Stardock: Impulse 'was consuming the rest of the company'

The so-called "dumbification" of video games, Windows 8, and the sale of Impulse to GameStop are among the topics Stardock's outspoken CEO Bradwell has covered in the PC developer and publisher's latest annual Customer Report.

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The so-called "dumbification" of video games, Windows 8, and the sale of digital distributor Impulse to retail monster GameStop are among the topics PC developer and publisher Stardock has covered in its latest annual Customer Report. A Stardock tradition, it's written by its notoriously outspoken CEO and president Brad Wardell.

Wardell gives three reasons why Stardock sold Impulse: "It was consuming the rest of the company"; the developers wanted to release Stardock games on Steam and other platforms; and it was "not compatible with Stardock's internal culture."

"Impulse's success came at a cost. High talent software developers are precious and Stardock found itself having to transfer its best developers from both the software and games unit to Impulse in order to ensure that the platform could scale and compete in the market," he explains.

"While Impulse was able to benefit from Stardock's top development talent, the effects on the rest of the company were patently obvious. Object Desktop, Stardock's flagship software product, languished and the Elemental: War of Magic project suffered greatly as well."

The launch of fantasy strategy game Elemental in August 2010 was massively botched, and Stardock had to lay off staff because of its poor performance. It tried to get back on track by hiring lead Civilization V designer Jon Shafer and famed Civ modder Derek 'Kael' Paxton, and saved a little face by offering Elemental's first two expansion packs free to early adopters.

Wardell notes that GameStop was better for Impulse in ways, using its clout to get the rights to games that Impulse "had struggled to obtain." He also says, "getting one of the major retailers refocused on the PC market would provide long-term benefits both to us and our fellow PC game development studios."

The report goes into progress on the next Elemental game, Fallen Enchantress. Derek Paxton made the decision to start fresh, using War of Magic code and assets where appropriate rather than building FE around WoM.

Wardell says there's "at least half a year of development left," noting beta feedback has been "very positive" and saying he hopes it'll be "the marquee turn-based strategy game of its time period."

Ironclad's space strategy series Sins of a Solar Empire, which Stardock published, is also a big franchise for the company. Wardell claims that the "dumbification" of video games has created a gap in the market for players "interested in a complex game experience but also want high production standards," who are supposedly males aged 25 to 55.

He notes that some might say the new generation of gamers have grown up on "games that hand hold the player through a well-developed story" and have no interest in "'discovering' the nuances of game play over many hours." However, Wardell is confident that interests will mature as the players do.

Wardell also lays into Microsoft's new operating system, Windows 8, claiming that it "will be considered a general failure" if it doesn't fix a few user interface issues: being unable to run entirely as a regular desktop without Metro; having no "realistic" way to organise Metro programs; and relying users to mouse-over elements to find out what they are.

Of course, Stardock will have quite strong opinions in this frield, as it makes a vast array of programs tweaking the Windows interface. Still, Wardell is concerned that Windows 8 might be so offputting that people simply won't switch, and there'll be no market to sell its tools to.

There's also a small tease that Stardock will expand into "other platforms," saying it'll make some announcements "later this year."

Check out the full report, if you fancy, for Stardock's customer satisfaction survey and more.

From The Chatty

  • reply
    March 22, 2012 1:00 PM

    Alice O'Connor posted a new article, Stardock: Impulse 'was consuming the rest of the company'.

    The so-called "dumbification" of video games, Windows 8, and the sale of Impulse to GameStop are among the topics Stardock's outspoken CEO Bradwell has covered in the PC developer and publisher's latest annual Customer Report.

    • reply
      March 22, 2012 2:15 PM

      "Still, Wardell is concerned that Windows 8 might be so offputting that people simply won't switch, and there'll be no market to sell its tools to."
      Nah, I'm using Windows 8 right now and I have both Fences and Tiles (although Tiles doesn't work due to registration/proxy issues, but that's another matter). Granted I do use the regular desktop and not Metro.

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      March 22, 2012 2:23 PM

      "the developers wanted to release Stardock games on Steam and other platforms; and it was "not compatible with Stardock's internal culture."

      That's kind of... interesting... considering how very anti-steam he was back when he was running Impulse.

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        March 22, 2012 3:04 PM

        He was mad at it for being incompatible to their internal culture.

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          March 22, 2012 9:41 PM

          Well he didn't say he wasn't a part of that culture. It would be like selling Valve games on Impulse.

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            March 22, 2012 9:52 PM

            While I get why they weren't selling stardock games on steam at the time, it doesn't explain why he also wrote a bunch of opinion columns about how steam was bad for the games industry and now is turning around and saying he liked it all along.

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      March 22, 2012 2:58 PM

      I'm not sure any number of developers could have saved Elemental.

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      March 22, 2012 3:45 PM

      I really wonder how this didn't happen with Valve considering how much more of a monster-beast Steam is in comparison. Then again Valve makes 1 game every 5 years, so maybe it did consume the company.

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        March 22, 2012 3:46 PM

        Who says it didn't?

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          March 22, 2012 3:53 PM

          Well, their past few games have been pretty good.

          But I think the answer to Disarray's question is that Valve continues to hire talented employees. They recently moved into a new office to fit everyone. They can pay for all of this because they are swimming in Gabe Newell's pool of liquid gold.