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.

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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.

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