With Sony skipping the 2018 PlayStation Experience and E3 2019, people are desperate for any sort of news. Especially since the PlayStation 5 is on the horizon and there are a number of PlayStation 4 exclusives that don't have a release date yet. Any sort of news about things to come is devoured. That means when Shawn Layden, Chairman of Sony Interactive Entertainment Studios, makes a comment about the possible future of Sony games, people listen. In an interview with CNET, he talked a bit about directions he'd like to see the studio take. Basically, he seemed to triumph scaling back to make fewer games that were bigger than before, but is that the best idea?
Before we get into it, let's look at some of the things Layden said. When asked about skipping E3 2019, he noted, "The world has changed, but E3 hasn't necessarily changed with it. And with [Sony's] decision to do fewer games--bigger games--over longer periods of time, we got to a point where June of 2019 was not a time for us to have a new thing to say." While it is commentary on E3, one that some may even consider scathing. But the important thing here is to note a shift. He noted Sony is making fewer games that are bigger than before.
When he said that, a few titles might come to mind. One is The Last of Us Part II, which will star Ellie, follow up the story of the original, and could be a large scale adventure following her as she sets out on a path of revenge. The other is Ghost of Tsushima, the Sucker Punch game that will be an open-world game following a samurai in 1274 on Tsushima Island. We don't know much about either, but both seem to fit the bigger, fewer criteria. I mean, we're heading into 2019 and only know about the two of those and Death Stranding, which Kojima Productions is developing and SIE is publishing. In 2018, we knew of far more upcoming games and had a better sense of scale for each one.
On the one hand, bigger, fewer games from Sony might not be a bad idea. Consider some of 2017 and 2018's SIE games. Horizon: Zero Dawn, Marvel's Spider-Man and God of War can be beaten in around or under 20 hours. The Last of Us Remastered was around 15 hours long. You could get through The Last Guardian and Detroit: Become Human in around or just over 10 hours. Now, all of these a handful of the high quality games found on the system. They're exclusives that might make people proud to own a system. But half of these are rather short. It could be great to have first-party games that we would know would last at least 20 or 30 hours, perhaps even with post-games that give us excuses to keep enjoying their worlds.
But, we also have to think about how fewer games has worked out for other systems. Most notably, the Xbox One. There have been so few of them, and the console has suffered as a result. Sea of Thieves and Forza Horizon 4 are both games that don't really end, but they weren't enough to really draw people in during 2018. 2017's major releases were the around 13 hour ReCore: Definitive Edition, under 10 hour Halo Wars 2, and more substantial Forza 7 that could last for hours. Attracting people to a console means a steady stream of exclusives.
Also, those exclusives have to be of varying sizes. While it might be nice to know every game is going to be a "big" one, going from one massive game to another can be exhausting. Not every game can or should be a 200 hour Skyrim. We need smaller sessions like The Last Guardian, which we can beat in under a week. Diversity in a lineup is important. Layden noted, "I think [Sony's] done a lot over the last three or four years to get us to a place right now where we're building fewer games per year than ever before, but we're spending more time, more energy, certainly more money, on making them." That strategy can work, as long as the company is smart about it.
A new console generation is coming up, and Sony is going to need to be smart to keep the PlayStation 5 at the forefront of people's minds. While going with a fewer, bigger games could be a good idea once a console has made a mark for itself, a strategy has to be in place. The lineup needs diversity. It can't be too sparse. Sony has to try and find a happy medium, maybe four games each year so there's a new title for each season, or risk falling into the same pitfall as Microsoft did with the Xbox One.