Image: Sony

The cost of game development has already spiraled out of control for some studios, but Shawn Layden, the former boss of PlayStation, has warned that things are only going to get worse.

In an interview with Bloomberg regarding the sustainability of the games industry, Layden offered the troubling prediction that PS5 games will cost an exorbitant $200 million to make. This is based on his experience of game development doubling in cost with every platform; Layden’s budgets for recent big PlayStation 4 titles had each hit $100 million.

“If we can’t stop the cost curve from going up, all we can do is try to de-risk it,” Layden said, bringing attention to one of his major concerns: developers releasing the same old games in order to minimize risk. “That puts you in a place where you’re incentivized toward sequels,” he explained.

“What happens there is you end up with 3 to 4 silos of games or game types that continue to exist, and variety is squeezed out.”

Layden currently serves as an advisor to Streamline Media Group, an entertainment and enterprise company that aims to facilitate game development around the world. He stepped down from his position as CEO of SIE Worldwide Studios in 2019.

Image: Sony

[…] Layden and Streamline CEO Alexander Fernandez talked about how the company is aiming to promote diversity by recruiting talent remotely across the world. The pair discussed their attempts to chase the elusive “metaverse,” a buzzword referring to the intersection of video games and other media. And Layden sounded an alarm about the video game industry heading down an unsustainable path.

Source: Bloomberg

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7 Comments

  1. Just like movie making, range of cost doesn’t correlate with quality.
    Here we go cookie cutter 200 million dollar games!

  2. Technology only gets better and makes it easier to create. A few people can do extraordinary things with modern engines, as shown numerous times by fan made mods and recreations of classics. So don’t feed me this. Games are more expensive because they are made like movies now. Not with passion, but as an investment. And investors only understand one thing: the more you spend the bigger the return. Which is hardly true for games. There are countless examples of relatively cheap games making big money. If your idea is unimaginative and derivative no matter how much money you throw at it, it won’t make it a resounding success. First and foremost you have to catch the interest of gamers. And I don’t mean fake gamers demanding political correctness on twitter.

    Instead they spend tens of millions to put hollywood actors’s likenesses into games, which achieves nothing but stifles creativity.

  3. [QUOTE=”MadMummy76, post: 40906, member: 1298″]
    Technology only gets better and makes it easier to create.
    [/QUOTE]
    Yet old games are made by a handfull of developpers and modern ones use hundreds. The tools might be better or allow more things the level of detail is a lot higher and the scope of certain games a lot bigger.

    [QUOTE=”MadMummy76, post: 40906, member: 1298″]
    A few people can do extraordinary things with modern engines, as shown numerous times by fan made mods and recreations of classics
    [/QUOTE]

    Those few people making those mods build on something existing and don’t have to start from scratch. Try making a modern AAA game like the division 2, DOOM eternal, or Cyberpunk 2077 from scratch with 5-10 persons, you be lucky if you get it done this century.L

    Also some mods like Black mesa took 15 years to make.

  4. [QUOTE=”Denpepe, post: 40912, member: 284″]
    Yet old games are made by a handfull of developpers and modern ones use hundreds. The tools might be better or allow more things the level of detail is a lot higher and the scope of certain games a lot bigger.
    [/QUOTE]
    Photogrammetry and procedural generation has been around for years, yet for some strange reason most game devs still insist on hand crafting everything from scratch, of course it takes a ton of resources because of the detail. I’ve been running my mouth for 10 years about what needs to be done.
    [QUOTE]Those few people making those mods build on something existing and don’t have to start from scratch. Try making a modern AAA game like the division 2, DOOM eternal, or Cyberpunk 2077 from scratch with 5-10 persons, you be lucky if you get it done this century.L[/QUOTE]
    And here we have the issue. Every developer insists on creating everything from scratch. Yet when you need a new desk you don’t go to the lumber yard, you go to ikea and buy a desk. The same could easily be done by game developers. Getting assets from repositories instead of trying to create every mundane thing from scratch.

    [QUOTE]
    Also some mods like Black mesa took 15 years to make.
    [/QUOTE]
    I’m not talking about black mesa, but the guys who re-create levels in unreal engine just for the hell of it. Like the one who did mos eisley,
    If detail is the issue how can one individual do those things?

    Clearly AAA game development as it is now is highly inefficient and reliance on common assets and automation is a must in the future. And maybe then we don’t have runaway costs but still get the benefit of additional detail.

    Also scope is a problem as well. IMO, GTAV was already too large. You barely touch on most of the map in a playthrough. It’s an unnecessary waste of resources. GTAIV size map is more than enough to enjoy that type of game, yet they’ll probably try to make GTAVI even larger. Well, then don’t cry about cost. Make games feasible again.

  5. Some thoughts here.

    Costs have certainly gone up over the years as games have become more immersive. There is more voice acting, live orchestra sound tracks, etc. etc. etc. that simply weren’t there before and have added to the cost.

    Certainly the cost goes up with graphical fidelity as well. It is more work to create high detailed 3d models, and high resolution textures than it is to create lower detail ones.

    I can’t help but think some of these costs will start to taper off though.

    We’ve already hit peak voice acting/orchestra, etc. I can’t imagine that will continue growing.

    As far as the work involved with increasing detail in models and textures, sure that will still be there, but I imagine it will taper off some now that we are used to designing for 4k. People will still expect better graphical fidelity every generation, but with resolutions above 4K not really adding much value (other than some free* antialiasing) , I’d imagine some of that work will be reduced as well.

    Also, I think AI will be leveraged more highly in some of this work. We have already seen some game mods add AI generated high resolution textures. Can’t imagine the studios themselves wouldn’t want to take advantage of this.

    And then there is the continued improvement of cross-platform development tools that cut down on a lot of the porting work otherwise needed to launch across many platforms.

    Costs will continue to go up due in part to inflation and other issues, but I think the rampant explosion in the number of man-hours a title takes to develop will likely slow over the next several years.

    It would be sad if games go the way of the film industry and all we get are shitty remakes because everyone is too afraid to take a risk.

    It is really sad to me that one of my favorite series (Deus Ex) likely will never see another sequel due to it not selling as hoped, but this was in large part a manmade failure due to last minute demands from Square Enix, the publisher forcing Eidos Montreal to include microtransactrions they didn’t want, and resulting in awful press at launch time.

    Reportedly there was a plan for at least two more titles after Mankind Divided which we will likely never see now.

    [I][SIZE=2]*read: computationally very expensive[/SIZE][/I]

  6. [QUOTE=”Zarathustra, post: 40940, member: 203″]
    Some thoughts here.

    Costs have certainly gone up over the years as games have become more immersive. There is more voice acting, live orchestra sound tracks, etc. etc. etc. that simply weren’t there before and have added to the cost.[/QUOTE]
    Games had voice acting and original music for a very long time. It is not new. What is new is using A-list hollywood actors in games, which IMO takes away from creative freedom. If you have a “faceless” (and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way) voice actor voicing a character you are free to make the character look like anything. Instead they insist on paying out millions to big screen actors. Of course costs are out of control.

    [QUOTE]Certainly the cost goes up with graphical fidelity as well. It is more work to create high detailed 3d models, and high resolution textures than it is to create lower detail ones. [/QUOTE]
    As I’ve mentioned now with photogrammetry you can have all the detail in the world, and it’s almost a 1 click process to create highly detailed models. With UE5 embracing the technology as well it’s up to developers to finally stop trying to build every model as they did 10 years ago. Because yeah that’s an insane amount of work. Hand building models and textures was fine when poly counts were in the thousands.

    [QUOTE]I can’t help but think some of these costs will start to taper off though.[/QUOTE]
    It should’ve already if they embraced the technology. Hollywood VFX companies have been using photogrammetry and mesh reconstruction algorithms for at least 10 years.
    [QUOTE]
    It is really sad to me that one of my favorite series (Deus Ex) likely will never see another sequel due to it not selling as hoped, but this was in large part a manmade failure due to last minute demands from Square Enix, the publisher forcing Eidos Montreal to include microtransactrions they didn’t want, and resulting in awful press at launch time.
    [/QUOTE]
    If I remember correctly it wasn’t microtransactions but vendor exclusive pre order bonuses that were the issue. But same difference. Shitty remakes or not I’d like to see a modern remake of the original deusex. And I don’t mean one “updated to better suit modern audiences”.

  7. [QUOTE=”MadMummy76, post: 40958, member: 1298″]
    Games had voice acting and original music for a very long time. It is not new. What is new is using A-list hollywood actors in games, which IMO takes away from creative freedom. If you have a “faceless” (and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way) voice actor voicing a character you are free to make the character look like anything. Instead they insist on paying out millions to big screen actors. Of course costs are out of control.
    [/QUOTE]

    Yeah, this one I do not understand why they do. Do they really think people who otherwise wouldn’t buy the game are going to do so just because of the likeness or voice of Keanu Reeves? It just adds cost for little benefit, and comes with the downside you mention, as well as the downside of increasing the level of suspense of disbelief required as the famous actor is always there glaringly apparent, and you remember their previous roles and it detracts from the experience.

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