With the shift of the axis of PlayStation from Japan to San Mateo, California, Worldwide Studios chairman Shawn Layden is pretty much the man with access to many of the buttons in the control room.
In an interview on GameInformer, he talked broadly about what we can expect from Sony Interactive Entertainment in the months and years to come.
Layden mentioned that while Sony has some of the best storytellers in the business working in its first-party business, and single-player games are a “super strength” for the company, they still need to work on both multiplayer titles and games-as-a-service.
“As far as games-as-service and esports, or recurring revenue models or whatever – if we can do something interesting and meaningful in those areas, we’ll do it.
If we were going to partner with another team in some capacity to deliver, again, something interesting and meaningful, we’ll be there and we’ll do it. It’s not that we’re not interested in those areas, it’s just an area we haven’t historically performed very well.”
“If there are new teams that have something we can associate with, then certainly. We want to push the boundaries in all the different areas of gaming. It’s important for us to do that.”
That being said, Layden mentioned that PlayStation will continue to execute on “leaning heavily into stories and narrative” and “creating worlds where people will lose themselves in the story of another person or culture or an environment.”
Interestingly, he also believes that a “post-console world” in which a platform is not a separation from the rest o the gaming community, but just a doorway to it.
“I don’t want to put too fine a point on this because it might upset some of the people I work with, but I think effectively, we’re looking at kind of a post-console world where you can have quality gaming experiences across a variety of technologies.
Sure, PS4 and PS4 Pro provide what, of course, we think is the best gaming experience, but the other consoles out there, be it Switch, Xbox One X, or tablets, or phones – there are great experiences across all these.
What we need to do is recognize all that. We’re not little gaming ghettos that are not federated or aligned at all. We’re all part of the same gaming community, we just come at it through different doorways.
I think the future will be an extension of that metaphor. Your platform is not your hideaway. It’s just your doorway to all these other gamer folk.”
Layden then discusses the decision not to participate at E3 2019, explaining that at the beginning the show was simply a way to talk to retailers, which is now done a Destination PlayStation in February.
The media has also changed, with gaming news happening all the time instead of focused around a single event, so both retailers and press have become less of a focus at events like E3.
While the ESA tried to create a hybrid between a trade show and a consumer show over the past few years, Layden defines that attempt “just a car crash.”
“Either your show is optimized around the consumer experience, à la Tokyo Game Show, à la Gamescom, or you’re a trade experience like CES or the Motor Show, or E3. “
The question for Sony was what story they wanted to tell, and looking at their lineup, they simply noticed that they didn’t have one.
“This year, coming to 2019, I’ll be honest – we just didn’t have a new story to tell. And when Sony rings the bell for everyone to come ‘round, they have an expectation for something that is completely new and amazing.
We looked at the lineup and we can probably only give fans a lot of updates on things they already know, so how does this work for us?”
Layden admits that Sony is “doing fewer games at any given time than any time before in their history.” Rather than raising expectations, they decided to step away.
On the other hand, there is a conversation to be had on how to transform E3 into a more relevant show, looking at the energy from consumer shows like Comic Con and PAX.
“So, I would like to see E3 turn into more of a festival of gaming. It’s not this company against that company and that company against this company. We’re not in our hideaways on our platforms, we’re just doorways into this room full of gamers. That’s my future hope for E3.”
This is a conversation going on at the moment at the ESA, and the fact that Sony won’t be at E3 2019 does not mean that the same will happen in 2020.
We also hear about Sony’s stance on cross-play, and Sony has learned that it’s important. While that realization came a lot faster than people believe, Layden denies that it’s something that can be achieved just by flipping a switch.
“No, of course it isn’t. When we did turn it on, light it up, we wanted to make sure we had thought out all the different ramifications of cross-play, cross-purchase, cross-progress,
Those are all three very discreet aspects of what cross-play is, and there are decisions you make in provisioning those different pieces of it that if you make it quick and hasty, and the wrong decision, you can put yourself in a corner really fast, and that prevents scalability over time and the ability to bring people inia secure and safe way.”
Interestingly, he mentions that Sony is “open for business” on crossplay for games beyond Fortnite and Rocket League.
According to Layden, developers simply have to work with their PlayStation account manager, and they will be walked through the necessary steps
“I don’t believe right now there is any gating factor on that. I think they’re open to make proposals, because the Fortnite thing worked pretty well. “