Innovation & Design

What an Indie Publisher Wants


In late February of this year, Stardock, which also runs the TotalGaming.net digital distribution service, launched Galactic Civilizations II. Critics and gamers alike welcomed the strategy game, as it sold 100,000 retail copies in North America in the first 90 days.

By comparison, the first Windows version of Galactic Civilizations (Wardell actually developed an OS/2 version in 1993) released in 2003 and sold 60,000 copies total in North America. Strategy First handled the publishing duties for that title.

For GCII, Wardell decided that Stardock would publish the game itself. Once those in-house publishing components were in place, he thought that it just might make sense to keep those operations up and running, and publish outside games for other indies.

"With [GCII], we had to put together all of the infrastructure that a company needs in order to [publish a game]," Wardell said. "Developing a game is a completely different thing than actually getting everything together and making it available on the store shelves.

"When we released the game, we never really knew how we'd do. We'd never really self-published a game in a big way before. Since the game came out, it ended up selling really well. The manufacturing, marketing and distribution all came together, and we were able to get into a lot more channels than we thought we could ever get into initially."

As time went on, Wardell decided that Stardock could serve as somewhat of a launch pad for indie developers. "We started realizing, you know, there are probably a lot of other good games out there that we could probably give this kind of attention to, and get them out to retail shelves and let them make the kinds of numbers that we're doing."

Stardock's TotalGaming.net service provides the company with revenues from games and from software called WindowBlinds, which allows buyers to customize the appearance of Windows. The publishing arm will add additional game revenue between Stardock's own game releases, which only launch once every two or three years.

Wardell plans to publish just one or two outside indie games per year, targeting the six-figure unit sales mark for each title.

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