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Layden recalls PS3 'Icarus moment,' looks ahead to expanding PlayStation's audience

At DICE Summit 2019, Shawn Layden offered a brief survey of PlayStation's past, present, and future, and touted a "quality above all" approach to shipping video games.

At DICE Summit 2019, Shawn Layden, chairman at Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios, offered a brief survey of PlayStation's past, present, and future, and touted a "quality above all" approach to shipping video games.

During his keynote, Layden, who's been involved with the PlayStation business since the brand's inception, unexpectedly spent time talking candidly about the PlayStation 3 – a console that would serve as a low point in the PlayStation business, following the massive success of PS2.

"[PS3 was a] stark moment of hubris…our Icarus moment," he said. "…For our business, the fall was sharp."

Layden admitted that Sony didn't listen to developers or to players closely enough. A high price point and a punishing developer environment were major factors in taking PlayStation down a few notches.

Sony was able to right the path with the PlayStation 4, which was designed with close input from game developers, and led the PlayStation business to rebound from the PS3's underperformance.

A nod to competitors

Layden took plenty of time to tout Sony's successes, from hits like God of War and Horizon Zero Dawn, but also praised competitors and partners, describing game development as a creative-led endeavor that needs to be balanced carefully as a business.

He noted the Switch's massive success, which caught naysayers by surprise. "Nintendo took a massive risk when they brought [Switch] to market…As I've said before, never underestimate Nintendo," he said.

Layden took time to praise Microsoft and its innovative adaptive controller, which is designed for players with limited mobility. He hinted that Sony needs to also broaden the tent, and make games accessible to everyone, and that Sony should "lead from the front" in terms of expanding its market beyond non-traditional audiences.

"This is important work," he said, regarding accessibility and games.

An inflection point

Layden said, "Our industry is at an inflection point…gamers don't grow out of gaming anymore…We do not see games as childish things that need to be put away."

For Sony, he said PlayStation's game development strategy is simply "quality above all." He reiterated his sentiments from a recent interview – that Sony will continue to release fewer games than in the past, but they plan on making sure those games are a success.

He also said development of new intellectual properties is "necessary," even if extremely difficult.

"As it takes more time, we have to give it more time," he said.

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