Stardock CEO Responds to NPD Digital Distribution Report and Steamworks on Direct2Drive

Yesterday, a report came out from the NPD Group, claiming that 48% of PC games sold in 2009 were done so digitally. The report also ranked various digital outlets putting Steam at the top, following by Direct2Drive, Blizzard, Electronic Arts, and then World of Warcraft.

Left off of that list was Stardock's Impulse, which Stardock believed to be the number 2 digital distribution outlet back in December. Shacknews contacted Stardock CEO Brad Wardell about the NPD report, to which he replied:

NPD's numbers on digital don't tend to have much reflection on reality. As much as I would love digital distribution to take over the world, I can't think of a single publisher (including ourselves) that sells even close to a majority of its units digitally. I am a big believer in the future of digital distribution but the numbers we typically hear from publishers is that it's about a third (which is pretty darn good, by the way).

I had my own skepticism about the NPD report as it was compiled with survey data and not actual sales figures. It is quite possible that Impulse was omitted from the list due to less awareness by consumers. In any case, it is likely that Impulse, Direct2Drive, and others are fighting over what little market share Valve does not hold with Steam.

Yesterday, 2K Games also announced that Mafia II would use Steamworks for its DRM solution, requiring an installation of Valve's Steam client to play the game. Impulse refuses to carry games that use Steamworks, though Direct2Drive does so even after refusing to sell Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 at release, but eventually selling the popular game. Stardock will not be changing its policy, despite a growing number of high-profile games incorporating Steamworks, explains Brad Wardell:

As for Steamworks games on Impulse, no, we will continue our policy of not distributing titles that require the bundling of a third party store. Direct2Drive is in a somewhat different position than Impulse is in that its only source of income is from third party titles. Impulse, by contrast, has the Stardock titles which gives it a bit more flexibility. Impulse's financial viability isn't tied to selling copies of Steamworks titles.

Stardock releases its own titles both at retail and digitally through Impulse. The company most recently published Chris Taylor's Demigod and will release Elemental: War of Magic in August.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    July 22, 2010 12:07 PM

    It's a lose-lose situation for Stardock when it comes to selling Steamworks enabled games.

    Don't sell them and you lose customers.
    Sell them and you risk giving up customers who discover Steam.

    Impulse's future seems to rest in Stardock's ability to produce big mega-hit games. Thus far, they have not been able to do so, because all their titles are hardcore niche strategy games.

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      July 22, 2010 12:16 PM

      I'm sure anyone who knows about impulse already know about steam... They really should sell steamwork games.

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      July 22, 2010 12:23 PM

      The problem is, steam is the shit. I love stardock, and.... you can't fight valve.

      Really, they are benevolent overlords. You should just accept the inevitable.

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        July 22, 2010 12:46 PM

        Yeah, I agree. Stardock is a great company that has some pretty fun games...but Stardock doesn't provide a fraction of the functionality and awesomeness that Steam provides.

        Simply put, Steam is a better platform, not just a store.

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          July 22, 2010 1:41 PM

          Impulse Reactor titles are coming this year. There's your 'Steamworks' platform (except that it's invisible to the user and doesn't require loading of Impulse.)

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            July 22, 2010 3:31 PM

            I like that whole "doesn't require loading of Impulse" thing. That's the one thing I want Steam to add. No fucking program running in the background eating up resources and telling me whether or not I can play the game I own. Not having to start impulse to play games I've bought off of it is nice.
            Steam now uses 250MB of my computer's ram. Nothing else (other than games) uses that much, and only one or two process even use HALF. That's a 16th of my computer's ram lost to a single program that just sits there most of the time.

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            July 22, 2010 4:02 PM

            People often overlook this, but there's a large benefit to being VISIBLE to the user.

            Gamers might purchase an Impulse Reactor title and have no idea it's even there. To some users, that's great. They don't like how Steam does it...

            To others, it's a feature-set, a brand... this is why Xbox LIVE was so powerful when Microsoft standardized a lot of the Xbox 360's online functions.

            Personally, I like the Steam overlay. I like that I can bring up messages, chat rooms, web browsers, and more without having to alt-tab or run in a window.

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              July 22, 2010 7:59 PM


              Also, we're not in the days of Windows XP and shutting down your programs before gaming anymore. Modern systems run 4 to 6GB of RAM while games almost entirely still use less than 2GB of RAM (to accommodate 32-bit users). I don't even think about what programs I have open when I play games now. And I don't have to.

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              July 22, 2010 11:49 PM

              yeah it's amazing that i don't need to quit a given game (e.g. while in an online match) and can quickly IM someone via in the ingame overlay. also I can organize everything within a unified (and synchronized since the update!) system with my own categories.

              of course steam still has some missing features but it's the most complete system out there by far. and it feels like it has every game from the last 10 years except Blizzard's and Stardock's.

              I guess the most important thing that made me buy games on steam were the Weekend Sales though - once they started doing that I started giving them money all the time ( I had only the orange box then, now I have 120+ games, from which I only paid 2 or 3 the full price for)

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              July 23, 2010 12:08 PM

              Yea me to.

              Sitting in a l4d2 lobby, while surfing the web, or chatting with friends is great.

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