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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

Valve bans NFTs, Blockchain games on digital distribution service

Photo illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

NFTs and games that use blockchain technology have been banned from Valve's digital distribution service, Steam, while Epic says it's open to including them on its platform.

Driving the news: As noted by a developer working on blockchain gaming title "Age of Rust," Steam began notifying creators it would be kicking all blockchain games from its platform.

Pelosi announces bid for re-election ahead of 2022 midterms

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced her bid for re-election Tuesday, amid a deluge of other safe-seat Democrats announcing their retirements.

Why it matters: Pelosi’s announcement follows months of speculation — despite her denials — that she was preparing to leave Congress.

Scoop: Qatar emir to visit White House on Monday

The emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, leaves the White House after meeting President Trump in 2019. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

The emir of Qatar will meet with President Biden at the White House on Monday to discuss Afghanistan as well as contingency plans to provide natural gas to Europe in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Europe's reliance on Russia for 40% of its natural gas is undermining Biden's attempts to coordinate "massive" sanctions to be imposed from both sides of the Atlantic if Russia invades. The White House wants Qatar to help ensure European countries can enforce tough sanctions without risking an energy crisis.