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Shawn Layden. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Getty Images

Shawn Layden, former head of worldwide studios for PlayStation, says the rising cost of game development presents an “existential threat” to the booming industry.

Why it matters: While many people are bullish on the medium’s upward trajectory, Layden is highlighting the risks of growing the wrong way.

  • “We're making more money, but we're just getting it from the same people,” he said in an interview with Axios. “And that's not a path to sustainable growth, because ultimately, that's a negative spiral if you can't break out of it.”

Between the lines: Layden was doing the interview rounds to announce that he is joining the advisory board for Streamline Media Group, a digital entertainment company that specializes in tech that enables remote work — “a studio in the cloud,” in the words of Streamline CEO and co-founder Alexander Fernandez.

  • Provocative quotes make for a good press tour, but Layden’s post-Sony worry isn’t brand new.
  • In June 2020, he cautioned that the current nine-figure costs of making major video games are "just not sustainable."

What he's saying: Layden is concerned that the quarter-billion pool of gamers hasn’t grown much over multiple console generations. And he sees the heightening costs of game development putting limits on who gets access to even make games.

  • “That consolidation of the industrial power to create video games is almost sort of an anti-diversity,” he told Axios.
  • The partnership with Fernandez’s 20-year-old company is intended to help address that, as Streamline posits that its tech can draw a more diverse set of developers who can, in turn, create games and other digital experiences that attract wider audiences.

Fernandez related the potential empowerment of game development to his own life. 

  • “I'm Hispanic, and I grew up in the middle of nowhere. And effectively I went through this,” he told Axios. “The ability to transform my life through video games has been something that I've been super fortunate with.”
  • That potential, he said, is something “we do have to recognize ... as an industry.”

Go deeper

Marvel is now taking over video games, too

Image: Marvel, Take-Two Interactive

The rumored Marvel superhero game "Midnight Suns," from the acclaimed makers of “XCOM,” was officially revealed on Wednesday.

Why it matters: New games from Firaxis are always a big deal, but “Midnight Suns” also may serve as confirmation that video games, like movies before them, are now (and forever?) going to be a conveyor belt of major Marvel releases.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
1 hour ago - Energy & Environment

Key clean power provision likely won't survive in Dems' spending bill

A construction worker walks along a dirt road at the Avangrid Renewables La Joya wind farm in Encino, New Mexico, on Aug. 5, 2020. Photo: Cate Dingley/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A pillar of Democrats' plans to speed deployment of zero-carbon electricity is likely to be cut from major spending and tax legislation they are struggling to move on a party-line vote, per multiple reports and a Capitol Hill aide.

Driving the news: The New York Times, citing anonymous congressional aides and lobbyists, reports that West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) has told the White House he "strongly opposes" the Clean Electricity Performance Program.

Updated 4 hours ago - World

Fatal stabbing of British MP David Amess declared a terrorist incident

Police outside Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, England, on Oct. 15. Photo: John Keeble/Getty Images

Authorities have declared the death of David Amess a terrorist incident, hours after the Conservative Party lawmaker in the U.K. was fatally stabbed while meeting with local constituents in a church in eastern England on Friday.

The big picture: The Metropolitan Police has found "a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism."