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."