PlayStation Studios boss Shawn Layden on the future of gaming – “Your platform is not your hideaway”

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Shawn Layden (1)

I don’t think many of us realise just how much video games have changed in the last twenty years. I’m not talking graphics and genres, but rather the business that drives the industry behind the scenes. We’ve gone from a hobby to a lifestyle in a short period of time, dipping into worlds that are born both from passion projects that are cranked out late at night in small studios to tightly controlled media blitzes for games that have budgets big enough to rival Hollywood’s mightiest blockbusters.

For so many years, Sony has been leading that charge with PlayStation brand. We’re looking at the twilight of their fourth console, a machine that has helped not only make gaming more mainstream, but also more legitimate in the eyes of a public that once considered these devices to be nothing more than murder simulator boxes.

So what does the future hold in store for PlayStation and gaming in general? “When I began my journey in gaming, even if we just limit it to the PlayStation experience, it was still pretty much, if not niche then, well… it was not a mainstream activity,” Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios chairman Shawn Layden said to Game Informer.

Shawn Layden (3)

It was something you associated with young children or teenagers doing, but certainly not by the time you go to college. “Dude, you’ve got a record player – why would you need the game console?” People would actually evaporate away from it. That has changed so much in our time in this space. You hear proper mainstream press talking about music, movies, games. We’ve gone from being the third cousin in entertainment to being one of the three bright stars.

It has changed so dramatically over the last 10, 15 years. The future, to me, is just a continuation of that trajectory. And what we’re bringing to the gaming experience through things like virtual reality, some people are leaning into augmented reality – it’s a fascinating business to be in. Certainly on the studio side of things, innovation and quality and being creative and bringing the story, and telling people who you can become and who you can be in this world… there’s a creative spin, but there’s also this huge technology train that runs right alongside it.

Both of these have to move, and there aren’t other businesses that have the same storytelling power and impetus, again, tied to, what’s this technology locomotive going to provide and bring to me? It’s ever exciting because it’s ever changing. I think we’re just going to see more of that. The power in phones and tablets is already well beyond what a PlayStation One would give you. The power of my Fitbit is more than the Apollo 11.

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 recognise 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.

If there’s been one trend that has become prevalent in gaming, it definitely is the idea of sharing. Look at Twitch streams, YouTube and other media that have been folded into current-gen consoles, highlighted by the fact that the PlayStation 4 has a “Share” button. Love it or hate it, there’s a certain thrill to being able to show off what you’re doing at any given time, which allows fans to revel in those moments which define their personal gaming experience.

The future of gaming will probably incorporate more of those elements, but also in a manner where the end result is more about the game itself, rather than the hardware delivery service that it runs on.

Last Updated: February 12, 2019

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