Former Thief, Deus Ex boss on why he quit the AAA console business

Stephane D'Astous says he saw more potential for growth outside of AAA space.

In a new interview with GamesIndustry International, former Eidos Montreal (Thief, Deus Ex: Human Revolution) general manager Stephane D'Astous explained why he quit the company last summer and decided to join mobile/social studio Hibernum. First, D'Astous said the drama surrounding his departure from the company last summer was overstated.

"I am really proud of what was built in Montreal. People think there was some bad blood [but] it was really blown out of proportion... it is all good, it is business, and we are all colleagues at the end of the day," he said. "It is a small industry... Since late summer, I took some time off because I never had the occasion to take some really unplugged time."

During his time off, D'Astous took time to think about what he wanted to do next. Building AAA games like Deus Ex or Thief was like working in a Ferrari garage, he said. He was proud of what he made, but he was limited in the kinds of opportunities he could take, D'Astous explained.

"In the last 14 years in the gaming industry I like to consider myself working in a Ferrari garage. We were doing Ferraris, very proud of the high quality product, and you get embedded in that type of thinking. Once you are not exactly in that position you have the freedom to look at what is happening more than what you are doing," he said. "There are a lot of trends, and everybody knows the video game industry is like no other. There are fast paced trends and mega trends. I was trying to look at the mega trends and obviously mobile is having great traction…"

"In the console industry it is very difficult to de-risk, because you need to go all in almost every single time" - D'Astous

D'Astous joined Canadian mobile studio Hibernum as its COO and partner in March. He describes the tablet space is a "game changer." One of the main reasons he decided to quit Eidos Montreal, D'Astous said, was because he saw more potential for growth outside of AAA.

"In the console industry it is very difficult to de-risk, because you need to go all in almost every single time," he said. "Not a lot of people have the nerves and the guts to do that, and sometimes you do not have the choice, you need to do it. That is why when I said to myself, 'Where do I see myself in five years? I want to be in a place where there are more possibilities, more growth in all senses, in creativity and innovation and business, and... I would rather be in mobile now and see myself [happy] in five years than be in console and wish that I would [have been in mobile]. I have a better chance to be happy in a healthy industry sub-sector in five years if I choose mobile."

D'Astous said publishers already know a shift toward tablet and mobile gaming is happening ("the direction of the wind you cannot change," he says), but pointed out that some companies are having a tough time making that transition.

"Again, [looking at ] my example of doing Ferraris, you say, 'Okay, let's keep the shop, let's keep the people that are doing the Ferraris, but let's do the Fiats, the Fiats 500, the small micro-car.' Obviously you will have good labor to do that, good expertise, but it is not in their DNA, it is not what they are used to," D'Astous said.

He went on to say that game companies that have attempted to apply traditional ways of thinking to another area of the industry, like mobile, have found themselves in trouble.

"The publishers that tried to cookie cut their different types of studios to go from console to mobile, I wish them luck. I do not think it works really well like that; that is where partnerships with existing studios, indies or whatever [really helps]," 'D'Astous said.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.

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Discussion

36 comments
vadagar1
vadagar1

f** that

just make a game like thief 1,2 with a different name and release it on steam 


just keep some F888ing dignity bro... Christ....

cratecruncher
cratecruncher

Mobile is merely a new market segment enabled by smartphone tech.  I believe it will always struggle to be as rich an experience as pc and console because of the screen size and interface.  But who knows?  Maybe one day we'll all be wearing smartphones strapped to our faces, with wireless earplugs, playing in virtual reality.  Tech happens.


The "AAA as a Ferrari" analogy is even more apt than D'Astous realizes.  Enzo Ferrari was overconfident about the preeminence of engine power over chassis design and and brake technology and had his a$$ handed to him in the '60s by tiny shoestring racing teams like Cooper and Lotus.  Watch out Eidos, Ubisoft, EA, Blizzard, Zenimax, et. al.......with your boring sequels, paywalls and sub fees. The indies are going to hand you something! 

fede018
fede018

I'm sick of all of you close-minded i diots who only played one or two mobile games and think they are all crap.

mattress805
mattress805

I like the analogy of working on a AAA game is likening working in a Ferrari garage.

Merseyak
Merseyak

mobile will replace console its just facts it wont be long neither

TehUndeadHorror
TehUndeadHorror

I thought mobile gaming just opened up a new market. It never replaced consoles or PCs, just like how Facebook games didn't.

pc_friendly
pc_friendly

Although he swept the shop floor for Ferrari, I'm glad he's moving to a new shop. Thief is/was exactly that...a rip off.  

remoticons
remoticons

mobile games are a joke, but vital to the industry i believe, get the kids in with some free games while they are young then as soon as they are old enough to buy their own money get a box, station or pc =) 

also, didnt like deux ex or thief, so ok, have a good life at not triple A town! =p

Brakkyn
Brakkyn

I am not a fan of mobile games.  When I hear "mobile", I certainly don't think of gaming.

derekscorp
derekscorp

It seems like the 3rd-party AAA game development scene is becoming increasingly toxic. The smart people are getting out while the getting's good.

playstationzone
playstationzone

not fan mobile games and they staying away from AAA games because been a lot didnt sale so really its costumers fault  not buying AAA games but anyways there options.

charlieholmes
charlieholmes

When I see stories like this, I worry that I may be being left behind. I am not a fan, nor have I really ever found a mobile game I like over almost any console game I've evert bought and played. There's no doubt entertainment to be had on my Ipad. But, it is all extremely left lacking when I compare the best mobile I've played to really even an average console game. I just don't see any way you can even compare mobile to the quality of immersion of console games. Just my two cents.

raddys2001
raddys2001

If this is the guy that quit because of Sq soft unreasonable expectations then I don't blame him.  

endorbr
endorbr

So if the new Thief is supposed to be like a Ferrari I'd hate to see what level of Indie game he's going to develop...  I don't think I want to play the game equivalent of a Kia Rio.

Sgt-Damain
Sgt-Damain

The new Thief game=Ferrari? Are you high? More like a Ford Edsel...

Veenox
Veenox

They just offered him a bigger contract or whatever, that guy has no vision, screw phones and tablets.

wookiegr
wookiegr

What the hell is a AAA game anyways? Even though Outlast was great little game you couldn't really tell it was an "indie" title. I agree games like Battlefield 4 are classified as AAA but there is no reason why smaller studios that pretend to be "indie" like Respawn can't make AAA type games without all the budget and politics that go along with it. 

xxmavr1kxx
xxmavr1kxx

I am not looking forward to the world where people do not want to develop AAA games anymore.


Mobile has its place, but not to take over gaming.

Gallowhand
Gallowhand

He does seem to make a salient point with regard to AAA development.  I think that is why we've seen Ubisoft developing some smaller budget titles lately, like Child of Light and Valiant Hearts.  It makes sense to diversify in the current climate, and not put all the eggs in one basket.

spacecadet25
spacecadet25

He already built the best possible AAA game in the new Thief, and had nowhere else to go in the AAA gaming world than down...  :)

Crush_Project
Crush_Project

@vadagar1 ya at this point someone needs to start a company where they just buy up old games and rerelease them with all the extra features, flesh and content you always wanted to see the first time.

or heck taking 2 old skool games and combining them together under one game you'd think would sell like mad even if you used ancient games, but alas they take off and make crappy little phone games for your mom to play. ick!

knox140
knox140

Don't think so... They appeal to different audiences. You could never play games like Skyrim or Titanfall on mobile, so hardcore gamers will never choose mobile instead of consoles or PC...

jinzo9988
jinzo9988

@wookiegr AAA usually means a completely overblown budget, having hundreds of people thrown at the project, and unless it's a sequel you're probably looking at a development cycle of over 2 years.

I don't think AAA games as a category has anything to do with how good they are.  Case in point, the Wild Wild West movie.  AAA budget, AAA production and AAA film crew skills, zero quality.  If you want to relate it to games, then Resident Evil 6.

Dannystaples14
Dannystaples14

@wookiegr  My issue with that is despite the potential for small Indie studios to make AAA like games none of them ever do.

I mean the Stanley parable wasn't exactly an ugly 8 bit game but it was no AAA game.

Hurvl
Hurvl

@xxmavr1kxx I don't mind less AAA-ness, I simply want games that I would like to play. Simple, isn't it :P? There's no need for most games to have the best graphics or effects and all, I'm just not interested in the whole retro 80s-90s look of games. Make them look like the first Deus Ex and we have a deal, if the rest is good enough.

Ervaine
Ervaine

@xxmavr1kxx  However if he had chose to work on indie games that would be a diffrenet story.

remoticons
remoticons

@Gallowhand  you cant really compare ubisoft and eidos interactive. ubisoft is a huge company with many different groups working on different projects, i think ubisoft has around 10 different studios, 


while eidos is just one group working on one project. so its not eidos choice to put their only egg in the basket. they have to. 


now eidos do have 2 companies they own, crystal dynamics and IO interactive i think, they work on tomb raider and hitman, and those companies also just have one egg they can put in the basket at a time.


zandrxi
zandrxi

@spacecadet25 yep  it was so good that it was the 1st game ive sold back to a store in 3 years

Brakkyn
Brakkyn

@zandrxi @spacecadet25 And the problem(s) with the game was/were...?  Because I bought it and still own it.  I thought it was great.

endorbr
endorbr

@zandrxi @spacecadet25Yep.  I sold mine back too and I don't do that with games I buy so that's saying something.

remoticons
remoticons

@Brakkyn @zandrxi @spacecadet25  its just different taste, my friend also loves that game, he loves darksiders, or whatever that game is called, and fifa, and he has not played the last of us. 

i dont care about thief, rather play dishonored, same feel and better production imo. even though dishonored aint my thing either...