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Stardock annual report highlights

by Steve Watts, Feb 22, 2011 6:00pm PST

Stardock's annual Customer Report was released today and, as usual, CEO Brad Wardell provided a frank overview of the company's successes and shortcomings, along with a few sprinkled hints of plans for the future.

Unsurprisingly, Sins of a Solar Empire: Trinity was counted as a standout success, and the company teased "important announcements" for the franchise this year. The report later states that it anticipates "3 big announcements" this year for the PC, making us suspect that one could be a Solar Empire sequel or expansion.

Elemental: War of Magic, however, didn't do so well. Saying it gave the company a "black eye," Wardell bluntly says, "what appears 'fun' on paper does not always result in 'fun' in reality." He promises that Fallen Enchantress is a departure from War of Magic, sharing only some art assets. In addition to the previously announced free Fallen Enchantress offer for War of Magic buyers, Stardock will be offering War of Magic at a discount and will continue tweaking it "for those users who prefer its game mechanics."

Wardell conceded that while its digital download service Impulse lags behind Steam "by a large margin," it made improvements in the past year to its capacity and has hit approximately 3 million users. "This has allowed Impulse to keep up with the demand on newer titles and give it the ability to have some market differentiation with Steam by typically having 'Indie' titles up first," said Wardell.

The time investments to improve to Impulse, however, put a wrench in Stardock's plans to launch Impulse: Reactor to the general development community. Reactor is Stardock's most direct competitor to Steamworks, and the company is renewing its focus on releasing it in 2011.

Finally, the company made its latest revisions to the Gamers Bill of Rights with the aid of developers and publishers. It calls some of the old rights "irrelevant" due to digital distribution, and even calls the right to transfer physical copies "increasingly quaint." The slimmed down list of core ideals are as follows:

-Gamers have the right to return a game if it doesn't work as designed on their computer for a full refund.

-Gamers have the right to play their game without being inconvenienced by copy protection or DRM.

-Gamers have the right to their privacy and anonymity in a game.

The report recognizes that the first is much broader, but simplifies the concept of reducing purchasing risk. The second is said to be subjective on purpose, since users might disagree on what is inconvenient, but argues that keeping them informed before purchasing is required. The third core value is a necessity, Wardell argues, because despite the "deplorable behavior" afforded by anonymity, data mining is more dangerous.