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Stardock CEO Wardell On Skipping The Holiday Rush
Stardock CEO Wardell On Skipping The Holiday Rush Exclusive
November 7, 2008 | By Chris Remo

November 7, 2008 | By Chris Remo
More: Console/PC, Exclusive

This week, Michigan-based developer and publisher Stardock lifted the lid to Gamasutra on its fantasy turn-based strategy game Elemental: War of Magic -- and noted that it won't be out until early 2010.

It turns out that specific release timeframe is part of a long-term strategy Stardock has mapped out for years to come.

"What we try to do is we want to release a title every first quarter of every year," CEO Brad Wardell tells Gamasutra. "For as far out as our schedule goes -- that's five or six years -- there's a game coming out."

The PC-exclusive studio, which also runs the Impulse digital download service, has a history of skipping the mad rush of the holiday season with its releases, yet hitting impressive sales figures amongst its target audience, which trends towards hardcore PC gamers.

The Ironclad Games-developed Sins of a Solar Empire shipped this past February, while internally-developed Galactic Civilizations and its sequel shipped in the first quarters of 2003 and 2006 respectively.

Stardock hopes to repeat that success by making its release schedule an explicitly yearly affair, now that it has expanded out to publish third-party games. Gas Powered Games RPG/RTS hybrid Demigod is next up, in February 2009. The company's schedule also allows for expansion packs in the first and fourth quarters as well.

In addition to external development, Stardock is using its recent successes to expand its own bandwidth.

"We have more games in development," he adds. "We're in the process of building a second games team." And the 2011 offering is already planned, but Wardell isn't naming it.

The CEO admits that Stardock can't spring for mega-publisher-sized budgets; its appeal for developers is more borne out of the opportunity to work with a small publisher that is involved with development and has a personal stake in the game's success.

"Ironclad has other games in development, too," he said, but clarified that "there's nothing signed, so you never know. And then, of course, Gas Powered Games has other titles that we're hoping to work with them on in the future too, if they still like us. That's the goal."

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Haig James Toutikian
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maybe some developers can learn from Stardock's success stories, and release games when they're done instead of putting out partial crap for the holidays

I have big respect for the company that forgoes DRMs on top of their non-mainstream publishing tactics to put out really good games (that also sell very well) :D

Leo Gura
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Stardock is no doubt taking a fresh approach, but their release schedule still seems arbitrary and constrictive -- one game per year after Christmas. That said, it's a smart move to avoid the holiday clusterfuck that's going on now. There's no way all the games released these past few weeks aren't cannibalizing their own sales. Of course, Stardock appeals to a hardcore segment, which is easier to advertise in and isn't as holiday-centric.

Evan Combs
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If a game is well made, and is advertised correctly it can succeed at any time of the year. It might be arbitrary and constrictive, but it is based off of releasing quality titles. Plus as they become bigger and can support more titles I'm sure they will form different models. I don't know how they would be able to compete with the advertising most holiday games receive.

Jeff Seamster
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This is refreshing news. As we speak, titles that could be blockbusters are being forgotten within a week of release. And it's only going to get worse heading into the holidays.

Jesse Watson
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I really, really like Stardock. They're one of the few companies that I find extremely inspirational (CD Projeckt being another). I'm looking forward to both Demigod and Elemental--particularly Elemental!

Brad Kavanagh
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I think it's a smart move on their part. I can't be the only one who's game budget is stretched really thin right now due to the absolutely insane amount of AAA titles being released. I've paid for LBP, Left4Dead, and Gears2, and there is no way I can buy any more games until January, at least. I need time for my wallet to recover!

E Zachary Knight
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I'm there with you. I would also add TellTale to the list as they aer taking episodic games seriously.

Erik Hieb
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Stardock also has the advantage of non-gaming software in their catalog, so they're not solely dependent on games I don't think. And that probably makes a difference. But they are definitely one of the few companies I respect anymore. Too many companies I've respected have thrown the legacies and continuity of their games out the window or been bought by less than reputable companies these days had had to compromise their production values.