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Former PlayStation boss gives the games industry a stern talking to about acquisitions

Former PlayStation boss gives the games industry a stern talking to about acquisitions
Former PlayStation CEO Shawn Layden. (Picture:

The former CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America is worried games studios getting bigger will prevent creativity and preservation of older games.

Shawn Layden, who left his position as PlayStation America’s CEO four years ago, was one of the first to criticise Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard , calling its consolidation the ‘enemy of diversity’ .

The former PlayStation CEO has now further explained why he thinks games conglomerates getting bigger and bigger, as a result of buying smaller studios, is bad for the industry.

Layden has also called it ‘criminal’ that publishers don’t do more to preserve older games, and doesn’t like how it can hinder creativity.

In an interview with gaming podcast Lan Parties, via Kotaku , Layden says:

‘My concern around consolidation is that often it impacts creativity. For instance, it takes some kind of small, independent, wild horse studios and brings them into a larger conglomerate and essentially time slows down the bigger you are.

‘I’m also concerned when studios get bought and instead of enabling a way to create their game, they maybe get absorbed into a larger enterprise that’s making a larger game.’

Although a publisher might have the best intentions, when buying a smaller developer, the mere process of doing so means an additional layer of bureaucracy and management.

A lot of Xbox 360 games are now unavailable (pic: Microsoft)

And while it’s rare to buy a small developer and instantly turn it into a support studio that can be the fate of those whose initial games don’t sell – as has happened with several Activision studios.

‘Can they keep that sort of independent creativity alive or do they just get absorbed into the larger whole?,’ asks Layden.

He thinks this can not only backfire and hinder creativity, if too many studios operate under fewer, bigger umbrellas, but that it deprioritises the preservation of older games.

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‘Preservation is important. I’m hoping that more people in the industry, certainly the big players, begin to realise that there’s an obligation and responsibility.

‘This isn’t throwaway stuff we’re making. This is stuff that should be around for a long time because future generations will enjoy it in the same way that we have and it’s criminal that we’re not doing more to protect it.’

One major issue is that as time goes by less consoles have disc drives to run physical copies of games. Which is a particular problem when the online store of a console closes down, as happened recently for Xbox 360 .

Xbox boss Phil Spencer has said he wants to find solutions to keep their older Xbox 360 games playable but at the moment the tide is clearly against anyone pushing for game preservation of online titles.

Shawn Layden was my favorite CEO from Sony. He’s absolutely correct though, the industry is horrendous at game preservation. Might not realize it now, but wait until you’re older and you can’t revisit games from your childhood easily — Brett (@KeybladeBrett) October 26, 2023

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