Independent developer Stardock says it might be done with retail altogether, as sales for the online-exclusive Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion have shown the studio that it doesn't need products on store shelves to find success.
With Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion, Stardock decided to skip retail for the first time, and the experiment seems to have paid off. The studio reported on its official blog that the game has sold more than 100,000 units since its launch in mid-June, and in just 30 days, the game had surpassed the first-month retail sales of its predecessor, Sins of a Solar Empire.
Stardock is selling its new game via Steam, GameStop's digital platform, as well as its own website, and the studio's found that these channels have proven themselves just as effective as traditional retail stores.
"When we combine our direct sales of Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion with the sales from GameStop, we see unit sales similar to what we've seen previously when at retail. This contradicts our projection that sales via Steam would share the overall digital pie we'd previously seen," said Stardock president and CEO Brad Wardell. "Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion on Steam didn't cannibalize its GameStop or direct sales."
Given the game's success, Stardock has decided to abandon retail for two of its upcoming games: The Political Machine 2012 and Elemental: Fallen Enchantress. Instead, these titles will debut via Steam, GameStop's digital platform, and other online distributors. At the moment, the studio is re-evaluating its overall strategy, and hasn't decided how it'll handle the launch of any other future games.
But by moving away from retail, Wardell says Stardock no longer needs to announce hard release dates months in advance, and can instead work on its products until it deems them ready for release.
Without these launch dates looming overhead, Stardock says independent developers can ensure that their products are finished and ready for the masses. And from what it's seen so far, losing retail doesn't seem like such a hard sacrifice.