Last week, we had the chance to talk to Stéphane Baudet, the founder of the Lyon studio The Tiny Digital Factory. From V-Rally to GT Manager, including the legendary Test Drive Unlimited, Stéphane Baudet has seen the Lyon area become an important hub in the development of games on car simulation. He also decided to set up his own studio there. Stéphane agreed to give us a few minutes to answer our questions, to introduce us to The Tiny Digital Factory, tell us about his background and give us his point of view on the Lyon region and its importance.
Lemon squeezer: Let’s start with a little presentation, can you tell us about your background and how you came to create The Tiny Digital Factory?
Stephane Baudet : I started at the end of the 1980s, in Lyon, in the company Infogrames which had a lot of success during the 1990s and at the beginning of the 2000s. At the beginning, I was a game programmer, before ” evolve during my career to become a programmer as a game designer, project manager then producer, up to directing several productions and studios. I founded the Eden Games studio, still in Lyon. It is with this studio that we were able to create several successes in motorsport with V-Rally, as well as another big success which was called Test Drive Unlimited. I then left this studio to join Ubisoft, where I was able to run the Annecy studio.
I was able to devote myself to the online multiplayer part of Ubisoft games, in particular on Splinter Cell and Assassin’s Creed. I was co-creative director with Patrice Desilets for the Assassin’s Creed part. It was during this period that I approached Montreal to join the Behavior Interactive studio, which was a very large independent developer with whom we could create games for many companies. At that time, it was the beginning of mobile games and free-to-play, so I specialized in this area. So we had some successes including Fallout Shelter that we did on behalf of Bethesda. On the strength of this success, I made the decision to create a new company, a bit like I had already done with Eden Games at the end of the 1990s. This is how The Tiny Digital Factory is. born, first in Montreal, a small studio of about eight to ten people. We created Rollercoaster Tycoon Touch, our first mobile game. This was a small success allowing us to validate our competence in free-to-play mobile games.
After a few years, I decided to return to France, naturally to Lyon, with a second studio. We have reduced the workforce in Montreal to increase those in Lyon and we are now around 20. From France, I remain a big car enthusiast, so I suggested to the English publisher Codemasters to adapt their Formula One license to a mobile game, since they did not have one, still on the model of Free. -to-play. So we co-produced this adaptation with my former studio Eden Games. Before making GT Manager, which is our new game. This is our first fully produced production that we have fully funded, developed and edited.
PC: F1 Mobile Racing is an incredible success with over 15 million downloads. What is the goal for GT Manager in the coming months?
SB : We always review our objectives depending on the launch of the game. It is a game that will remain more discreet since there is no “F1” mark. On F1 Mobile Racing, we have 80% of the players called “organic” players. That is to say, that these are the users who will search for the game on the various stores with the keywords “F1”. Economically, it is very interesting, since it makes it possible to attract a good number of players without having to pay for large advertising campaigns. On GT Manager, we don’t have this advantage. We have signed numerous partnerships with manufacturers (Porsche, Mercedes, McLaren, etc.), we have the main brands that are investing in the field of “GT”, but this discipline is still less important than F1.
So today, the main objective is to target a third of what we were doing with F1 Mobile Racing. The interesting point is that in our F1 game we have a lot of players, but the financial return is not necessarily optimal. The more you have a smaller community of players, the more you have a community that will invest and pay. Thus, we are targeting a third of the F1 Mobile Racing audience, on the other hand we are targeting a much higher profitability with GT Manager. And for the moment, about a month after the game’s release, when we look at a third of the F1 Mobile Racing audience, we are in this curve where we should earn more income. For this, we have learned a lot from our previous work and we realized that people passionate about motorsport do not necessarily want to have a driving game on mobile, because it is less comfortable. The two things that are essential to me in the development of a mobile game and that we have learned over the years are to really consider that you are not playing a mobile game, like playing a console game. or PC. These are games that we play several times a day and several times a week.
The other thing is the free-to-play building and trying to look for the thing that people would be willing to spend their money on. We have to find something that is not a barrier, that is not compulsory, but which can be a plus for players who enjoy the game. We have integrated advertising, but it is not compulsory. We try to have a compromise between a game that is very suitable for the mobile platform and with a good middle ground in terms of free-to-play. One of the constraints we had in F1 was that in one season we only had ten cars and ten delivered in one season. So if the players had their Ferraris, Mercedes, or Red Bulls, why would they go and buy more cars? In GT Manager, we immediately anticipated that, and we immediately wanted to create categories of cars and to set up this collection side with special stages open only to certain types of vehicles and to some brands.
PC: If ever the objectives with GT Manager are met, do you plan to design other licensed games like NASCAR, WRC etc.?
SB : It’s possible, we are always working on several projects in parallel. For the record, GT Manager started before F1 Mobile Racing, but when the project was official with Codemasters, we put aside our first idea before coming back to it. Likewise, our teams are starting to work on other projects and we actually have variations of our concept and that will depend on the success of GT Manager. At the moment, things are off to a good start, but it is still too early to confirm. But there is a good chance that our concept will be applied to other disciplines. We have constant discussions, whether with the organizers, whether it is the WRC, Formula E, and F1 as well. Today, we are lucky to work with a lot of partners who themselves want to participate in the next games. So, there will be a sequel to GT Manager and there will undoubtedly be another project that will be more in the spirit of Test Drive Unlimited (but which will not be TDU) which will try to innovate, like Test Drive. had been able to innovate on console with this open world. We want to take risks to do innovative, different things that may not work, but we will be proud to have tried. One thing that I find really good in France, we have a lot of aid that allows us to innovate, systems of tax credits on research, which can allow us to invest and if that does not work, thanks to the supports of these aids, that does not put the company in danger. Thus, I would say that it is even a duty to innovate.
PC: You told us about your career, first at Infogrames, then Eden Games, Ubisoft or Behavior Interactive. Studios specializing in the development of games on consoles and PCs. The goal for later is to stay on mobile or also to direct you on consoles and PC?
SB : So, it’s the eternal debate and even sometimes internally with a lot of discussions and debates. Two years ago, we had Rollercoaster Tycoon Touch and I suggested the idea of making a Switch version from the mobile version. The game was not very well received given that it really kept that mobile gaming aspect. So, we are a little more cautious now in this area. I think that we did not give ourselves the means. If today we want to remake games, on PC or consoles, we must give ourselves the means. But I don’t want to be opportunistic and just wear our games. We are not considering large consoles, because the budget will never be within our reach. But on PC and Switch, it is possible if we find the right adaptation. But in any case, our aim is not to design games specifically and only for consoles or PCs.
PC: You have had the chance to collaborate with other studios, be it Codemasters or Eden Games, do you plan other collaborations in the future?
SB : Not immediately. We did it because we had an affinity with its studios, but it’s always a bit complicated. Today, I think we will focus on our own games to have continuity and no longer abandon our games and make them evolve and advance the company.
PC: Following your journey, we have seen that the starting point was the Lyon region and that you have returned there. Since the 1990s, the Lyon basin has become a very important pole for the development of automotive games, between Infogrames, Eden Games, now we have KT Racing, Ivory Tower to name a few, how to explain that this Lyon region has become a driving place of this automobile simulation?
SB: Everything comes from the same games and the same teams, first with V-Rally at Infogrames with David Nadal and Jean Yves Geffroy who now run Eden Games. Ivory Tower was the Test Drive Unlimited team. KT Racing is also the Test Drive Unlimited 2 team. These are the games that we were able to make, either at the end of Inforgrames, or at the time of Eden Games which made it possible to lead to the creation of these new companies and I am very proud of them. This is also one of the reasons why we came back to Lyon, because there is know-how in the region making it possible to create careers that will be able to develop whether at Eden, Ivory and from one structure to another. . Today, one of the reasons that we do not plan to make new collaborations is that we are a bit competitive, even if we adore each other, we remain competitors in recruitments, developments and even if we exchange a lot, it is more complicated to collaborate. We are still colleagues, we all come from the same house, but we also remain competitive and I am really delighted that there are four studios in Lyon in the same field and to tell myself that in some ways, ‘to have been at the birth of it all.
The Presse-citron team would like to thank Stéphane Baudet for giving us a moment for this discussion. Don’t hesitate to find The Tiny Digital Factory games now on the Apple Store and the Google Store.