Indies vs Gamestop/Impulse

By Alec Meer on April 6th, 2011 at 8:17 am.

Ruling the stars, yesterday. Some stars, at least. Not all of them. Not yet.

Last week’s news that US high street gaming market-choker Gamestop had acquired the Impulse download service from Stardock caused a whole lot of shock in these parts. Looks like PC gamers weren’t the only ones a little troubled by the news; Star Ruler dev Blind Mind Studios has pulled its sci-fi grand strategy game from the digital store in protest.

“We are ending sales through Impulse due to GameStop’s long, negative behavior toward the PC platform and independent games,” wrote the studio’s lead developer on the Blind Mind Site.

“We would never have signed onto distribution through GameStop, and being forced into this situation has only made it worse for us. We feel GameStop cannot serve as the leader of a true competitor in the digital distribution market.”

Also:

“GameStop’s business practices stand opposed to our goals.
We feel they would not respect our customers.
GameStop consistently focuses only on large budget titles and safe bets, shying away from the independent market.
We supported Brad Wardell’s direction of Impulse, and his absence ruins our faith in the service’s future.”

We don’t really know what Gamestop will do with Impulse, but it is true to say that they don’t exactly have a rich history of supporting outside bets, esoterica or even simply niche markets. Perhaps the Impulse acquisition is a sign that they’re going to broaden their scope, but we shall see. Stardock boss Bard Wardell told RPS last week that such misgivings may be unfounded: “It’ll certainly be good news for independent developers who have traditionally found it difficult to get large-scale distribution but couldn’t get onto retail shelves.” Hmm.

Those who have purchased Star Ruler via Impulse will still receive patches, Blind Mind claim, but you can’t buy the thing there any more. It remains available on Steam, GamersGate and Direct2Drive, however.

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72 Comments »

  1. Sardaukar says:

    This seems like a drastic measure.

  2. Bungle says:

    I stick it to the man every chance I get.

  3. Spider Jerusalem says:

    Stick it to the man!

  4. Archonsod says:

    Can’t see any reason why they wouldn’t. The main argument for not stocking smaller titles in a store is the money; it’s simply more profitable to use your limited shelf and storage space on titles that are likely to sell buckets than some obscure indie title. You don’t get that problem with digital distribution. In fact, since storage is virtually a non-issue the more titles you have the better.

    • Biscuitry says:

      That’s only true up to a point. There is an onus on online distributors to provide a certain level of support for the games they sell. Steam grudgingly accept it and GOG.com made it their entire business model. If you stock a download version of Obscure Title XYZ, some poor bugger is going to come to you complaining his Obscure Title XYZ doesn’t work. It’s easy to see why Gamestop might not want to stock games that won’t sell enough copies to cover the cost of the additional support personnel (they think) they’ll need.

    • Archonsod says:

      Impulse already has the support personnel, so unless they intend to sack any that’s a non-issue. And the usual support from the digital vendor is to redirect you to the developer unless you have an issue with the actual distribution client or your account; GoG are exceptional in this instance only because they modify the games themselves to run on modern systems.

  5. Diziet Sma says:

    That’s not a good decision on their part. They have given no change to Gamestop to show there colours and are simply hurting their own sales surely?

    • James says:

      Good decision or not, I think their view is that Gamestop has already shown exactly that, just not in this particular venue.

      Also, there’s the publicity, which probably won’t hurt sales if I had to guess.

    • FirgofUmbra says:

      We could not wait on the decision. The decision had to be made then. We had no time to negotiate. I can’t go into the legal specifics due to contractual obligations but we had to either choose to hope for a bright future or go with what we knew about GameStop. We chose the latter.

    • Eamo says:

      I think it is fair to say that GameStop are getting into the online market simply because they are hedging their bets in case retail declines continue. The company has repeatedly shown that they have no particular love of the PC or of independant games. If at some time in the future the sheen again fades from the PC then GameStop will no doubt dump it once more in favour of whatever is the current platform du jour.

      Thus any developer who cares about the PC, cares about independant games and wants to see both thrive into the future would be doing a disservice both to themselves and to the platform if they helped to promote a company who does not share the same ideals.

      There is nothing wrong with GameStop, they are just out to make as much money as possible, but that certainly means it is unlikely they will, for example, give front page exposure to indy games (like steam does for example) if it comes at the expense of promoting a triple A game in the same spot.

  6. TH0TH says:

    Don’t forget still available on Gamersgate as well, and due to the slow patching on steam i’d recommend it for the bleeding edge patches, 1.0.7.0 is very nice now that it’s got another shipset in. Can’t say i’m entirely happy about impulse getting sold to gamestop, but since i’ve never experienced gamestop directly what do i know. :P

    • sinister agent says:

      Yeah, I got my copy via Gamersgate, also. It would be interesting (although, I suspect, unlikely) if Gamersgate were to capitalise on this whole impulse sale thing, come to think of it.

  7. kenoxite says:

    If only Ironclad would do that (yep, not happening, I know). It’s the only reason Impulse is still installed on my computer.

    The other dozen on my list… meh. I can buy Space Rangers 2 or Children of the Nile again on one of those Steam sales. Funnily enough I wouldn’t miss GC2 at all. Nor Demigod.

    • Archonsod says:

      You do know you can uninstall Impulse and still play the games, right?

    • Orija says:

      Space Rangers 2 was good.

    • kenoxite says:

      @Archonsod: I forgot about that.
      It’s been a while since I played any Impulse game and it seems my brain has been Steamified since then.

      But my point/wish remains, as Ironclad next game (next SoaSE) will most likely be distributed by Impulse only.

      (lots of edits here, sorry)

      @Orija: Indeed!

  8. Lobotomist says:

    Give Brad a break

    He developed service that is just as good as Steam if not better. But getting game companies to cross over or chose his service is not easy. He does not have business logistics to do this huge task.

    So what should he do ?

    Look at all that work go to waste , or sell it for lot of money ?

    And even if Gamestop do put indies in back seat. They still have steam.

    So why complain ?

    • Ovno says:

      So why complain? Really?

      One of the most pc unfriendly, indie unfriendly compaines buys the most indie friendly distribution platform and your answer is “Well you’ve still got steam, why complain”

      Some people really do begger belief, you may as well say “Let them eat cake” ffs!!!

    • Delusibeta says:

      @Onvo:
      No, Desura and Gamersgate is far more indie-friendly these days.

    • Hallgrim says:

      @ Lobotomist: “Give Brad a break.”

      No. He’s a self righteous loud mouth who made a big deal out of his Gamers’ Bill of Rights thing, and then sold a buggy, incomplete game that was missing features listed on the box and on their own digital distribution system (remember multiplayer?), and THEN refused to offer full refunds to people who pre-ordered. He doesn’t deserve a break.

    • Droopy The Dog says:

      I always found it astounding that Brad Wardel’s “hey, I’m just a regular guy!” response to his own mistakes, followed by ladling on the sincerity nice and thick about fixing things without actually doing anything effectual, has earned him such a following.

      It doesn’t help that he makes those mistakes so often too. He’s always piping up with the most hare-brained design ideas to improve one of the more horribly broken releases and throws a temper tantrum when the players demand something not superficial and idiotic instead.

      I swear the idea that talking about good ol’ familly values and reasuring everyone that you’re a “nice guy” instead of being judged on your competence is acceptable just reminds me painfully of G. W. Bush.

      Plus the fact that he’s changed his tune so quickly in the past when it’s stardock’s turn to live up to the rules and the bitter side he’s shown in his quickly redacted rants make me think that whole shtick’s far more manufactured than genuine anyway.

  9. Eclipse says:

    It’s definitely on their rights: they don’t like GameStop and they decided to not share a cut of their sales with them, I don’t see why a lot of people think it’s something stupid on their side…

    • Archonsod says:

      Apart from the lack of professionalism I expect it’s because people don’t like the idea they could lose a game they paid for from a digital distributor because the developer has a dispute with them.

    • Harlander says:

      They can’t lose it, though – this isn’t Steam.

    • Veracity says:

      Because it looks a bit toys out of pram. Gamestop isn’t evil – well, perhaps a bit, but not because it thinks evil is fun. What’s it done (yet) to suggest a lack of commitment to taking people’s money, maybe even some filthy non-USian money, for whatever it can deliver without physical retail’s quaint scarcity of shelf space and available copies? Also inconsistent. They don’t want their game sold through Gamestop because it spilled a PC’s pint, but Rupert “evilest alleged human in Christendom” Murdoch getting a cut is fine?

    • subedii says:

      From the official forums:

      Additionally, do note that though we cannot divulge the specifics, when we wrote that we had to make a decision rather quickly that that was meant in the most literal sense possible. We could not ‘wait and see’. We made this decision based on historical appraisal; they even have had their own digital distribution service for quite some time. With it not being a success, and also not representing many indie titles at all, that bred zero confidence in our outlook for Impulse being managed by them.

      Given their situation, I don’t see it as unreasonable considering that they had to make an immediate choice. He’s right that Gamestop have their own DD store, and it wasn’t exactly a good indicator.

      Anyway in related news, the Gamersgate CEO just posted an OP-ED on Gamestop buying Impulse. Doesn’t seem very praising.

      http://www.industrygamers.com/news/gamestop-struggling-to-avoid-becoming-the-next-blockbuster-says-gamersgate/

  10. Dozer says:

    I think it’s strange that they’re objecting to Impulse now that it’s owned by Gamestop, but still using Direct2Drive – that’s owned by Rupert Murdoch / News International!

    • Bats says:

      Yeah but Direct2Drive regardless of who it’s owned by at least isn’t negative towards Indies, and even launched a specific section to highlight indie games and such. They made their decision based on the fact that Gamespot isn’t very pc/indie focused and have no interest in being so.

    • Javier-de-Ass says:

      or not objecting to steam. who initially rejected their game. hehe

  11. mollemannen says:

    i hope that gamestops only ambition with impulse is to get more games on there.

    also to add to the article. dungeon defenders is no where to be found on impulse any more.

  12. Tei says:

    This is a pre-emptive strike against future nefarius things GameSpot is going to do, but has not done yet. So It feel to me as somewhat unfair.
    And maybe clever (?)
    The first rat that abandon the boat, is the most smart one.
    And the last rat to abandon a boat is the must dumb and naif one. The one that thinks maybe something will help the boat, and boats are made of wood, and wood float, boats made of wood can’t sink.

    • mollemannen says:

      except gamestop will try to use the hand of midas and transmute the boat into gold.

    • Cael says:

      I know exactly what gamestop is going to do:

      Would you like to subscribe to edge with your game?
      How about a subscription to game informer?
      Trade in your console games and you can get 10 dollars to buy an indie game on impulse!
      etc.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      That last one doesn’t sound so bad. ;)

  13. lunarplasma says:

    I like article’s picture. I take it though, that Gamestop’s fleet is the much bigger one.

  14. Mr_Hands says:

    I’m waiting for Impulse Extremes.

  15. Mario Figueiredo says:

    That Stardock wants to make a buck, I’m all for it. Selling Impulse to Gamestop does it? Then sure. Stings a little, but this is a business world.

    But that they try to spin it to make it look like this is actually advantageous to indie developers, only confirms my increased lack of confidence in Stardock for the past couple of years. The principles behind which this firm says to exist are nothing more than a version of Google’s “do no evil”, that when push comes to shove reveals to be nothing more than carefully delineated marketing.

    It obvious to me that Gamestop interest in Impulse is because of a shift of focus. Impulse is a mature service and yet not widely used. This lowers it price and allows Gamestop to save a few bucks as it prepares to close down many of their retail stores and put more emphasis on the digital distribution media. This has nothing to do with indie developers, but simply with Gamestop restructuring their core business. I expect Gamestop to adapt to this business and understand indie developers as added value. But in no way will Gamestop care for these developers or promote their work more than some triple-A title for some console. Indie developers under an Gamestop-managed Impulse, will always be second rate.

    I don’t think I’ll be proved wrong.

  16. Daiv says:

    Impulse will now install itself to the furthest reaches of your hard drive, where it will gradually dwindle in size. Eventually when you try to start Impulse your computer will sell you second hand PS2 games instead.

  17. Derek Smart says:

    He pulled his game because the site was sold? OK, let’s dissect this.

    If I had a game on Impulse that was, you know, MAKING MONEY, I wouldn’t do such a very – very – stupid thing.

    The fact is this: NOBODY that I know of, is making money on Impulse. At least not decent money that you would boast about. At all.

    I mean no offense, but the service is, for all intent and purposes, an also ran which can’t be considered anything more than a source of derivative income. In much the same way that you can have your product in as many stores as you want, even if you’re making the bulk of your income from Target or GameStop. Works the same way with DD. If you’ve got your game on the likes of Steam, D2D et al, then Impulse is that sort of “why not?” type thing.

    Go ahead, I dare someone to go ask him for sales figures comparisons for his game sales across the sites that sell it. If he releases those figures, it will be quite evident that him pulling his game, is inconsequential and he would hardly miss the revenue.

    So pulling a niche game like Star Ruler from Impulse, is as effective as taking up smoking because you want to quit chewing gum.

    If you can’t stand for something, you’ll be a part of anything. So this is just PR fodder at this point.

    For my part, I have no idea why GameStop gets this sort of bullshit rhetoric. Obviously the fact that they continue to make money hand over fist, should indicate to all concerned that the average consumer doesn’t give a flying frack what you think.

    There is nothing wrong with selling used games; which is where most of that misplaced angst and bullshit rhetoric comes from. If we’re going to bitch and moan about that, we might as well bitch and moan about ALL the used crap we buy in bookstores, on eBay, car lots, housing market etc. Don’t THEY take away revenue from the original makers? What makes PC developers and publishers so special? There is a market. GameStop got there first. And made a killing. All of a sudden, dopes are up in arms? Seriously?

    So pulling your game from a fledgling – and failed – service, while grandstanding with some bullshit reason and inconsequential rhetoric about GameStop – is the kind of thing that career suicide is made of. If GameStop succeeds (my money is on them failing – spectacularly) in whatever it is they are planning in the DD landscape, they will end up shooting to the #2 spot behind Steam. Once that happens, good luck getting your game on their service.

    Another day in the industry. I guess.

    • FirgofUmbra says:

      Impulse is about 25% of our total sales base. The next percentage beneath it is 7.63%. So yes, this is a significant drop in profits and even more significant in light of our current market share ratios. In our case, they -are- the number 2 spot behind Steam. Further: We have claimed multiple times their “top 10″ slots so Star Ruler has significant value to Impulse itself.
      Regardless of the “points” you pointed out: GameStop lost interest in the PC market long ago and well before Steam. I’ve been a frequent customer of theirs since I was very young so I’ve seen the decay first-hand. Texas is the second-largest market for GameStop if the number of stores-by-state is any indication. Given that their main offices aren’t too far from DFW I would expect the GameStops I frequent to be representative of GameStop stores across the nation much as I would expect the Cinemark Tinseltown in north Plano to be representative of Cinemark (given that the home office for Cinemark is less than a mile away).

      That in light: My local Wal-Mart offers more games and in a greater range of variety than GameStop offers for PC; in fact their selection has grown enormously over time where GameStop has dwindled. Even Circuit City and Best Buy competed against GameStop; GameStop’s PC section shrunk in comparison and both CC’s and BB’s selection grew. Fry’s offers more than the both of them by leaps and bounds but is a comparatively recent entry. Fry’s is an electronics wholesaler. GameStop is a specialty game retailer; I expect more, especially given that they’re getting sales from used games which should allow them to afford to stock PC games. They however, are not competitive; this is a problem as what they’re entering in to now is a very big competition. In fact, they’re anti-competitive from their history of mergers and so forth. All that combined it’s quite clear to me that as time has worn on, GameStop has cared less about the profit it could gain from the PC market and more about the potential profits it can gain from second-hand sales; this, then, being reflected in the amount of space GameStop used. And to be clear: I recognize that there is a market for second-hand sales and that GameStop exploiting that market very well is not a poor business marker if taken solely at that consideration. My point is: If they’re so financially viable and truly do understand the PC market, why -haven’t- they monopolized it? They were one of the first entries into the PC market as a retailer so they’ve had plenty of time to gain experience on how best to angle their stores. My theory: They’re short-sighted and predominately don’t understand the market they’re selling to despite understanding how to best exploit a single part of it.

      GameStop has its own digital distribution system. Has had it for some time now. It is neither impressive nor well-known, despite their huge revenue that they could spend on it. This is not a good marker. Also, for titles that they have for sale on that service, there is poor indie representation. This argues that indies are not a prime motivator for them or their target audience or, more damning, that they don’t understand or care about the independent developers. That they didn’t know how to make their digital distribution competitive or at least easy to find breeds clouds of doubt surrounding our thoughts on their capabilities to stay abreast in the digital distribution world. This market -demands- long-term strategy and here I see nothing confidence building at all. Used Game sales are about as short-term in focus as you can get in this industry.

      With all that in mind, as an independent PC developer, would you be signing on to a partnership with GameStop at the drop of a hat before seeing what they’ll do for Impulse? I imagine you wouldn’t. In fact you’ve already said so: “my money is on them failing – spectacularly”. From what I am able to see, my opinion is that this is an act of desperation in attempting to make their digital distribution system profitable or at least financially viable.

  18. Misnomer says:

    The champions of journalism here confused me with the headline. I thought the word “indies” implied more that one. Silly plurals. Seems like this headline should have read “Blind Mind vs Gamestop/Impulse”… but that would lose the drama and controversy of it all then right?

    Unless of course those other quotes came from random unattributed indie developers. In which case, it is just a different kind of bad reporting…

    Note: This is sarcastic and bitter because of the number of articles I read with RPS claiming to know best about journalism.

  19. Sarlix says:

    If you can’t handle the man, get out of the kitchen,

    You have my support Firgof.

  20. Bobtree says:

    I don’t buy used games if new copies are available (and I buy games to keep them, not rent).

    I don’t pre-order anything that hasn’t already been released somewhere and extensively reviewed.

    I don’t want magazine subscriptions or insurance or whatever else the clerks are pushing these days.

    I don’t go to specialty stores that shelve less variety and fewer copies than any big box store.

    I don’t shop at GameStop anymore.

  21. Jimbo says:

    Star Ruler? That’s gotta hurt.

  22. Derek Smart says:

    @ Figorf

    Impulse is about 25% of our total sales base. The next percentage beneath it is 7.63%. So yes, this is a significant drop in profits and even more significant in light of our current market share ratios. In our case, they -are- the number 2 spot behind Steam. Further: We have claimed multiple times their “top 10? slots so Star Ruler has significant value to Impulse itself.

    RIght. But still, if you’re only making a few hundred bucks a month on Impulse, 25% is still nothing and you can afford the loss, no? Back to the residual income bit.

    I have lots of friends with games on every single service – including Impulse – and I’m well aware of the sort of numbers that games generally do.

    Now granted, .25c of a $1 is nothing to sneeze at, but my guess is that unless you’re not in the business of, you know, making money, then it is meaningless how much you lose. I mean, it’s not like GameStop’s business was built on blood diamonds, Coltan or whatever. Or that they hated teh gays or whatnot. So there is no worthy cause here that I see.

    Here is an example. During the QOL lawsuit with David Allen, we discovered (in his own court material) that IGN had provided third-party subscriber information from the ve3d.com website to at third party (Allen) – and without a court order of any kind. In that farce, he [Allen] claimed that I was posting bad things about him on ve3d under an alias (I wasn’t). In his court docs, he claimed that he obtained the information from a ve3d editor. We all assumed that content editor to be none other than Jube who had created a “news” entry excerpting a libelous blog on Allen’s site. We complained, she refused to remove it, we brought in the attorneys. That original blog post from which Jube had the excerpt, was actually later removed through a court injunction because we wanted to ensure that nobody else reproduced it without being nailed to the wall. In his court docs, he [Allen] claimed that an IGN attorney (who he named in the court docs) gave him confirmation that the alias posting on the ve3d.com forum, actually belonged to me (it didn’t). Of course we were about to sue everyone in the chain – including IGN – because we knew for a fact that it wasn’t actually me. Especially when you consider the fact that they were relying on an IP address as “proof”. Funny that. No sooner did we file our response – and notified IGN’s attorneys – did he file a motion to seal all his previously public material, under seal.

    I have games on D2D, a subsidiary owned by IGN. I have very good relationship with them, having worked with them for many years and never had a problem. This would have been a perfect opportunity to a) pull my games from D2D and b) sue – and as before, and given the facts, we would have prevailed without a doubt. But despite discussions to the contrary with the attorneys, I didn’t.

    The issue is that when a site like ve3d.com supposedly gives out private information about someone, to a third party, contrary to their own TOS (which we pulled, archived and stored as part of our response to that particular bit) – and without a court order, it is enough reason to make a lot of noise about it and take whatever steps necessary to show the evil side of dealing with corps like that etc. We assumed that they [whoever the ve3d.com editor was] didn’t expect that disclosure (by ve3d) would end up in the docs filed in an unrelated lawsuit.

    However, when you think about it, the tools over at ve3d.com who apparently did this (my money is on Jube – and if it had gone through discovery I would probably have been proven right) – possibly out of spite or whatever – were not worth my relationship with another part of IGN, in this case, D2D. So I dropped it. At least for the time being.

    Now THAT is a cause that you can stand up for, pull your games from etc.How many of you here wouldn’t be up in arms if you found out that a site was giving out your information to a third party without your knowledge, a crime being committed, a court order, through discovery in a lawsuit etc? Heck, it would have probably made news if I had created a blog post about it and made a lot of noise. Why? Well, this is IGN we’re talking about. A major network.

    Regardless of the “points” you pointed out: GameStop lost interest in the PC market long ago and well before Steam. I’ve been a frequent customer of theirs since I was very young so I’ve seen the decay first-hand. Texas is the second-largest market for GameStop if the number of stores-by-state is any indication. Given that their main offices aren’t too far from DFW I would expect the GameStops I frequent to be representative of GameStop stores across the nation much as I would expect the Cinemark Tinseltown in north Plano to be representative of Cinemark (given that the home office for Cinemark is less than a mile away).

    Wait?! That’s it? That’s the entirety of your argument? Seriously!? Have you actually taken the time to look at GameStop’s financials? No, quite clearly you haven’t.

    Plus, the PC gaming sector as a whole is in declined when compared to other formats, especially consoles. Are you saying that you blame GameStop for not focusing on PC gaming sector? They don’t develop games. They sell games. They take games that they feel are going to sell. If there are no PC games worthy of their shelves – other than the triple-A titles and the odd drivel (by those who can afford the endcaps that ensure shelf space regardless of quality). The last time I checked, GameStop was in the business of making money, not catering to your personal feelings about how they should run their business. Are you kidding me?!?

    With all that in mind, as an independent PC developer, would you be signing on to a partnership with GameStop at the drop of a hat before seeing what they’ll do for Impulse? I imagine you wouldn’t. In fact you’ve already said so: “my money is on them failing – spectacularly”. In fact, from what I am able to see, my opinion is that this is an act of desperation in attempting to make their digital distribution system profitable or at least financially viable.

    Being an indie developer has nothing to do with it. Unless you’re not actually doing this because you want to make money from it. In which case, good luck when you get to expain to the IRS that all those deductions you’re taking for a “business” are just for a hobby that you have no intent on making money from. If that happens, you better start saving to pay that bill.

    This has nothing to do with whether or not they succeed. I don’t care. e.g. I drive a Jaguar XFP – from a company that has seen quality issues since being sold – and one of many cars that I own and which also includes a Saab 93 turbo 2.0 which I bought even though I knew that Saab probably wouldn’t survive and that Ford was just going to cock up. They [Ford] did. I can rattle off the number of things – including games – that own from creators, manufacturers etc whose business practices I don’t like. But I don’t boycott them just because it was “cool” to do or because I was so pissed that I’d be stupid enough to bite my nose to spite my face. It is called common sense and restraint. The same sort of thing that leaders get to deal with on a daily basis and from which the difficult decisions – which up branding them in a false light – have to be made.

    So why should I CARE what they do with Impulse? Even if I had games on Impulse – which I dont (thats another topic altogether) – it is highly unlikely that I would throw away 25% of my revenue just because of the reasons you have cited. But that’s just me. And my guess is that since nobody else has done it, they don’t care either.

    GameStop has its own digital distribution system. Has had it for some time now. It is neither impressive nor well-known, despite their huge revenue that they could spend on it. This is not a good marker.

    Actually no, they don’t. They use an aggregator (I think it was either Real Networks or Exent) just like PC Gamer.com and others. What that means is that whatever the aggregator has in their catalog, is what sites like GameStop and others offer.

    Which is why they went out and bought Impulse for pennies on the dollar according to my sources.

    Impulse just wasn’t cutting it and if they were making money, Brad would never have sold it. But given the recent gaming snafus at Stardock, this could have been nothing more than a cash infusion for them and what other assets could they have unloaded without selling off Stardock (which has private investors) entirely? None.

    For GameStop, they get something that they don’t have to build. Something that already has some games and the technology (which, tbh, is not too shabby) to get their foot in the DD door without relying on third parties for content. And btw, it is exclusively on the PC. Now why would they spend money (no matter how large or small) on acquiring a PC targeted asset if they had no interest in PC gaming? PLUS, if you look at every analyst’s take on GameStop, they’re all saying the same thing: unless GameStop gets a grip on its DD initiatives, it is going to be left behind. This was their way of telling investors that they do in fact have their eye on the ball and I for one think that it was a good move.

    Will they succeed? Not unless they actually have games to put on Impulse. That is something that Stardock either a) couldn’t do effectively or b) again – they weren’t particularly good at that sort of business; unlike their competition.

    HOW will they succeed? My guess is that by doing what GameStop does best. Aggressive marketing and acquisition. My guess is that if they have the right biz dev (if they hired the guys over from Stardock to run that, then they’ve already failed), given their size, scope and financial resources, they’re going to be serious competition for Steam, DD, Gamers Gate et al in the coming years. And simply because due to their relationships with the publishers, they wield far too much power, control and relationships, to ignore. As long as they don’t put some clueless and incompetetent dweeb in charge.

    In fact, Theo (CEO of GG) said it best: Impulse, an outdated digital distribution platform

    IMO, Impulse failed because Brad and co were running it as a pet project, instead of as a business. In fact, this is a featured blog post that I made on Gamasutra back in Nov 2009. Here we are.

    In closing, we’re just having a debate here about the merits of pulling games on Impulse just because of misplaced angst and feelings toward GameStop. To each his own, by my take is that the reasons stated are unwarranted, foolish and without merit of any kind. And in saying that, I mean no offense at all.

  23. ScubaMonster says:

    If Gamestop is smart, they’ll leave Impulse the way it is, and just use their money and marketing force to make it a competitor. Leave everything else in the hands of Stardock.

  24. Desmont says:

    Every time someone mentions Star Ruler and doesn’t paste the link to the soundtrack, a kitten gets killed. Brutally. Shame on you.
    http://artembank.bandcamp.com/album/star-ruler

  25. FirgofUmbra says:

    @Derek
    “RIght. But still, if you’re only making a few hundred bucks a month on Impulse, 25% is still nothing and you can afford the loss, no? Back to the residual income bit.”
    Thousands, actually. And yes, it hurts. We don’t make much above our operating costs but we’ve secured enough to remain afloat for about two years at this time. Losing Impulse will make things a lot tighter financially speaking.

    “Wait?! That’s it? That’s the entirety of your argument? Seriously!? Have you actually taken the time to look at GameStop’s financials? No, quite clearly you haven’t.”
    The one where the PC sales were put into the Other category? 12.5%~ of their sales I believe? Or how about their desperate rebranding? A sign to take confidence in? How about that they know there is a PC market but can’t financially support it despite that they would be able to secure a monopoly if they desired through their formidable contacts and deep connections with publishers.

    “They take games that they feel are going to sell.”
    Exactly, and where does that leave indie games? Exactly what independent game has a ‘this is a viable product to sell’ marker on it other than ones that win big competitions and prizes?

    “Unless you’re not actually doing this because you want to make money from it.”
    Believe it or not, some of us got into this industry because we found games fun. Funny fact: Almost all the major distribution networks at this time are run by people who also found making games both fun and profitable. GG is Paradox, Steam is Valve, Impulse is Stardock, GoG is CD Red Projekt I believe. D2D,GMG, and the rest are the odd-men-out.

    “Even if I had games on Impulse – which I dont (thats another topic altogether) – it is highly unlikely that I would throw away 25% of my revenue just because of the reasons you have cited.”
    Then we disagree on what warrants a withdrawal. If a company forces you into a split-second decision on the total economic viability of an unproven partner in a business driven by competition where said business is both anti-competitive and has little to no hand in the market in which you’re selling your product nor would be likely to -place- your product on their shelves, who had not the foresight to save themselves from their PC section being put out of business by digital distribution, and whom angers your customer base, exactly what positive aspects of that partnership remain?

    “Actually no, they don’t. They use an aggregator”
    That they can’t come up with their own products to sell at what rates despite their wealth of contacts, experience, and money isn’t a poor marker for partnership? Besides, as the game does get sold and distributed digitally, it does meet the requirements for being called a digital distribution solution; even if it’s a poor shadow of what that should mean, which was part of my point.

    “if they were making money, Brad would never have sold it.”
    He specifically sold Impulse because it was getting too profitable and he didn’t want it to transform what their company did. Did the large amount of money that they got from the sale help their business? Definitely! Prime motivator? Doubtful, given how principled Brad is.

    “Now why would they spend money (no matter how large or small) on acquiring a PC targeted asset if they had no interest in PC gaming?”
    A platform they’ve already proved themselves incapable of truly building or properly supporting; of throwing half-baked solutions at, even. To save their stores from going bankrupt, perhaps? I’m not aware of their long term strategies nor believe that it’s been enough time to wager what precisely those are.

    “Will they succeed? Not unless they actually have games to put on Impulse.”
    You trust the company who has been lazily relying on others to provide titles for their own service to solve points A or B?

    “As long as they don’t put some clueless and incompetetent dweeb in charge.”
    How about unproven? He’s going from managing things from the client side to suddenly having to manage an entire business. A bold move, most definitely. A good move? Unknown.

    “To each his own, by my take is that the reasons stated are unwarranted, foolish and without merit of any kind. And in saying that, I mean no offense at all.”
    I take none. At this point I believe we’re just talking past each other. You believe it to be a good and decent move. I see it as irresponsible, insolvent, and potentially threatening to the industry meanwhile potentially endangering our customers’ relationship with Impulse.

    • Derek Smart says:

      I like that we can agree to disagree, but I have one comment.

      That they can’t come up with their own products to sell at what rates despite their wealth of contacts, experience, and money isn’t a poor marker for partnership?

      Simple. Just because you can afford to build a better mouse trap, doesn’t mean that you should. And that is why companies buy other companies; and either for the tech, the people or both. GameStop went out and bought the lowest common denominator because it makes sense when you consider the general scheme of things. Whether they succeed or fail is largely irrelevant if you ask me, because it’s not like their failing is going to have any impact whatsoever in the DD landscape.

      Let me ask you this: If GameStop had bought Steam, would you have pulled your game?

      And while you’re pondering that, have you any idea how many indie games get rejected by Steam? I should know; I get several emails (as I’m sure you’ve had a few yourself) from people ask “how to get on Steam” since they weren’t getting any traction.

      This acquisition should have no relevance whatsoever as to whether or not GameStop caters to whatever segment. Fact is, nobody cares. It is no more different from indie art houses trying to get their projects shown. Whatever you end up with, is par for the course and goes with the territory. Crying about it – being an indie an all – is pointless. If you have a decent game – that some people want to buy and play – you don’t need GameStop, Stream, Impulse or anyone else.

  26. FirgofUmbra says:

    @ Derek:
    It’s worth stating that we were rejected form getting on Steam. That was most certainly a frustrating experience. Our customers were the ones who got us on the service; Steam contacted us after a large number of customers contacted them. We’re certainly not ones to deny our customers distribution on a service that they want as long as it’s a financially and ethically responsible move, which it very much was in our opinion. As for what we would have done if GameStop had bought Steam: Not sure. I very much doubt it would have been under the circumstances that we were put under. Still, if it occurred, it would’ve definitely brought a massive debate amongst the dev-team. Besides, Steam had already been pursued by GameStop and had been rejected for what I’ve heard rumored to be many of the same concerns we had.

    “Fact is, nobody cares. It is no more different from indie art houses trying to get their projects shown.”
    Not really. More like a business looking to get its product sold in a major warehouse as they can’t afford to own or operate a store front.

    “If you have a decent game – that some people want to buy and play – you don’t need GameStop, Stream, Impulse or anyone else.”
    To make a good game, you need talent. To sell a good game, you need marketing. We did all we could with what little cost marketing we could afford and compared to now we still were coming up short.

    Further: None of us has ever opened up a store and my boss’ state was not helpful in inspiring confidence that he could run it on his own. We could not sell on our own without putting a significant amount of time in learning how to keep ‘in the green’ with all the various governmental bodies; this is time that would have directly taken away from our development and thus directly would take away from our customers. Having distributors step in who are very knowledgeable on how to own and operate stores and who would gain us more market visibility was an optimal solution. That said, a distributor simply knowing how to own and operate a store is not enough for us to consider partnership.

  27. Derek Smart says:

    Further: None of us has ever opened up a store and my boss’ state was not helpful in inspiring confidence that he could run it on his own. We could not sell on our own without putting a significant amount of time in learning how to keep ‘in the green’ with all the various governmental bodies; this is time that would have directly taken away from our development and thus directly would take away from our customers. Having distributors step in who are very knowledgeable on how to own and operate stores and who would gain us more market visibility was an optimal solution. That said, a distributor simply knowing how to own and operate a store is not enough for us to consider partnership.

    Indeed. Which goes right back to why GameStop bought Impulse, rather than building their own. :)

  28. FirgofUmbra says:

    We had not the money or time to invest in getting our own store set up. GameStop has a wealth of both. I don’t think that’s as equatable as you’d like.

  29. shoptroll says:

    The discussion between Derek and Firg reminded me of a Wired interview with Gabe & Tycho back in 2008 discussing the upcoming Rainslick release and their, now defunct, Greenhouse service.

    “We had a meeting with GameStop to talk about selling a boxed version of the game. Once we had a bunch of episodes together, we would collect them and put them in a box, you know? And GameStop said, oh, that’s fantastic. We’d love to do it, we’d love to carry the game… but it’s not going to be available anywhere else, is it?”

    1) Funny how times have changed.
    2) If that’s how they planned to compete with Digital Distribution as a whole 3 years ago, who’s to say this isn’t how they plan on competing against Steam, D2D, GMG, etc. in two months? Do they have the cajones to try and ink exclusivity deals with their minority market share?

  30. sinister agent says:

    FYI anyone reading – Star Ruler is, coincidentally enough, on sale at 50% off on gamersgate for the next 6 days.

  31. ontheworld says:

    “It’ll certainly be good news for independent developers who have traditionally found it difficult to get large-scale distribution but couldn’t get onto retail shelves.”

    here a word from an indie designer (not me):
    “It would seem that GameStop’s attitude towards indies remains consistent…. they have declined to carry the Creeper World games. It took about 3 weeks before they even responded and then they declined without reason and without any means of response.

    I’m never one to burn bridges… but it’s a shame that GameStop will ruin an otherwise good service.”

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