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Exclusivity is the game industry's "Achilles' heel", says former PlayStation boss

"You can't keep a stranglehold on the marketplace forever."

Former PlayStation boss Shawn Layden has opened up on his thoughts about the modern games industry, stating that "exclusivity is the "Achilles' heel" of the modern development cycle.

In a candid interview with VentureBeat, Layden detailed how he thinks the industry has changed since he joined Sony in the 1980s, working his way up to become president and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment America in 2014. Now an adviser to companies like Tencent and Web3 ventures, Layden was quick to detail the problems he sees in platform exclusivity, especially as development costs continue to rocket.

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"When your costs for a game exceed $200 million, exclusivity is your Achilles' heel," Layden said. "It reduces your addressable market. Particularly when you're in the world of live-service gaming or free-to-play. Another platform is just another way of opening the funnel, getting more people in.

"In a free-to-play world, as we know, 95 per cent of those people will never spend a nickel. The business is all about conversion. You have to improve your odds by cracking the funnel open. Helldivers 2 has shown that for PlayStation, coming out on PC at the same time. Again, you get that funnel wider. You get more people in.

Layden further dissected the potential "stranglehold" PlayStation and other hardware developers are putting on themselves by making games platform-exclusive, especially as "consumer minds are changing".

"You have to decide, at what point do you murder your darlings?" Layden added. "At what point does having this chokehold on everything that comes across your platform – it's been a lucrative marketplace for you, but consumer minds are changing. Consumers aren't buying a new mobile phone every nine months or whatever it used to be.

"[Hardware companies] won't be able, I think, to continue to have that stranglehold. They'll have to accept a future where people build things on their own, or they're coming from other places. Android allowed sideloading. iOS kind of does, maybe in Europe, but it's going to have to be more accepting. It's the nature of the beast. You can’t keep a stranglehold on the marketplace forever."

Former EA and Microsoft exec, Peter Moore, also opened up recently about the industry, suggesting that there are "serious questions" to be asked about video game hardware and whether or not there's a future for the traditional home console system.

Moore – who held senior positions at EA, Microsoft, and Sega before leaving gaming altogether to join Liverpool FC in 2017 – reflected on the losses incurred whenever there's a new console generation, suggesting that both "companies and gamers" are asking questions about whether or not players "really need to be spending what could be five, $600 on a bespoke piece of hardware just to play games".

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