."
Now initially, Sony wasn't big on investing in first-party exclusives compared to some of its early competitors, something that's changed gradually with each hardware generation, resulting recently in a string of high-profile, triple-A hits and many more to come.
Speaking on the PlayStation 4 about its comeback from the struggles the platform had with the PS3 Layden added:
"We had good support from our partners. I think we got back to our basis of PlayStation being a people’s platform. It’s there to provide something for our third-party partners to succeed with and reach out to their fans… We succeed in our business with our partners, at the same time."
It's always a balancing act however between first-party and third-party development. Something that Layden is very aware of and is keen not to steer to close to the model taken by some of its competitors. Speaking on the size of the company's first-party output he said:
"For Worldwide Studios now, our output, the number of teams we have, I think it’s about the right size for what we need to do. We’re never going to be like Nintendo, holding the lion’s share of the Nintendo platform game business, because that’s not the way we work. We want to make the PlayStation platform available to all of our third-partners. I think we build success for PlayStation by getting as many people inside the tent as possible that aren’t necessarily controlled by Worldwide Studios."
While that's certainly true, the increased number of increasingly successful PlayStation-developed titles in recent years has tipped that balance somewhat. Something that Layden is highly-awae of having moved from studio to platform management.
"We’d work with third-party developers who’d always been competitors for me, and now, they’re partners on the platform."
Thankfully for Sony, while many third-party developers are chasing the live-service game model, it's concentrated on single-player, narrative experiences, which are largely one-off purchases. It's made a strength out of making a type of game, which from the point of view of the biggest publishers, EA, Activision, Take-Two etc… is going out of fashion as it lacks ongoing revenue streams.
That strategy, then, is working for PlayStation and working for its partners.