Shawn Layden's opening keynote at the DICE Summit today was sprinkled with remarks one might not expect to come from the most visible public voice of a platform holder.
The chairman of Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios hailed the success of the Switch, noting that Nintendo's latest platform was the best-selling console in the US for 2018. He celebrated the Microsoft-owned Minecraft for reshaping the way the industry thinks about online social play and creating an experience parents and kids can enjoy together. And then he talked candidly about some of Sony's mistakes, the PlayStation 3 in particular.
"Many of you know that PlayStation 2 was an industry triumph," Layden said. "It remains one of the best-selling consoles of all time. But coming off the heels of that was PlayStation 3, a stark moment of hubris in the nearly 25 years of PlayStation history. As we sometimes call it, PS3 was our Icarus moment... For our business, the fall was sharp. We hadn't listened to our customers. We created a devilish development environment. We reacted too slowly, and our network was under-developed. And worst of all, if you remember, was the price point.
"While the PlayStation 3 and our fight to stay relevant has been well-covered, what wasn't as well-covered was the call we made at the time to transform our company into what we are today. We doubled our efforts to develop incredible games and strengthen our partnerships for the next generation. We listened to developers and gamers. We listened to Mark Cerny. We created PS4, a console for developers as much as it was for fans. We focused on the quality of our games, on making titles that would stand the test of time the way the best pieces of art often do."
That focus on quality was instilled in Layden by his time working with Sony's founder and chairman Akio Morita.
"He would say we must forever push innovation, even if it meant murdering our darlings," Layden said. "We have to make our products obsolete before other people do, because they will. Morita-san understood well the innovator's dilemma, and grappled with it constantly."
Layden said some of the PS4's biggest exclusives--Bloodborne, Horizon Zero Dawn, God of War--can be traced back to the company's course correction during the PS3 generation. He pointed to Horizon Zero Dawn specifically, as the open-world action game was a significant departure from the previous work of developer Guerrilla Games. The studio had risen to prominence with the first-person shooter Killzone series, and it actually had a project that would have essentially built on that expertise, albeit with the addition of werewolves. It was "polished to readiness," Layden said, but Guerrilla opened its creative process up internally, taking 30 pitches from its employees for projects it should work on next. One of those was Horizon Zero Dawn.
"Some people have said, 'No one will be interested in robot dinosaurs.' You know who you are. Yet again, creativity wins."