Stardock Suffers Layoffs After Disappointing Elemental Launch
The title, which has received mixed ratings on MetaCritic due to what some reviewers considered the unfinished nature of the game -- charges that Wardell denied, commenting in traditionally honest fashion: "The game wasn't released early. The game was released poorly."
Subsequent to the controversy over the game's reviews, it became clear that the title was not selling well, and following a ShackNews report on Elemental's official forums, company founder Brad Wardell commented:
"Elemental's revenue was anticipated to provide the revenue both for our main games team's next project as well as a second team. Unfortunately, that is unlikely to happen so we've had to start laying people off."
Wardell, who has built his firm since its 1991 launch on 'core' PC titles including the Galactic Civilizations series and Sins Of A Solar Empire, also clarified:
"No one is being fired. None of these people did anything wrong. Stardock is a small company and each person here is truly amongst the best and brightest. So you can imagine how much it sucks for all of us to lay off anyone. We haven't had to lay anyone off since our migration from the OS/2 market in 1998."
Concluding his comments on the layoffs, Wardell, whose Plymouth, Michigan-based firm also runs the Impulse digital distribution service and the WinCustomize app community outside of games, said: "It would be great if we can bring as many of these people back over time if the studio can afford it. No one involved on the core components of Elemental is affected."
The Stardock founder, who spoke to Gamasutra about the major plans for the game, which included a tie-in novel he wrote for Random House to publish, summed up the issues with the title: "Our QA process was insufficient to handle a brand new platform... [and] my own catastrophic poor judgment in not objectively evaluating the core game play components."
However, the firm, which has a history of user-responsive shifts and changes to its games, has promised a number of upgrades to the already-launched Elemental, including "free 'expansion packs' for Elemental until such a high percentage of players love the game that only then can we discuss sequels or paid expansions."
Wardell concluded of long-term plans for the title within Stardock: "We love this game. And we love this community. We're not going to be leaving this game to work on some other game. We're with it and you guys for the long haul."