Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios boss Shawn Layden has laid down a ambitious prediction for where he thinks the video game industry could be headed. Speaking to Game Informer, Layden said he foresees some kind of "post-console" world where PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo are more unified than ever. While Layden maintains that PlayStation is the "best gaming experience," he said Xbox One and Nintendo Switch offer "great experiences" as well, and PlayStation should do more to recognize that.
"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," he said. "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 recognize all that."
He added: "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."
That’s an intriguing and surprising quote to hear from a PlayStation higher-up given that what Layden is suggesting is just about the opposite of what Sony’s approach has been in recent years. Controversially, the company initially said it wouldn’t allow cross-play between PS4 and other consoles because PlayStation is the best place to play. The company has since relented, and games like Fortnite and Rocket League support cross-play between PS4 and competing consoles.
Layden is not alone in talking about his desire for the walls between consoles to come down. EA’s CEO predicted a future for games where you can play on any device, while the CEO of Red Dead Redemption parent company Take-Two also has spoken about the closed system walls coming down and why that might be good. Pete Hines, an executive at Bethesda, said he wants to see the closed system walls between Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo come down so more people can play together.
"I think you’re going to see platforms get more homogenised," Hines said. "Because truthfully, there’s really not a reason for [competing consoles] to be different. You don’t buy a DVD and then worry about which DVD player you have. You just buy a DVD and anything that plays DVDs works. And I think games are going to start to move closer and closer to that."
Also in the interview, Layden talked about how the transition between console generations can be problematic and difficult.
"One of the terrible circumstances of our gaming industry is that every time we launch a new console technology, we sort of put the last generation to bed," he said. "That doesn’t occur in movies. That doesn’t occur in music, but it occurs all the time in games."
Sony’s game-streaming service, PlayStation Now, allows PS4 users to play PS3 games, but this is not the kind of true backwards compatibility that Xbox One offers. On PS4, you have to pay to play games through PlayStation Now, while Xbox One’s backwards compatibility feature recognizes the games you owned on Xbox 360 and lets you play them on Xbox One.
Layden also spoke about why Sony is not attending E3 this year. Expanding on what he told GameSpot sister site CNET, Layden said Sony just doesn’t have much to talk about.
"This year, coming to 2019, I’ll be honest–we just didn’t have a new story to tell. And when Sony rings the bell for everyone to come ’round, they have an expectation for something that is completely new and amazing. We looked at the lineup and we can probably only give fans a lot of updates on things they already know, so how does this work for us?"
He added that Sony right now is releasing fewer games than it ever has in its history. "We’re doing fewer games at any given time than any time before in our history. Back in the day, when we were doing 15-20 games at a time; there was always a new game. Something was in a window that we could have that conversation about. But 2019, for us, that confluence just didn’t occur."
Game Informer’s full interview with Layden is fascinating and in-depth–you can read it here.
We may be hearing more from Layden on the subject of a "post-console" world very soon. Layden will give the keynote address at the DICE Summit this week in Las Vegas. His speech is titled "Beyond Generations," so you can expect he’ll give some predictions about the future of gaming.