PlayStation’s Shawn Layden kicked off the annual DICE Summit in Las Vegas this week with a call for unity among game makers, a significant step away from an age-old approach that led to console wars that pitted PlayStation against Xbox against Nintendo.
More striking still was that the call for the industry to move “beyond generations” and for former competitors to be allies and not adversaries came from Sony Interactive Entertainment — which has sold more than 91 million PS4 — as market leader.
“Sure, we all compete for attention to further this industry but we do so to keep the video gaming landscape vibrant and essential,” Layden said in an opening keynote that praised Nintendo, Microsoft and other game makers for their work. “We have the power to bring people joy, inspiration, respite, we have the ability to transport them to new worlds and provide them with superpowers. As developers, we do not compete against one another. We all craft art, and art is founded on the creative, not the competitive.”
In the speech, delivered to a room packed with video game industry luminaries, executives, developers, and indies, Layden said he couldn’t be prouder of all that the game industry has accomplished.
“The gaming industry is at an inflection point – a moment when we’re shedding our youth and becoming a cultural lodestone,” he said. “The community has grown because gamers don’t grow out of gaming any longer. We’ve got a lot more folks with grey hair now than we used to. Myself included. And we do not see games as childish things to be put away.
“We embrace gaming as the art form of our generation – as the most powerful form of expression. “
Layden noted the impact of games like “Fortnite” and gamers like Ninja. He discussed the impact and influence of games like Rockstar’s “Red Dead Redemption 2” and Mojang’s “Minecraft.”
“For so many, gaming has become a tremendous part of the way we enrich our lives,” he said. “And we, as the game-makers, have the opportunity to continue to push for new perspectives, new heroes or heroines whose lives we can embody for a few moments, or a few years. We can continue to bring together new friends and old over vast distances and life circumstances.”
Calling this moment in time — a moment empowered by both the growing reach of the games industry and the growing relevance of the medium on pop culture — one of the biggest inflection points in the history of gaming, Layden also noted that the moment also brings with it a great deal of responsibility.
That means, Layden said, taking more time to craft those new “amazing experiences” if the time is needed, pushing to create entirely new gaming systems and IP to push the industry forward, and working to grow the audience and “broaden the tent for gaming.”
It was an astounding speech that heaped praise on Nintendo for creating the “best-selling console of 2018 in the U.S.” and launching it with a “game of the year and noted Microsoft’s work in striving to make games more accessible.
Layden even discussed what he called PlayStation’s own “Icarus moment,” powered by a “stark moment of hubris” and the launch of the PlayStation 3 and the following fight to stay relevant.
“We didn’t listen to our customers,” he said. “We created a devilish dev environment. We reacted too slowly and our network was underdeveloped. Worst of all was the price point.”
Those issues and the initial reaction to the PlayStation 3 lead to an internal call to transform the company and helped power the incredibly successful launch of the PS4, he said.
That served as a reminder to PlayStation that it is in a unique position in a unique industry, Layden said.
“We don’t make refrigerators,” he said. “We make games. We make experiences that entertain and inspire. We lift people out of their daily lives and give them the opportunity to become an astronaut exploring far off planets or an adventurer who finds lost treasures. Or a cowboy looking for a horse.”
It’s a position that the entire video game industry now finds itself in one that Layden said he hopes leads to more creators pursuing their passion projects, building the game they would want to play.
“Maybe that game is the next industry-changing inflection point. I’m looking to all of you to make us do better. Be better. “