Stardock Skips Retail for Two Upcoming Titles

July 26, 2012 -

Stardock Software announced that it will ditch boxed retail releases for two of its upcoming games, making them available only online through digital distribution partners. Their next two games, The Political Machine 2012 and Elemental: Fallen Enchantress, will only be available as downloads. This sea change is due mostly to the success of Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion, which was not released at retail but managed to break sales records at Stardock anyway. The game became the fastest-selling title in the company's history.

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Stardock: Elemental Will Lose Money

January 10, 2011 -

Stardock CEO Brad Wardell says that the company's strategy RPG Elemental: War of Magic will end up costing the company money in the long run. This will happen, the company says, despite the fact that the game managed to break even on pre-orders.

"Elemental made its money back on day one and has continued to be profitable to this point," Wardell told Gamasutra in an email. "However, based on our projections we anticipate by the end of second quarter 2011 that Elemental will end up losing money overall as our objective is to spend what is necessary to ensure that the game meets the expectations of our customers."

Wardell did not disclose how many units the game has sold to date or how much money the company made off initial sales. While the company will lose money on the game, Wardell sees it as an investment in its PC customer base, who were very dissatisfied with the launch of Elemental.

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Three Moves Ahead Featuring Brad Wardell

September 8, 2010 -

On Episode 81 of Troy Goodfellow's popular strategy podcast, Three Moves Ahead, Stardock CEO Brad Wardell talks in-depth about the disastrous launch of Elemental: War of Magic. The podcast, which runs for about an hour, is dedicated entirely to Elemental's less than stellar launch, what went wrong internally at Stardock and what the future holds for the game.

The good news for those fans that are willing to give Stardock a chance to redeem themselves can expect a lot of changes including a global mana pool to rebalance the game, a more blatant tutorial that spells things out for new players, better general in-game documentation, and lots of game balancing.

You can check out Episode 81 here.


Stardock CEO Apologizes for Public Outburst

August 25, 2010 -

Stardock CEO Brad Wardell took to the official Elemental: War of Magic developer journal to make a public apology to journalist Ben Sones, and other posters in an all-purpose thread dedicated to Stardock’s latest game over at Quarter To Three. His comments, which were harsh and out of character for Wardell (and taken out of context by several news sources), were unearthed by a PC Gamer UK post urging consumers to avoid buying Elemental because of all of its technical problems.

In a statement posted to the official Elemental: War of Magic website, Wardell expressed his regret over his comments and tried to explain his state of mind at the time:

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Stardock’s Brad Wardell Questions NPD Digital Sales Numbers

July 23, 2010 -

Speaking to Shacknews in response to yesterday's report from the NPD Group that digital sales of games have caught up to retail sales, Stardock CEO threw some cold water on the numbers. Conspicuously absent from NPD's rankings were Stardock's popular game portal Impulse. In his response, Stardock CEO Brad Wardell said that NPD's numbers are not rooted in reality mainly because it is based on survey data rather than actual sales numbers.

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Need to Finish Homework Quick? Warm Up with an Action Game

December 14, 2009 -

A Wheaton College psychology professor has released findings from a study which compares how action games versus strategy games impacted a participant’s ability to perform tasks.

As detailed on NewsWise, Rolf Nelson, who specializes in human visual perception, had subjects play either Unreal Tournament (an entry in the action genre) or Portal (a puzzle-solving/strategy game) sandwiched  between chores designed to measure speed and accuracy. Those who played the action game were able to perform their task faster, but with less accurate results, while the strategy game induced more accurate, yet slower responses.

Nelson explained how the research might be relevant to real-life, particularly for students:

If they’re playing an action game and then switch to homework, they may try to blaze through their homework at the cost of making mistakes. Or if they play strategy games, they may work slowly, but turn in more accurate work. In fact, it is striking how dramatically these strategies can be shifted by a single hour of video-game play.

Nelson also believes that other studies continued reliance on first-person shooter type game to measure perceptual effects might be off base:

…it is misleading to base conclusions about video games in general on a single genre, just as it would be misleading to base one's conclusions about the effects of television by considering only crime shows.

Full study results are published in the current edition (Volume 38) of the journal Perception. An abstract is available online here.

9 comments

More Stardock/UPS/FOX Clarifications

September 29, 2009 -

Yesterday GP reported on a comment made by Stardock CEO Brad Wardell regarding his company switching to UPS as a shipping provider, which, in turn, was a seeming response to UPS pulling its advertising from Fox News.

Wardell has since taken to his blog to further explain his position. Noting that GP had reported on his original Facebook post and that the story had eventually “morphed into support for Glenn Beck,” the self-described conservative stated that we are “in the age of the Internet where anything can be recorded, video’d or in this case, copied and pasted, you end up in a gray area of what exactly is news and what isn’t.”

Wardell continued:

I wasn’t making a moral pronouncement on what UPS had done. I was simply annoyed by what they were doing. If people want to boycott my company as a result, that’s certainly their right. Of course, I suspect they assume that if their boycott were successful and I had to lay people off that I wouldn’t do so based on the ideology of the employee.

Neoseeker takes the story a step further, receiving a response from UPS press relations that, in fact, they never pulled their advertising on Fox:

We simply did not have any ads currently airing on FOX.  In fact, a new advertising rotation began on September 14 to support the new The UPS Store online printing service. FOX is included in that rotation.

42 comments

Boycotting the Boycotter: Stardock takes on UPS

September 28, 2009 -

A few weeks ago, UPS announced that it was pulling its advertising from Fox News because it disagreed with the inflammatory views of talk show host Glenn Beck. For those that missed the flap, Beck called President Obama a racist "with a deep-seeded hatred for white people." At least 33 companies have said they do not want their ads appearing on Beck's show.

In return, it looks like Stardock CEO Brad Wardell has taken the boycott a step further. According to the Angry Bear blog, Wardell has announced on his Facebook page that he is now boycotting UPS because they pulled their ads from Fox. He said Stardock does "a non-trivial amount of shipping with UPS" and if they did not change their position, he was taking Stardock's business to FedEx. 

The amount of business that UPS would lose should amount to a minor blip on their bottom line, but Wardell's stand of boycotting the boycotter makes for an interesting debate on supporting products you like, even though the executives may disagree with their political views. The Angry Bear points to his own views of Orson Scott Card and the upcoming Shadow Complex game.

Is this much ado about nothing, or can one voice become a collective roar? How far down the line will boycotts go? Will gamers who agree with UPS now boycott Stardock? Where do you stand?

Update: Wardell emailed GamePolitics with the following:

My Facebook comment was taken considerably out of context. I could care less about Glenn Beck or whether someone advertises on their show or not. But UPS is boycotting the entire channel which annoyed me enough to ask my publishing director to look into whether it was true (it was) and have them look into Fed Ex which provided competitive pricing and make use of them for our uses.
 

 

110 comments

C&C4's Net Connection Mandate Violates Gamer's Bill of Rights

July 16, 2009 -

The video game industry continues to find new and creative ways to stick it to PC gamers.

In the latest example, EA has announced that the much-anticipated Command & Conquer 4 will require players to constantly be connected to the Internet, even for single-player campaigns.

That requirement, however, violates one of the basic tenets of the Gamer's Bill of Rights, a document released at PAX 08 by Stardock CEO Brad Wardell and Gas Powered Games CEO Chris Taylor. EA, however, is not a signatory to the Bill of Rights. No surprise there.

Specifically, the C&C4 requirement violates this point:

Gamers shall have the right to demand that a single-player game not force them to be connected to the Internet every time they wish to play.

Ars Technica reports comments on the connection requirement made by EA Community Leader "APOC":

As of right now, you need to be online all the time to play C&C 4. This is primarily due to our 'player progression' feature so everything can be tracked. C&C 4 is not an MMO in the sense of World of Warcraft, but conceptually it has similar principles for being online all the time.

 

While some may be taken aback by this, we've been testing this feature internally with all of our world-wide markets. We wanted to make sure it wouldn't take away any significant market or territory from playing the game. We have not found or seen any results that have made us think otherwise...

GP: This smells like backdoor DRM from here. Even if it's not, what if you're on a laptop? What if you're on an airplane? What if your Internet connection is down?

As a longtime PC gamer who has owned every version of the C&C and Red Alert games, this just sucks.

There is perhaps a glimmer of hope in APOC's comments. We note that he starts off with "As of right now..." Does that mean that this gamer-unfriendly policy is subject to change? 

It's time for PC gamers to make some noise about this nonsense.

Stardock, 2D Boy Talk Sense on DRM

May 12, 2009 -

In a refreshing break from the standard video game industry propaganda, a pair of maverick PC developers offer some straight talk on DRM to Gamasutra's Paul Hyman.

Ron Carmel of 2D Boy (World of Goo) believes that the major publishers are beginning to back off on the use of DRM following consumer outrage over its use in games like Spore:

I definitely believe this is all the result of a change in the public perception of DRM, a sort of grass roots uprising. Gamers are much more vocal about it than they used to be, perhaps because they are so accustomed to downloading music without too many restrictions.

But Carmel also relates DRM to the battle over used game sales currently being waged between video game publishers and retailers:

Publishers aren't stupid. They know that DRM doesn't work against piracy. What they're trying to do is stop people from going to GameStop to buy $50 games for $35, none of which goes into the publishers' pockets. If DRM permits only a few installs, that minimizes the number of times a game can be resold.

Although, to be fair, there doesn't appear to be much of a secondary market for PC games among retailers. Consumer-to-consumer channels like Ebay may be a different story. Brad Wardell of Stardock added:

Spore was the final straw that broke the camel's back. Someone who buys software does not want to be made to feel like a chump for buying it.

Not surprisingly, the Entertainment Software Association, which lobbies on behalf of publishers, argued in support of DRM. VP Ric Hirsch told Gamasutra:

DRM is a reasonable response to high piracy rates... There is little doubt that piracy would be far more widespread without game publishers' use of DRM.

43 comments

CEO Explains How Govt. Incentives Kept Stardock in Michigan

February 10, 2009 -

When Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) gave a shout-out to Stardock CEO Brad Wardell in her State of the State address last week, there was a back story.

As GamePolitics reported at the time, Granholm credited Michigan's game and film production incentive program with keeping Stardock located in the state.

For its part, Edge Online interviewed Stardock CEO Brad Wardell, who explained the impact of the Michigan incentives on his company:

[Michigan state officials] came to us and said look, what are your problems with Michigan?" Wardell rattled off some of the barriers of Stardock's location: a shallow talent pool, the weather and the communication infrastructure (Stardock's offices use a Comcast cable connection)...

 

the state was receptive, coming to Stardock with a package that outlined plans to improve communication infrastructure, incentives to hire from local colleges and breaks on relocation costs when recruiting out of state.

"If you're having to pay a guy a salary of $50K, $60K, $75K, and then you have to pay extra for relocation costs, the tax credit can make the difference. It can take away the cost of moving expenses."

5 comments

Michigan Guv Gives Stardock a Shout-out in State of State

February 4, 2009 -

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm gave PC game publisher Stardock (Sins of a Solar Empire) some Guv-love in her State of the State address yesterday.

Speaking at the State Capitol in Lansing, Granholm acknowledged that Michigan has been hit hard by the economic downturn. But the Guv looked for a silver lining in the film and video game sectors:

There’s real pain in the auto world. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost... Those losses have fueled our determination to bring new industries to Michigan...

 

Since enacting the nation’s most aggressive film [and video game production] incentives in April, we have seen more than 70 film and TV projects slated for production in Michigan, bringing some $430 million in economic activity here...

 

Tonight, I’m pleased to make three major announcements... Stardock Systems, a digital gaming manufacturer, will build its production facilities in Plymouth...

 

The fact that these jobs exist in Michigan today is no accident. These jobs are here because we put a strategy in place to bring them here – often by beating out other states and other countries to get them...

As GamePolitics reported in 2008, Gov. Granholm's administration aggressively pursued a financial incentive package for film, TV and video game production.

Stardock is known as a gamer-friendly publisher which eschews DRM on its PC titles. The company and its CEO, Brad Wardell, garnered major attention at PAX 2008 with the release of the controversial Gamers' Bill of Rights.

GP: Big thanks to reader Chris Bray for the heads-up!

Stardock Building non-DRM IP Security for PC Games

October 29, 2008 -

Consumer-friendly PC publisher Stardock is working on a non-intrusive copyright protection scheme for PC games, according to Edge Online.

Citing an interview with CEO Brad Wardell, EO reports that Stardock is developing the solution for other publishers. GamePolitics readers will recall that Wardell and Gas Powered Games head Chris Taylor released the controversial Gamers Bill of Rights during PAX 2008.

It seems that major PC game publishers were unwilling to sign onto the Bill of Rights, however. While not naming names, Wardell commented on the publishers' reluctance:

While Stardock doesn't put copy protection on its retail games, the fact is that most publishers are never going to agree to do that. So the publishers are telling us, 'Put your money where your mouth is. Why don't you guys develop something that you think is suitable that would protect our IP, but would be more acceptable to users?'

We're investigating what would make users happy to protect their needs, but also provide some security for the publishers. ... We're actually developing a technology that would do that.


Wardell stopped short of terming his new project a form of DRM:

The problem with 'DRM' is that it's so loosely defined... Stardock's products use activation, and I wouldn't say that it's DRM. We're just verifying if you're real customer... We want that [game user] license to be yours, not per machine... It's not your machine buying the game. It's you...

Publishers should have the right to be stupid [about DRM] if they want. That's their right. And it's the right of the consumer to choose not to buy.

9 comments

Stardock Revises Gamer's Bill of Rights

October 16, 2008 -

Stardock CEO Brad Wardell has issued an update to the Gamer's Bill of Rights that he initially released at PAX 08.

As reported by Shacknews:

The revision addresses the need for more specific wording in order "to get to a place that most users and most publishers can agree on." In addition, Wardell examined the common complaints regarding controversial DRM practices, breaking them down into legitimate, borderline, and illegitimate categories.

 

He also noted that while Stardock will continue to release titles with no DRM, owners will need to download meaningful updates directly from Stardock. The CEO further revealed that Stardock will soon add "IP protection services" to its digital distribution platform Impulse "so that publishers at least have an alternative to methods like SecureROM, Tages or Steamworks. As a practical matter, most game publishers who want to protect their IP have few options right now."

 

"There is no solution to the issue of protecting intellectual property (IP) that will satisfy all parties," explained Wardell. "There are customers who will accept nothing less than publishers acquiescing to a quasi-honor system for purchasing software. That doesn't work."

Among what Wardell sees as legit consumer gripes:

  •  They don't want the copy protection to interfere with their enjoyment or use of the software or game.
  • If a program wants to have a limited activation system, then it needs to provide a way to de-authorize other computers (ala iTunes).
  • A program should not be installing drivers or other hidden files on the system that use system resources.
  • Activation-based DRM means that if the publisher goes out of business or simply stops supporting their content that the customer can no longer use their legally purchased item.
  • Having an arbitrarily low limit on personal activations makes the program feel like it's being rented.
  • Requiring the user to always be online to play a single-player game. Though we do think publishers have the right to require this as long as they make it clear on the box.

Wardell visited GamePolitics yesterday to respond to concerns about the Gamer's Bill of Rights voiced by PC Gamer editor-in-chief Kristen Salvatore.

24 comments

Stardock Releases Gamer's Bill of Rights at PAX

August 29, 2008 -

Gamer-friendly PC publisher Stardock (Sins of a Solar Empire) has released what it is terming the "Gamer’s Bill of Rights" at PAX.

The company calls the document:

...a statement of principles that it hopes will encourage the PC game industry to adopt standards that are more supportive of PC gamers. The document contains 10 specific “rights” that video game enthusiasts can expect from Stardock as an independent developer and publisher that it hopes that other publishers will embrace...

 

the objective of the Gamer’s Bill of Rights is to increase the confidence of consumers of the quality of PC games which in turn will lead to more sales and a better gaming experience.

Of the Bill of Rights, Stardock CEO Brad Wardell commented:

As an industry, we need to begin setting some basic, common sense standards that reward PC gamers for purchasing our games. The console market effectively already has something like this in that its games have to go through the platform maker such as Nintendo, Microsoft, or Sony. But on the PC, publishers can release games that are scarcely completed, poorly supported, and full of intrusive copy protection and then be stuck on it.

Chris Taylor, CEO and founder of Gas Powered Games, expressed support for the Bill of Rights, which Stardock enumerates as:

  • Gamers shall have the right to return games that don’t work with their computers for a full refund.
  • Gamers shall have the right to demand that games be released in a finished state.
  • Gamers shall have the right to expect meaningful updates after a game’s release.
  • Gamers shall have the right to demand that download managers and updaters not force themselves to run or be forced to load in order to play a game.
  • Gamers shall have the right to expect that the minimum requirements for a game will mean that the game will play adequately on that computer.
  • Gamers shall have the right to expect that games won’t install hidden drivers or other potentially harmful software without their consent.
  • Gamers shall have the right to re-download the latest versions of the games they own at any time.
  • Gamers shall have the right to not be treated as potential criminals by developers or publishers.
  • Gamers shall have the right to demand that a single-player game not force them to be connected to the Internet every time they wish to play.
  • Gamers shall have the right that games which are installed to the hard drive shall not require a CD/DVD to remain in the drive to play.

GP: While this would more properly be termed the PC Gamer's Bill of Rights, we have to say, Bravo, Stardock! 

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E. Zachary KnightSleaker, How is that different from every other credit card company targeting high school and college students?07/30/2014 - 1:40pm
Sleaker@EZK - I think some people are concerned beacuse it's a predatory technique targetted toward younger people that don't understand on top of offering the worst interest rates of any retailer around.07/30/2014 - 11:33am
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/07/30/europe-gets-long-detained-shin-megami-tensei-4-at-cut-price/ "Sorry you had to wait a year for SMT4, would a price cut make it sting less?"07/30/2014 - 10:29am
NeenekoI would hope not. Though it is not unheard of for store specific cards to be pretty good.07/30/2014 - 8:17am
E. Zachary KnightDoes anyone, or at least any intelligent person, expect a retail branded credit card to be anything close to resembling a "good deal" on interest rates?07/30/2014 - 7:13am
SleakerGamestop articles popping up everywhere about their ludicrous new Credit card offerings at a whopping pre-approval for 26.9% APR07/29/2014 - 10:19pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/07/podcasting-patent-troll-we-tried-to-drop-lawsuit-against-adam-carolla/ the podcasting patent troll scum is trying to turn tail and run.07/29/2014 - 9:50pm
MaskedPixelanteOf course it's improved. At launch, Origin was scanning your entire hard drive, but now it's just scanning your browsing history. If that's not an improvement, I dunno what is!07/29/2014 - 8:59pm
Papa Midnighthttp://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/video-games/columns/experienced-points/12029-Has-EAs-Origin-Service-Improved-Any-Over-the-Last-Two-Years07/29/2014 - 8:25pm
Sora-ChanSo it's just a matter of having better emulation software. If it can be done with a 3DS game, with all the memory and what not it takes up, it can be done with a GBA title through emulation.07/29/2014 - 7:30pm
Sora-ChanOther VC titles for the NES and Gameboy had the same setup where you couldn't access the homescreen without quitting out of the game til a later update when those games were released for the public outside of the founder program.07/29/2014 - 7:28pm
Sora-Chanthe 3DS can, and does, run GBA games, as seen by the founder gifts, which included a number of GBA titles. As for running GBA games and still having access to the home screen, I beleive it's more of the game emulation software needs to be updated.07/29/2014 - 7:27pm
Matthew Wilsonthe 3ds already swaps os's with the original ds. plus I dont think people expect miverse interaction when playing a gba game.07/29/2014 - 6:06pm
MaskedPixelanteBut that's not the issue, the 3DS is perfectly capable of emulating GBA games. The problem is that it doesn't have enough available system resources to run it alongside the 3DS OS, and thus it doesn't have access to stuff like Miiverse and save states.07/29/2014 - 5:45pm
Matthew WilsonI am well aware that it requires more power, but if a GBA emulator could run well on a original psp, than it should work on a 3ds.07/29/2014 - 5:36pm
ZenThe reason the SNES could run Gameboy, or the Gamecube could run GBA was because their adapters included all of the necessary hardware to do it in the respective add-ons. The systems were just conduits for control inputs and video/sound/power.07/29/2014 - 4:51pm
ZenMatthew: Emulation takes more power than people realize to run a game properly. You can make something run on less, but Nintendo...as slow as they are at releasing them..makes them run as close to 100% as possible. Each game has its own emulator for it.07/29/2014 - 4:47pm
Matthew Wilsonkind of hard to believe since the 3ds is atleast as powerful as the gamecube hardware wise.07/29/2014 - 4:27pm
MaskedPixelanteYes, the 3DS has enough power to run 16-bit emulators, but not at the same time it's running the 3DS systems themselves. You could run the games, but you wouldn't get save states or Miiverse.07/29/2014 - 4:04pm
InfophileRunning GBA on 3DS shouldn't be hard. The DS had flashcarts sold for it that added just enough power to emulate GBA and SNES games, so the 3DS should have more than enough natively.07/29/2014 - 3:37pm
 

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