Sony Worldwide Studios Boss Talks On Their First Party Philosophy: “First, Best, And Must”

Sony wants its games to be either the best in class, the first of their kind, or something they absolutely must want to make.

Posted By | On 30th, Jun. 2018 Under News

Sony’s first party studios have been pumping out one great game after another. Though they’ve been one of Sony’s biggest strengths for as long as they’ve been in the industry, lately, they’ve become even more notable in their efforts to create memorable games, having delivered the likes of The Last of Us, Uncharted 4, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and God of War in just the last few years. And that, of course, is as a result of the philosophy all of Sony Worldwide Studios adhere to very strictly.

Recently, while speaking with Venturebeat, Sony Worldwide Studios boss Shawn Layden spoke about what this philosophy is, boiling it down to three very simple things- “first, best, and must.” What that means is that Sony’s games must be either the first of their kind, the best of their kind, or simply be the kinds of games that they must make, even if that means they might incur some losses.

“The game you’re working on has to fulfill at least one of the criteria, preferably too,” Layden said. “First means creating a first of its kind game — a genre that doesn’t exist, a market that hasn’t been actualized yet. Will your game do that? That’s an obligation for us as first-party development. We’re not here to create games that steal market share from other publishers. Because we manage the platform, it’s not to steal pieces of the pie. It’s to grow the entire pie. If you create a new genre like Parappa the Rapper did — rhythm action gaming, who know that would be a genre? Or SingStar, bringing in a microphone to your living room? And soon coming out of our studios, a game called Concrete Genie, a new form of entertainment we haven’t seen before. If you can fulfill that, at a Worldwide Studios studios level we’re interested in that project.”

“Best is probably the easiest one to explain,” Layden continued. “If you’re best, it means if you’re making an action-adventure, you’re making Uncharted or God of War. If you’re making a racing game, you’re making Gran Turismo. Or a golf game, Everybody’s Golf, my favorite golf game. You must be the best in class. If someone came up with a plan, did all the spreadsheets, and said, “Shawn, this is going to make money for us and it’s going to be the fourth-best racing game ever,” I’m not interested in doing the fourth-best anything. That wouldn’t be something we’d get behind.”

He then moved on to the third pillar of their philosophy. “Must is probably the other thing that reflects our position as first-party development attached to the platform,” Layden said. “There are some games we must do, even if initially the profitability might be hard to make. For example, an easy one for that is PSVR games. When you’re trying to grow the PSVR installed base, how many units are in homes, it’s difficult for some third parties to look at that addressable market and get the business to work for them. But we need games to move the platform. It’s a chicken and egg thing. So at Worldwide Studios we took on a number of PSVR projects in order to support the launch of that platform and getting it off the ground.”

“So first, best, and must,” he concluded. “We look at all of our games through that lens. It helps us make the right decisions, most of the time.” And really, that philosophy reflects in their output. At least on the more high profile AAA front, other than the games we’ve already seen over the last few years, they still have so much more coming in, with the likes of Spider-Man, The Last of Us- Part II, and Ghost of Tsushima. Here’s hoping that also propels them to building some truly great games on their VR platform as well- it wouldn’t exactly be controversial to say that they haven’t been very successful on that front.

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