Shawn Layden, formerly an executive at PlayStation, has referred to non-gaming tech-based companies like Google, Netflix, Amazon and Apple as “barbarians at the gate” at the recent GamesIndustry.biz Investment Summit. Referring to the tech companies as non-endemic to the games industry, Layden calls these companies one of the biggest threats to the video games business.
“Right now, we see all the big players going, ‘Oh, gaming? It’s bringing in billions of dollars a year? I want a piece of that’. And so we have Google, Netflix, Apple and Amazon wanting to get piece and trying to disrupt our industry,” said Layden.
It is important to note that Layden is specifically speaking about the business side of the games industry, rather than the artistic side. The “disuption” mentioned by Layden refers more to new ways of making and selling games rather than any fundamental changes to gaming itself.
“I’m hoping gaming will be the first industry where we disrupt ourselves,” he continued. “Where it doesn’t take a Google or an Amazon to completely flip the table. We should be smart enough to see these changes coming and prepare ourselves for that eventuality.”
Interestingly, all of the companies mentioned by Layden have thrown their hat in the gaming business in some form or another, with varying degrees of success. While both Google and Apple are predominantly focused on mobile gaming, both companies have tried to break into console/PC gaming at some point—Google with its now-defunct Stadia service and Apple with its ill-fated 1996 console, the Pippin.
Amazon is trying its own hand at the gaming business with the release of various games that it is either developing in-house, like New World, or publishing like Lost Ark. The company also has its Luna cloud gaming service. Netflix itself is largely focused on mobile gaming, with a few licensed games here and there.
Layden goes on to draw parallels between these tech companies entering the gaming space with Sony entering the business with the 1996 release of the PlayStation, and how various parts of Sony—Sony Electronics and Sony Music Japan—worked together to make the console a success.
“PlayStation knew that we couldn’t do what Sega and Nintendo did and [provide the bulk of the software], we didn’t know enough how to make it. We had to be the third-party platform, so we had to get Namco, Square, EA, Activision,” Layden continues.
“Those Sony Music guys are the ones that got Square to move Final Fantasy 7 off of Nintendo and onto PlayStation, probably the biggest sea change move.”
“So yeah, we weren’t endemic, but I think we brought the entertainment piece in, which really helped accelerate the success of PlayStation.”
It is also worth noting that Microsoft itself was once considered a non-endemic company entering the gaming market with the release of the original Xbox. Since then, the company has joined Sony and Nintendo as owners of one of the three major console platforms.