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Stardock blames and sues marketer for  Elemental 's poor launch
Stardock blames and sues marketer for Elemental's poor launch
August 15, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

August 15, 2012 | By Eric Caoili
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    14 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



Stardock is placing the blame for Elemental: War of Magic disappointing launch on a former employee who allegedly destroyed marketing materials, and impaired the game's quality as a result.

The Michigan-based developer is suing its ex-marketing manager Alexandra Miseta for more than $1 million over damages from Elemental's launch in 2010. She worked at the company for four years, and purportedly quit Stardock without notice just before the game shipped.

Documents filed with a Michigan Eastern District Court last month claim that when Miseta resigned, she deleted, destroyed, and/or stole promotional materials, analytics data, and trade show information that was vital to supporting Elemental's launch. Stardock also accuses her of refusing to return her company laptop, and running side businesses during work hours.

The company says her actions not only made it impossible for the developer to complete crucial marketing efforts, but also forced it to commit resources to re-creating the missing materials -- resources that could have been devoted to programming, debugging, and polishing Elemental.

Elemental was panned by critics when it released due to its bugs, clunky user interface, and other issues, with some calling it an unfinished game. Its average review score on Metacritic is only 53 percent, a low ranking for a company known for releasing acclaimed strategy titles like the Galactic Civilizations series.

Not long after the game's launch, CEO Brad Wardell attributed Elemental's problems to the team's QA process, as well as to "[his] own catastrophic poor judgment in not objectively evaluating the core game play components." He made no mention of Miseta, who now works at advertising agency Fleishman-Hillard, at the time.

Stardock eventually laid off a number of employees for the first time in twelve years due to the game's issues. Though Elemental made its money back immediately after release, Wardell said Stardock would end up eventually losing money from the project in order to fix the game and its relationship with consumers.

The company's claims against Miseta include violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Common Law Conversion, Statutory Conversion, Breach of Fiduciary Duty, and Breach of Contract. Along with seeking more than $1 million in damages, Stardock is asking for interest, costs, and attorney fees.


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Comments


Dave Ingram
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Wow. Blaming a marketing manager for poor programming and design makes the company look much worse than any failed product ever could.

Does Stardock want us to believe that they are a company full of programmers that is incapable of restoring files from backup on their network, or do they want us to believe that the marketing manager was an uber hacker that somehow deleted every trace of the documents from the beginning of time? Or, do they want us to believe that their marketing team serves double-duty as the developers, which is why recreating marketing materials resulted in shoddy programming?

Man up, Stardock -- it's OK to create a flop, as long as you learn from it rather than casting blame.

Jeffrey Williams
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Maybe I'm reading between the lines here, but I think the public response from the company after the launch speaks to the opposite. For the CEO to go and accept responsibility for the game's faults I think completely qualifies as "Manning Up"(c). If you read the complaint, they blame what appears to be a problematic employee for harming their business, not for ruining their design choices (though they do say debugging efforts were harmed by this).

I think this article spins a bit on the 'whiny' side, where the sources seem to appear as a company seeking damages for an employee that destroyed company property, ran side businesses on company time, and allegedly caused damage of $1M. If they were going to whine about it, they wouldn't admit to "catastrophic poor judgment" first.

Alternate Procellous
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A 53 on metacritic pretty much says it all. Stardock is making a serious mistake with this lawsuit, essentially telling the game industry that being a Stardock employee can put you on the hook for a million if the game doesn't do well. Brilliant recruiting move, guys.

I have seen companies sue employees before. My opinion is that it usually means the end is near.

Dave Smith
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it may be a crappy game, but thats not really the issue. if the allegations are true, she deserves to get sued.

David Paris
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Just scrambling for a scapegoat. There is no chance some disgruntled marketing manager made their game a pile of poo.

The Le
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That is true, but read the official complaint. The marketing manager is definitely guilty of some form of sabotage, assuming it's all true. Certainly not 1 million dollars worth of guilt.

John Bacon
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Scrambling for a scapegoat?

First, the game is two years old. Second, it sounds like she deserved it.

Your comment seems ill-informed.

Nuttachai Tipprasert
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"Stardock says her actions not only made it impossible for the developer to complete crucial marketing efforts, but also forced it to commit resources to re-creating the missing materials -- resources that could have been devoted to programming, debugging, and polishing Elemental."

I'm programmer myself but has yet to see any relation here. How can marketing manager can be the cause of poor programming jobs? You can sue your ex-employee for destroying important documents, that's fine and understandable. But blaming her for problems that don't relate to her is very childish, if you ask me.

The Le
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While I agree that Stardock is using the marketer as a bit of a scapegoat, I think they have a valid case. Not worth 1 million by any stretch of the imagination, but a valid case. It doesn't help that the marketer refused to return his/her company issued laptop, which contained more proprietor information.

This all happened 3 weeks before launch -- ALOT OF DAMAGE can be done at that time. The game still sucked, but as a data guy I would hate to have all that marketing and analysis information deleted on me (which is why I think Stardock's case is valid) a month before launch.

I urge everyone to READ THE OFFICIAL complaint before casting such harsh judgement against Stardock.

Dave Smith
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it could certainly be worth 1 million in damages. it could also be worth 5$, but i'll let the courts figure it out.

Keith Burgun
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This is ridiculous. I was *extremely* excited for E:WOM when it came out, and I can tell you: the game was an absolute disaster. I couldn't care less about "marketing materials"; the game design was simply a huge cascade of misguided nonsense. Total train wreck.

Their new version, Enchanted Twilight Vampire Princess or whatever, is improved ALMOST to an acceptable level, over two years later. That shows how unfinished and awful E:WOM was.

ALSO: Why is this lawsuit happening NOW instead of back when these horrible crimes were taking place?

Jeffrey Williams
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Probably specifically so an article like this would not exist, and also after they had time to assess damages and prep the claim.

Matt Diamond
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I think the proper way to understand what happened is the reverse of how the article presents it. Stardock is suing an employee who allegedly destroyed materials, stole a laptop, etc. They have to describe the harm these actions caused, which was to harm marketing of the game they were working on at the time.

Yes, the damage described seems implausible, but that's par for lawsuits seeking damages. (I'm not defending that practice, just pointing out that it's part of courtroom strategy.)

The point is, the purpose of the suit isn't to blame all of the game's failures on a scapegoat. The article implies this, and it's misleading. If the game had done well Stardock would still be claiming that it was damaged by this employee, because that's what the employee was working on during the incident.

Joshua Hawkins
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This case is a little deceptive. While $1 million seems like a lot to us, but it's only a small portion of a game's release (initial release can net you $30 a unit in profit). Obviously Stardock is not suing her for the entire cost of the game's failure they seem to be only suing her for about 35,000 copies of the game which I assume is based on the ROI for the materials that were taken/destroyed.


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