Shawn Layden, Head Of PlayStation’s Game Studios, Departs

Photo: Charley Gallay (Getty)

Sony has announced that Shawn Layden, chairman of SIE Worldwide Studios and a mainstay of PlayStation’s E3 press conferences, will be leaving the company. No reason was given for his departure, and a successor has not been named.


Formerly president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America (until Sony’s regions were brought under one roof in 2018), Layden had been with Sony since 1987, serving in roles like vice president of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe and president of Sony Computer Entertainment Japan.

When Sony consolidated its worldwide PlayStation divisions into a single unit in 2018, Layden was no longer president of Sony Interactive Entertainment America, and the company said he instead would “concentrate his focus” on leading Sony’s game development studios.


These 8 Games Will Be Celebrated And Archived At Australian Exhibit

Like the Smithsonian in America, a well-known Australian preservation group has announced it will begin collecting video games for “archival preservation.”

The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia is collecting games released between 1982 and 2019 to be displayed in Canberra at an exhibit called Game Masters: The Exhibition.

The exhibit honors Australian-made games, and these include the following eight games in the initial wave of inductees:

  1. The Hobbit (Beam Software, 1982)
  2. Halloween Harry (Interactive Binary Illusions / Sub Zero Software, 1985/1993)
  3. Shadowrun (Beam Software, 1993)
  4. L.A. Noire (Team Bondi, 2011)
  5. Submerged (Uppercut Games, 2015)
  6. Hollow Knight (Team Cherry, 2017)
  7. Florence (Mountains, 2018)
  8. Espire 1: VR Operative (Digital Lode, 2019)

The NFSA in Canberra will have these titles on display in the Game Masters exhibit until March 2020. In addition to serving as a venue for people to come see Australian-made games, the NFSA is actually digitally preserving the games, which is a big deal for the older games that were not initially released on digital formats.

Attendees can also see storyboards, artwork, soundtracks, and marketing materials for the games on display. The NFSA said it aims to “paint a complete picture of the game’s creative process from concept to finished product.”

Outside of the eight games, the Game Masters exhibit features 80 total playable games, along with other elements such as “never-before-seen” concept art, and a display of vintage consoles and collectable items.

“The collection represents the cultural diversity and breadth of experience of all Australians, and it is constantly evolving just like our creative industries,” NFSA CEO Jan Muller said in a statement. “We aim to be the national leader in collecting multimedia and new media content, and it would be impossible to accurately represent modern life without games. It is essential that games be collected alongside other audiovisual media, to ensure their continued preservation and access.”

Muller went on to say that this selection of games is just the “initial” wave, suggesting more may be added to the exhibit over time. The NFSA worked with Australian trade groups the Interactive Games And Entertainment Association and the Game Developers’ Association of Australia on the Game Masters exhibit.

IGEA CEO Ron Curry said, “It’s very exciting to see a national collecting institution acknowledging the increasingly important role of video games in the life of all Australians. Games are a major part of contemporary popular culture; an artistic, storytelling and technological achievement, as well as an industry that contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to the Australian economy. We look forward to working with the NFSA as they start adding games to their vast collection.”

Game Masters is also hosting special events, including Local Heroes of Gaming (November 22) and the Women and Non-Binary Gamers’ Club (November 29). More details on the Game Masters exhibit, including ticket information, can be found on the event’s website.


Halo Infinite: Microsoft Used This Very Cute Dog Named Gyoza To Make Sounds

343 Industries has released new videos that show how the audio team captured some of sounds in the upcoming Xbox One and PC game Halo Infinite. The videos are fantastic and offer an illuminating look into the way sounds for creatures, weapons, and vehicles are captured.

The star of the show is Gyoza. That’s the little pug that 343 brought into the studio to sniff and scruff and make all kinds of guttural noises. We can only imagine what these noises will be turned into in Halo Infinite. “Meet our favorite pug, Gyoza,” reads a post from 343 on Instagram. The best friend of our studio’s Technical Art Director, his grunts, breaths, and excitement are sure to make for some… interesting sounds in Halo Infinite.”

The videos, which originally date back to August and were reposted on YouTube by AI, also show the team firing all kinds of weapons, including high-power automatic rifles and shotguns. Additionally, we get a peek at some of the stranger sounds made with various torches, buckets, and baking pans.

The Halo Infinite audio team also fired rockets and drove vehicles around test tracks to capture additional audio for the game.

Halo Infinite releases in Holiday 2020 as a launch title for Microsoft’s next-generation console, Scarlett. The game will also be playable on Xbox One.

A beta for Halo Infinite will be held prior to launch through a “flighting” program. In other news, 343 described Halo Infinite’s microtransactions as a “AAA player investment experience,” while Halo Infinite’s creative director left 343 in August.


Cube World Wasn’t Worth The Wait

In asking me to write about this game, released on Steam today after six years in the wilderness, Stephen said that I’d been very excited about Cube World back in 2012. And I had been! Back in 2012. A lot has changed since.


Cube World’s time out of the public eye has resulted in a final release that is notably different from its popular alpha, especially when it comes to levelling (which is gone), region-locked equipment (you can’t take stuff from one biome to another) and the hang glider (which now sucks).

One of the reasons I was so into it (at least on paper) back in 2012 was that it sounded (and looked, obviously, given its similar art style) like a gamier version of Minecraft. I get that Mojang’s classic has its millions of fans, but its open-ended nature never really appealed to me. I thought Cube World’s tighter focus and RPG elements would take the stuff I did like about Minecraft—its procedurally-generated worlds and a feeling of real boundlessness—and reign them into something more structured.

Cube World does this, but only in the most serviceable way possible. The outline of an action RPG is there, and traces of MMORPGs alongside it, but none of it is any fun. Combat is incredibly basic, while questing is a chore since I had no investment in this paper-thin world or the characters around me.

It’s also badly in need of a tutorial, since your first hours with the game are also the worst, as you wander around the woods being killed by everything you come across, get little in return, then have no idea what to do with the stuff you do get.


On the bright side, you can be a frog, and you can pet cats.

About the only thing I did enjoy about my time with Cube World was exploring. It’s a very pretty world, if you’re into the blocky voxel art style thing, and its undulating terrain and enormous caves were nice just to zone out and stroll across.


It’s a shame that Cube World’s launch has ended up like this, with fans dismayed (the game’s Reddit and Steam reviews are not being kind) at the amount of stuff removed or changed from what had already been such a fun experience. For a game to spend so long in the dark and then finally get released could have been one of the feel-good stories of the year! Instead we’ve got a game that is somehow worse than its alpha, missing loads of what were originally its best features, and what’s left just isn’t very good.


PlayStation Worldwide Studios boss Shawn Layden is ‘departing’

PlayStation worldwide studios head Shawn Layden is “departing,” according to a company tweet.

The tweet reads: “It is with great emotion that we announce that Worldwide Studios Chairman Shawn Layden will be departing SIE. His visionary leadership will be greatly missed. We wish him success in future endeavors and are deeply grateful for his years of service. Thanks for everything, Shawn!”

A graduate of Notre Dame, Layden, 58, has been with Sony for more than three decades. Beginning in public relations in 1987, he worked as an assistant to Sony founder Akio Morita. Then he worked as a Tokyo-based producer, subsequently rising through the ranks to hold senior positions such as chief operating officer and then president of PlayStation in the United States.

He has become a regular fixture at public-facing events such as E3 and The Game Awards, especially as Sony ramps up toward the launch of PlayStation 5.

Layden began his tenure as head of worldwide studios in 2016. His most recent achievement was the purchase of developer Insomniac, which was brought into the company’s first-party studio system.

Neither Layden’s Twitter account nor his Linkedin page makes any mention of his departure.

A spokesperson for Sony told Polygon that there is “no other information at this moment,” apart from the original tweet.

We’ll have more on this breaking news as the story develops.


A Top PlayStation Boss Is Leaving Sony

Ahead of the presumed release of the PlayStation 5 in 2020, one of PlayStation’s top executives, Shawn Layden, has announced he’s leaving the company.

Layden is Sony Interactive Entertainment’s Chairman for Worldwide Studios. He is leaving PlayStation at some point in the future, though a specific date wasn’t shared.

Sony said it wishes Layden “success in his future endeavours,” whatever they may be. “Thanks for everything, Shawn!” PlayStation said.

“It is with great emotion that we announce that Worldwide Studios Chairman Shawn Layden will be departing SIE,” Sony said in a statement on the PlayStation Twitter account. “His visionary leadership will be greatly missed. We wish him success in future endeavors and are deeply grateful for his years of service. Thanks for everything, Shawn!”

Layden started at Sony in 1996, where he worked out of Sony’s Tokyo office as a producer for international software development until January 1999. He was then promoted to vice president of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, a position he held for eight years and nine months.

In October 2007, Layden became the president of Sony Computer Entertainment Japan. He worked in that role for two years and six months before he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to become the Chief Operating Officer of PlayStation until March 2014. His latest promotion was to Chairman of SIE Worldwide Studios, a position he held from April 2016 until now. All of this information comes from Layden’s LinkedIn profile.

Sony is expected to launch its next-generation PS5 console in 2020 alongside the release of Microsoft’s own new console, Scarlett.

The PS4 has been a massive success, shipping 100 million consoles by Sony’s latest count.


Call Of Duty Mobile Is Out Now On iOS

While Call of Duty: Modern Warfare‘s October 25 release on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One approaches, publisher Activision has announced that a mobile version of its popular first-person shooter is available now on iOS.

Call of Duty (Mobile) is a free-to-play CoD experience “brimming with content” from both the Black Ops and Modern Warfare series, according to a press release from earlier this month. It is said to feature a fully-customizable control scheme, multiple game types, well-known characters and weapons, and a Battle Royale mode. The game is currently available now on iOS devices, with Android launching sometime soon. Activision previously stated that Call of Duty: Mobile will launch on both Android and iOS on October 1, so Android users should expect it soon.

Game modes like Gun Game, Search and Destroy, and Team Deathmatch will all make an appearance in Call of Duty: Mobile. Additionally, maps such as Hijacked and Nuketown will be playable in the game.

Call of Duty: Mobile ships with a Battle Royale mode on a “huge and unique open map.” You can play in Single-, Duo-, or Quad-player squads in either first- or third-person. The Battle Royale mode will feature locales from across the Call of Duty universe and you will be able to select one of six available classes before jumping in.

The game launched in Australia earlier this summer. We were able to sit down with Activision’s Vice President of Mobile, Chris Plummer, to talk about the company’s intentions with CoD Mobile, its general position on mobile games, and the ever-contentious microtransactions present in gaming.


Overview Of Apex Legends Season 3’s New Map, World’s Edge, Revealed

Respawn has released the overview look of Apex Legends Season 3’s new map, World’s Edge. The map will replace Kings Canyon at the start of Season 3, which is scheduled to begin on October 1.

Based on the overview, it’s difficult to tell just how much bigger World’s Edge is to Kings Canyon, though after playing on the new map we estimate it’s about two to three times larger. The map is divided into three parts, with the top right portion of the map themed around ice–the Epicenter operating as the major landmark. The bottom part of the map is themed around fire, with two major landmarks: Thermal Station and The Dome.

Snaking between both sections, and extending from the top left of the map down to the middle right, is an urban-like environment. It’s here that you’ll find the train that travels throughout the map–providing a means for squads to bunker down while still remaining on the move. The train seems to travel between Skyhook (teased in Cryptos’ first in-game appearance), Capital City, and Sorting Factory with about a half-dozen smaller landmarks scattered along the track.

A new map isn’t the only piece of content dropping into Respawn’s battle royale during Season 3. Apex Legends is also getting a new playable character (Crypto), weapon (the Charge Rifle), hop-up attachments, golden armor effects, and battle pass. The content won’t stop there, though, as Respawn has already hinted at an upcoming Halloween-themed limited-time event. The developer has also teased Apex Legends’ twelfth character, who is likely scheduled to release at the start of Season 4.

Apex Legends is available for Xbox One, PS4, and PC.


Here’s How Bungie Changed The Beginning Of Destiny 2

One of the more exciting things about Destiny 2’s Shadowkeep expansion is how its release will be accompanied by a free-to-play version of the base Destiny 2 experience. Dubbed Destiny 2: New Light, the new version aims to bring in new players and offer them a generous helping of the Destiny 2 experience, but even faster than before. It’s been a little unclear how that will actually work, but new preview footage from New Light released today shows how it works.

Here’s IGN’s video preview, which shows off the first 25 minutes of the game.

Like we’ve known for some time, New Light will start all players with the opening mission from the first Destiny, waking them up at the Russian Cosmodrome after they choose a character class and customize their look. That mission leads to them finding a ship, fighting alien forces known as the Fallen and flying to the game’s main hub, the Tower.


This is not at all how Destiny 2 used to begin. Anyone who played the game since it launched in 2017 first experienced an attack on the Tower by the forces of the warlord Ghaul. The attack knocked the Guardian down to the Earth surface below, stripping them of most of their power and flowed into a campaign that only brought them back to the Tower at the very end.

In the revised New Light version, you’re safe in the Tower once you get there. That location functions as a social hub where Destiny players collect most of their missions and interact with fellow players. From there, you’re free to do anything available to you.

What we learn from preview videos like this one is that when new players arrive at the Tower, they’re given a “New Light” quest chain that asks them to do a few basic things: Go on a multiplayer Strike, visit Earth, the first available destination for player-vs-environment missions, complete a few bounties, and ultimately raise your character’s power level from the new base 750 up to 770.

However, that’s just recommended. You could, if you chose to, jump into the PvP Crucible once you get to the tower, and go a few rounds. Or you could try the PvE/PvP hybrid Gambit, which is excellent. Or you could kick off the story campaign to Destiny 2, the Red War—it’s not clear how you do this from the video, but a Bungie rep confirmed to Kotaku that New Light players can begin the Red War campaign as soon as they get to the tower by talking to Amanda Holliday, the shipwright who resides in the hanger.


There are a lot of things to do in the tower thanks to the fact that Destiny has had its initial release and first two expansions, leading to numerous questlines which have gone free-to-play with the switch to New Light.

In the coming days, a lot of buzz around Destiny 2 will naturally gravitate to all the new things in Shadowkeep, but it’s also worth noting how smart a rework of the base game New Light looks like it’s shaping up to be. New players won’t be able to do absolutely everything—while Forsaken destinations like the Tangled Shore and the Dreaming City are available to New Light players, story missions and Forsaken loot won’t be, and each destination will unlock after reaching certain experience thresholds—it looks like a great way to ease new players in without overwhelming them or feeling too restrictive.


Hopefully New Light works as well as advertised, because I could use a few extra folks to squad up with, even if they aren’t quite ready to spend the money necessary to delve into Shadowkeep.


Five Hours With Ghost Recon Breakpoint

Ghost Recon Breakpoint is here, or is it hiding in that bush over there? Whatever the case, Ubisoft’s latest addition to the Tom Clancy video game canon is here with plenty of loot to find and bases to assault. Breakpoint brings a lot of improvements over 2017’s Ghost Recon Wildlands. Cool character creation, tons of weapon customization, an actual villain. But it’s also rough in other areas, less of a delicious action milkshake and more like a gritty military sludge.

I’ve played around five hours of Breakpoint today, waking up and diving right into the action. On the one hand, it’s a surprisingly chewable and chill action game. On the other, I feel like I’ve been here before. Breakpoint isn’t a game out to shatter the mold; instead, it wants to slide comfortably into it. That’s great if you’re looking for some tactical action but if you’ve played a military shooter before, then you’ve basically played Breakpoint. No amount of user-interface overhauls or big name actors can change that. I’m in for a long haul but here are some initial thoughts.


Maybe We Won’t Start A Diplomatic Incident This Time?

Okay, the bar is admittedly low here but 2017’s Ghost Recon Wildlands had some serious problems with its setting and villains. Set in Bolivia, it focused on a Mexican cartel that somehow took over the country and transformed it into a narco-state. It was sleazy and racist, with caricature Mexican gangsters traipsing about a Bolivia that wasn’t much like Bolivia at all. It was so bad that the country of Bolivia filed a complaint to the French embassy (publisher Ubisoft being a French company, of course) and considered legal action.

Breakpoint opts for a fictional setting: the island of Auroa, which has been taken over by former “Ghost” operative Cole Walker (portrayed by Jon Bernthal.) It’s a sort of tech-libertarian paradise where a company working on automation and drone technology was eventually seized by Walker and his cohorts. It’s generic, but I’ll certainly take that over the shitshow that was Wildlands. And hey, it’s nice to have an honest to God villain this time around.


Ghost Recon Has Been Taking Notes From Destiny and The Division

While not a full-blown loot shooter, Ghost Recon Breakpoint leans further into that direction than its predecessor. There are a variety of weapon rarity levels, and you have an overall gear score based on the quality of your equipment. Taking on Walker has a recommended gear score of 150 or higher, and much of your time is spent not only on story missions but slowly upgrading your character’s power. This is a bit different from Wildlands, which was far more focused on letting you choose the weapons you like and going from there. Don’t expect to get too attached to your gear in Breakpoint. I was upgrading, swapping out, selling, and disassembling tons of weapons and armor right from the beginning of the game.


Normal Mode Is Pretty Easy

If you’ve played plenty of shooters, don’t expect Breakpoint’s normal difficulty to offer much of a challenge. While there are tougher enemies—Walker leads a platoon of spec ops “Wolves” who love to hunt down the player—it’s nothing you can’t handle with a marksman’s rifle and some well-placed shots. All your weapons can be suppressed, and Breakpoint hands you a precision rifle in the first mission. If you can aim and click your mouse, the early game (and presumably much of what’s to follow) will seem straightforward.


The Structure Is Different

Wildlands built itself around a core loop where players would do a few odd jobs to gain access to a high profile cartel lieutenant who they’d confront to gain more intel on their leader, El Sueño. It was a little bit like Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction. Very loose, not tons of story. Here are some bad guys, go take them out. Breakpoint splits activities into different paths: a main story path, missions for Auroa’s various factions, side quests, other events like high level raids. This means that you can focus directly on the main story if you want. There’s less screwing about and trying to unlock new missions. It gives Breakpoint a welcome momentum that Wildlands didn’t have.


I Might Be Able To Fight The Final Boss Right Away?

You can immediately tag a mission to confront Walker right from the start of the game. The main tasks are to interrogate enemy officers for intel on his location and to, if you can, level up your gear to the appropriate level. I’m not entirely clear on how this all works, and it’s possible that officers don’t show up until certain story beats. However, the idea of a playthrough that ignores all the intrigue for a mad dash at the villain is really exciting. Chances are that it doesn’t work that way, but I would love for it to be possible.


All Games Should Let You “Pin” Objectives 

To help players manage their various tasks, Breakpoint allows them to pin up to three objectives to their interface. For me, this has meant a pin for my main story task, a pin for one side mission, and final pin marking the location of a nearby weapon blueprint. It’s as simple as going into your pause menu, hovering over a mission, and tapping spacebar. Super useful, easy to reference whenever you want, and great for tracking Breakpoints’ numerous distractions.


You Don’t Need To Wear Ugly Gear

Breakpoint’s focus on swapping out gear means winding up with some mismatched looks. If you find yourself walking around with half a ghillie suit and a crummy flop hat, you can hop into the menu to change your appearance at any time. You’re still mostly limited to tacticool gear, but if you don’t like a particular pair of pants all you need to do is select a new look. If you have better looking gear, simply transform the higher quality stuff into something easier on the eyes.


There’s An Exploration Mode

Lifting a page from Assassins Creed Origins and Odyssey, Breakpoint has a guided mode and exploration mode. The first places a marker on your map leading directly to your objective, the other asks you to decipher clues and peruse the map to find where to go next. It’s a neat touch for customizing your gameplay experience, even though I think it’s better to play guided in this case. Breakpoint’s map isn’t always easy to traverse; knowing exactly where to go speeds up an otherwise slow process.


Something’s Up With The Graphics For Me

I’m playing Breakpoint on PC and while everything runs smoothly, there’s some strange stuff going on with the graphics. It’s hard to explain but there’s either some depth of field stuff going on or a filter applied to things out of focus. Whatever the case, it’s given backgrounds a pixelated look that’s honestly distracting me. It’s not affecting my aim and I can soldier on without many problems, but I’m hoping that a few tweaks in the options will get rid of whatever the hell is going on.


This Could Take A While

Five hours or so isn’t a lot of time with a big AAA video game these days, but I’ve been focusing on the main story quest and was dismayed to see that the statistics screen said I’ve experienced 0% of the overall story so far. Maybe it’s a bug or a factor tied to the fact I’m playing a Ubisoft-provided review code before the game is supposed to be available in my region. Or maybe Breakpoint is that huge. I’d be more excited if the story wasn’t a standard behind-enemy-lines tale. Breakpoint s okay so far, but the prospect of untold hours of scowling soldiers and moody Jon Bernthal one-liners is daunting. All in a day’s work, I guess.