Shawn Layden is the type of Sony who takes to the stage with a t-shirt at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) or the PlayStation Experience. The T-shirt has something to tell fans, for example, when Layden launched a revival of Crash Bandicoot with a T-shirt at an event, causing the fans to speculate and then force Activision to redesign the game.
But Layden never gets much time on stage, and we rarely get to see him answer questions. This week, it was interesting to see him answer key questions from game developer and PlayStation 4 architect Mark Cerny at the Gamelab event in Barcelona. Layden, who has been with Sony for over 30 years, answered questions from Cerny for an hour and entertained audience questions. Following E3, he was able to answer more questions than usual, and the result was a fascinating discussion about Sony's gaming business.
I will later make a story about all his remarks. But here are 1
Appointment to Sony Computer Entertainment in Japan
I was still in London at that time. In 2007, I got the call from the CEO of SCEI. I'm standing on the platform in Liverpool when my phone goes off. "Please hold for the CEO." Yes, of course, who says no? Then Kaz Hirai asked me, "Shawn, how are you?" "Great, thank you, nice to hear from you, Kaz, how are you?" "How long have you been in England?"
If you are CEO, never ask a question unless you already know the answer. When he asked me, I was sure he had my file right in front of him. I said, "Eight years, nine months, about 46 days." "Yes, that's right, time for you to return to Japan." "Well, I think there's a lot of good work for me here in the UK, I think it's important." "No, I think it's time for you to return to Japan. "But Kaz, what should I do?" I did not know what kind of work he wanted from me. "Shawn, I want you to come back to Japan and president of SCE in Japan, the Business unit, you are. "
I was in game production until then, just starting to laugh on the platform with the CEO on my phone saying," What are you laughing at? "" Kaz, you have to tell me. How bad is the situation, if you think bringing a game producer from London to Japan to do domestic sales and marketing sounds like a good idea for you? "Kaz was very honest, he said," You can not make it worse. "
We had just launched PlayStation 3. Each country had problems selling it, especially Japan, support for the platform and dealers. We had cultural reform in the SCE Japan offices, but in October 2007 I left the very old England and moved back to Japan for my first job in sales and marketing in my entire life.
About promotion to the Sony Yeah, it's not Kaz, it was Andrew House, it was a field. "Shawn, great job with network stuff. We have a new job for you. "" Okay, what is it now? "" We want you to come over and be President of SCEA. "Jack Tretton stepped back. That put me on stage at E3 in 2014.
On Sony's Icarus moment when it was too close to the Sun with the PlayStation 3. The arrogance almost killed the company.
In some ways you can see the rise of the PlayStation – sometimes it reads like a Greek drama. PlayStation comes out of nowhere, a little kid from the forest that comes to the big city. There are these two titans, Sega and Nintendo, who let everything go. PlayStation finds a way to succeed. It finds a way to bring a lot of partners to the platform and create great games and really disrupt the games market.
Then we start in PlayStation 2 where we act as leaders. We remain as leaders. Some players leave the marketplace and some try to get in and are unsuccessful. The PlayStation 2 sales are just a rocket. Still the best selling platform ever. And then PlayStation 3, sometimes you can go back and look at it and say that was our Icarus moment. We flew too close to the sun. During the PlayStation 3 era, we said goodbye to business. Only at the end of the life cycle will it finally catch up with the Xbox 360.
PlayStation 4 is a story of salvation. I think we came back. We had the right hardware specifications, thank you. And we had good support from our partners. I think we went back to PlayStation to be a platform for people. It's here to give our third-party partners something to help them succeed and reach their fans. We just try to keep understanding, to preserve appreciation – we arrive at the same time as our fans. At the same time, we manage our business with our partners.
Does Sony have the right number of first-party developers and studios for console warfare?
For Worldwide Studios now our edition, the number of teams we have, I think it's about the right size for what we need to do. We will never be like Nintendo and hold the lion's share of the Nintendo platform game, because that's not how we work. We want to make the PlayStation platform available to all our third party partners. I think we are building success for PlayStation by having as many people in the tent as possible who are not necessarily controlled by Worldwide Studios.
For Worldwide Studios, our path to success is not necessarily how many studios or how many people I've measured. When we create important, effective and important content that is either first, best or indispensable. I do not really think it's a numbers game like this.
To highlight further developers at the E3.
In the States, I think, we do this thing in December called PlayStation Experience. PSX is more of one – we have some presentations, and then we have many panels where developers can come out and talk about their products and their games in more detail and detail. There are more such activities than PSX. We stayed there last December and it was amazing to see what was on stage. We had Cory Barlog from God of War. We had Hermen Hulst from Horizon. We had Guillaume from Quantic Dream and Shivam from Media Molecule. We had five, six, seven creators on stage, all from Worldwide Studios, to talk about the Triple A games they work on more, more in that format.
I still think that E3 is over and a big fair. It's there for the big sales and marketing to push your titles into the holiday season. I agree with you that we need to find more places. I think Gamelab is now one of the places where we can conduct these more human conversations.
What games Sony's first-party studios will do.
First, best, or must. The game in which you work must meet at least one of the criteria, preferably also. The first is to create a first game of its kind – a genre that does not exist, a market that has not yet been updated. Will your game do that?
That's a commitment to us as a first-party development. We are not here to develop games that steal market share from other publishers. Because we manage the platform, it is not to steal pieces of the cake. It's the whole cake growing. If you create a new genre like Parappa, the rapper – rhythm action games – who knows this would be a genre? Or SingStar, bring a microphone into your living room? And soon our studio got a game called Concrete Genius, a new form of entertainment that we did not see before. If you can do that, we are interested in this project at the studio level worldwide.
The best is probably the simplest thing to explain. If you're the best, that means if you're doing an action adventure, you're doing Uncharted or God of War. If you're doing a racing game, you're doing Gran Turismo. Or a golf game, Everybody's Golf, My Favorite Golf Game. You have to be the best in the class. If someone made a plan, did all the spreadsheets and said, "Shawn, this will make money for us and it will be the fourth best racing game ever." I'm not interested in doing the fourth-best of all. That would not be something we would put behind us.
Must probably be the other, reflecting our position as a first-party developer associated with the platform. There are some games we have to do, even though profitability is initially difficult to achieve. For example, it's easy for PSVR games. If you try to increase the installed PSVR base, how many units are at home, it is difficult for some third parties to look at this addressable market and let the business work for you. But we need games to move the platform. It's a chicken and egg thing. So, at Worldwide Studios, we've taken over a number of PSVR projects to help launch and launch this platform.
So first, best and must. We look at all our games through this lens. It helps us to make the right decisions, most of the time.
What is Sony doing with the Crossplay problem with Fortnite?  I have a brief statement. We hear it. We look at many possibilities. You can imagine that the circumstances in the area involve much more than just a game. I am confident that we will come to a solution that is understood and accepted by our gaming community while supporting our business.
The death of the PlayStation Vita  The Vita business was very successful in Japan. Vita capitalized on it. Game culture in Japan is much more focused on handheld gaming machines than perhaps in the West. And everyone just wants to play games in their room when they come home. This momentum and the Japanese developers have put a lot of energy into the Vita platform, which is why it has continued to be successful in Japan. We just did not have that kind of support here in the West.
About Storytelling in Games
Another thing that makes Worldwide Studios so special, is that we put a lot of energy, time and dedication into storytelling. We like the big story. We like the narration. We want to make people think, laugh and cry and get to know the characters and worlds we create. Hopefully you want to live in these worlds for a long time and listen to the stories the characters tell.
For us, our entertainment medium is really about it, can we move you? Can we get you to have a new idea, to see something new? I think if you look at all our games, that's the only thing that brings everything together.
Disclosure: The organizers of Gamelab have paid off to Barcelona. Our reporting remains objective.