Sony Interactive Entertainment America president Shawn Layden may not possess the stage presence or charisma of predecessor and fan favorite Jack Tretton (yet), but he certainly has business savvy and a love for games, both important criteria for the job. In a recent interview with German site golem.de, Layden spoke on a variety of topics, most notably drawing interesting conclusions about the release schedules of blockbuster games, and how the industry rules for such have changed over time.
Citing a number of hugely successful titles including The Last of Us (an early June launch), Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (an early May launch), and Horizon Zero Dawn (a late February launch, and up against Zelda no less), Layden delved into the substantial shift in gamer behavior industry-wide when it comes to people's willingness to purchase games outside of the coveted holiday season.
Games are a bit of a business, and timing is very important. By the end of the year, people simply have more money. But it changed a little. Horizon Zero Dawn, for example, was released in February and very successful. Batman Arkham Knight came out a few years ago right after the E3, and the demand for it almost exploded.
We can now publish the really high-quality games almost at any time. It is difficult if almost at the same time a similar top game appears, as was the case in the last year’s business.
What's interesting about the phenomenon Layden describes is that its benefits can often be paid back twofold. While it's true that as the industry has matured more people are willing to purchase games at any time (similar to how you'd hardly wait until a certain time of year just to see a new movie you're interested in), there's also always going to be a certain segment of the population, most often children, who can't usually obtain pricey $60 titles outside of holidays and birthdays. As such, holidays can provide a second purchasing wave after the first, particularly for a February release like Horizon Zero Dawn that stands to experience, potentially, a second wave of sales as something of a sleeper.
With Detroit: Become Human, God of War, Shadow of the Colossus Remake, and Spider-Man all on Sony's 2018 schedule, it's clear this strategy will continue to be used to avoid clumping all four games into the cluttered and now less-critical holiday season. PlayStation 4 currently sits at a cool 60 million units sold, so regardless of games, it's not likely Sony will have to worry about its lead until the next generation.