Stardock Launches Impulse

Stardock’s digital distribution platform, Impulse, goes live today. I know what you’re thinking, but Epic Games, THQ, AVG, iolo, Gas Powered Games, Hothead Games, Ironclad Games, Meridian4 have apparently signed up to the platform. Notable games on there include Sins Of A Solar Empire, Unreal Tournament III, Gal Civ, and Space Rangers 2. No, Space Rangers 2 was awesome, go play it. Details below.

“Impulse is a platform first, a store second,” said Brad Wardell, president and CEO of Stardock Corp. “Our primary objective with Impulse is to address the issues users have with their Windows experience today. That includes being able to boot up a new PC, install Impulse, and then be able to press a button and have it install all of your software and games with one click.”

To this end, Stardock has been working with major PC game publishers and software developers to bring as many titles onto Impulse over the next several months. For developers and publishers, Impulse supports localized currencies, custom pricing models for affiliates, exclusive store items on a per-partner basis, publisher controlled availability, and more. For consumers, Impulse is expected to have the largest selection of digitally-available software on the market within its first year of operation. Currently Impulse features more than 100 games and software applications.

The most interesting bit of the announcement, however, is likely this: “Companies and individuals will be able to distribute their own branded version of Impulse starting in mid-August, and every time a user creates an account with an affiliated distributor, that distributor will receive a percentage of the gross revenue of any future purchases.” That’s a pretty good hook for those looking to make a move on the digital distribution arena.


  1. Chris Evans says:

    Finally a Steam rival?

  2. Wolfman says:

    Space Rangers 2 is indeed awsome.


  3. Anonymous says:

    Didn’t they already have one? Or does the thing I bought the Gal Civ games, Sins, Space Rangers 2 & Sword of the Stars through not count as digital distribution?

  4. fluffy bunny says:

    OMG! Space Rangers 2: Reboot!

    Oh no! Availability: US and Canada only!

  5. cHeal says:

    Would the products I purchase be owned by me in a purely digital sense, as is the case with Steam or is there any chance of them providing some form of hard copy (product or proof) upon request?

  6. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    @ Fluffy: Really? Fucks sake, i was about to install this just for that! Looks like they’ve built in Steam’s greatest failing from the off then!

  7. SuperNashwan says:

    So, clever people of RPS, why would publishers use this brand new, untested “platform” instead of (or as well as) Steam? And why would I buy off this instead of Steam when I’ve already got Steam, by necessity, permanently installed with a load of games?

  8. Pidesco says:

    Perhaps it’s better. And it’s “indier.”

  9. Fumarole says:

    Well I must say they’ve certainly chosen an appropriate name, if my past purchases via Steam are any indication of the general population’s habits.

  10. muteh says:

    Because monopolies are bad. It’s not in publishers’ interests for there to only be one viable online platform. Why don’t music publishers only use itunes?

  11. cyrenic says:


    Also, this way Stardock doesn’t have to pay Valve when they sell their own games, and they probably get a cut from people that sell through it as well. Revenue!

  12. Scandalon says:

    YADDS… I’ll stick w/ Steam just because it’s established and let the others fight it out.

  13. FodderCannon says:

    Edit: Nevermind, solved it.

  14. yutt says:

    Competition is good.

  15. liquidindian says:

    Hmm. They’re offering the GalCiv 2 pack for $60 on the website, yet there’s no such pack on the Impulse listings, only the separate downloads for $80. So for what I want, it’s better not to have Impulse. Not a great start, really.

  16. Acosta says:

    Jim, we are dirty europeans so we can’t buy Space Rangers 2 (well, technically we can’t, I still want to try something to check if I could “bypass” that).

    I’m am really interested on how certain aspects of Impulse will work in the future. I would like to have an “indie” alternative to Steam and Impulse validation system is more suited for that. In any case, I installed and it’s pretty neat, like the layout and it’s quite fast, so I’m glad to having both (disclaimer: I won’t install any more download services, videogame industry).

  17. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    This America only thing really fucks me off, especially as none of the publishers doing it have been at all forthcoming with the reasons for it. I can’t understand it at all. They’re missing out on reams and reams of cash from me alone (I want so much in the Ubisoft back catalogue, for instance). Gah. BOLLOCKS.

  18. fluffy bunny says:

    “This America only thing really fucks me off, especially as none of the publishers doing it have been at all forthcoming with the reasons for it.”

    I think that, in the case of Space Rangers, it’s because the US publisher is not the same as the Euro publisher, and if Stardock doesn’t have a deal with the Euro publisher, it sort of makes sense that they’re not allowed to sell the game to us.

    But still, this is not the digital distribution future that I was promised. :-/

  19. cliffski says:

    why is this more ‘indie’?

  20. Alex says:

    Impulse has one (semi-)large benefit over Steam – you only need to be online to purchase and download the game, after that you don’t need to be online to play.

    And Space Rangers 2 is indeed excellent, it’s quite readily available in stores (retail and online) here (the Dutch lands!).

  21. muteh says:

    Steam has offline play too; it’s not perfect, but it’s better than in the early days when you had to say that you were planning on being offline first.

  22. Brad Wardell says:

    Hi guys, checking on the Space Rangers 2 worldwide rights. On most of our titles, it’s worldwide.

    Regarding items on the store (like the GalCiv bundle), we’re still in the process of adding more and more store items to the Impulse store. By the end of the week, we should be fully caught up. It’s mostly a matter of getting the artwork and “marketing” text in place for the literally hundreds and hundreds of store items.

  23. roBurky says:

    I thought Stardock already had a digital distribution thingy. What’s different about this new one?

  24. Al3xand3r says:

    How come I’ve been using it before they launched it? Also, “finally a Steam rival” doesn’t quite cut it, Stardock have had digital distribution long before Impulse, with their own Stardock Central. I like how this (and SDC) works though, it’s in tune with Stardock’s “no absurd copy protection” ways and you only actually run it if you want to download new games or patches. If you just want to play games you already have you never have to open it. It’s still a bit bloated when you actually do run it so people may prefer the still functional Stardock Central instead for a while longer but hey, Stardock rocks :)

    Anyway, I suppose the differences with Stardock Central are that this has built in store (via browser functions really), community stuff and other such Steam-like features while I guess it’s more attractive to the general eye and looks, once again, more like a Steam rival than a simple tool that only people in the know use. Too bad they don’t have some sweet new game(s) to go with this launch, oh well :)

    Edit: My Impulse is currently updating but for some reason it only shows I’ve got the Gal Civ II saga (3 titles) when I actually also have had Space Rangers 2. I hope when it’s done updating it puts that in.

    Edit 2: Ok, that worked :)

  25. Majorb says:

    What is it that I have sitting on my hard drive now called impulse? I thought it came out a while ago.

  26. Al3xand3r says:

    I guess it’s the official launch and they’re sending out press releases everywhere. The community page is actually working now, they’ve added built in drivers downloads (it just goes to the page of your GPU manufacturer really) and other such stuff.

  27. Ted says:

    I don’t need another digital distribution platform. Companies that don’t post to Steam aren’t getting my money.

  28. Al3xand3r says:

    Ted, you’re pretty closed minded, especially if you don’t know of Stardock’s greatness long before this Impulse thing, both for their applications and their own games.

    If you’re just worried about things running in the background, like some people have already said that’s not required to play any games you’ve bought via Impulse. Their installations are completely stand alone so it does at least that part better than Steam.

    Anyway I just posted again cos I wanted to say that I found you can also transform this to a dockbar when you’re actually running it. I like it, though you’ll need to have the “custom skin” in the preferences not disabled to use that functionality. The dock would probably benefit from having support for classic non-custom skin itself as it seems quite ram heavy at the moment, but probably not more ram heavy than other widget like applications and hey, again, it’s all optional.

    Impulse itself seems quite a bit faster to start up than Steam even with the custom skin on, even if it’s not required to be faster since you don’t have to use it whenever you want to game.

    I hope they add some European content servers soon even if for their current audience they can probably provide fast enough support via their US servers alone.

  29. Valentin Galea says:

    link to


    but I salute it! and I really hope it’s more indie friendly than Steam and Steamworks

  30. Al3xand3r says:

    Well its best assets come from the fact it’s really not just a Steam rival wannabe like other services but instead it can happily co exist with Steam without cluttering your OS with unneeded services and other crap. It’s really the only way to actually become popular alongside (and who knows, maybe overtake in the future) the established Steam by not trying to make people use that instead of Valve’s platform. Smart moves. Good software. And yes, that site you linked to is damn slow to scroll in. Hope they fix that also, never noticed before as I used instead…

  31. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    @ Brad, re: Space Rangers

    Really great to hear that from a guy at the top! Take note other devs: response > no response.

    Feel guilty for sounding so vitriolic now, lewl. My vitriol is now fully re-directed at Ubisoft and co!

  32. Dodger says:

    If you’ve been using Impulse, that’s because it’s been in Beta for a while now. Stardock’s been using digital distribution since 1999, so they’re pretty good at it.

    Here’s an article on it by Brad, their CEO: link to

    I must say, I wasn’t too excited about Impulse before, but it really looks to be the next step up from Steam. Looks very developer friendly, adheres to Stardock’s philosophy when it comes to DRM, supports refunds… and it’s a distribution platform for all kinds of apps, not just games.

    I especially like that you’ll be able to register a title in Impulse even if you’ve bought it somewhere else (provided that the title is available in Impulse, of course), that’ll be useful for me. Now what they need is content, content, content. Any chance on getting Paradox on board, Brad?

  33. Al3xand3r says:

    I think that activation part also works for Steam dodger. At least that’s how I got DEFCON on it, I bought it via the developer’s own web site and could happily play it fully stand alone but then I also attempted to activate my CD Key on Steam and that also worked (obviously if the title required Steam this would be silly to mention, but DEFCON doesn’t when bought elsewhere). Perhaps that kind of thing is not officially supported though, and wouldn’t work for all possible games. I don’t know.

  34. malkav11 says:

    I really like being able to use it as a centralized launcher for any and all of my games. This is something I’ve been wanting for a long time but has never really gelled. (Vista apparently does vaguely similar things, but, ah, fucks it up. Like Microsoft generally does.) Steam offers a similar, but less useful feature that didn’t work right for what I needed. Admittedly, it’s too soon to be sure Impulse will either, but let’s hope.

    Still not clear on some details, though. For example, one of my biggest pet peeves with Steam is that it bundles every Steam game into the same directory on the same drive. I have multiple drives for a reason. Will Impulse let me individually select where my Impulse-bought games install? Happy to see SR2 Reboot, but will it install on top of my retail-box copy of the original game?

  35. Cian says:

    publisher controlled availability

    I’m assuming this refers to regional availability, and like others I’m put off by it. When Stardock seem to be doing so much else that shows their value of customers this is the opposite.
    I understand that this is the publisher’s discretion, and like the Space Rangers 2 example it’s not always possible, but territorial limitations in an internet service are immensely irritating.

  36. Al3xand3r says:

    Malkav, I don’t think that last thing works out, though you can select which drive to install things in from the preferences, all future games will install there from then on. I don’t know if already installed games remain where they previously were (and still functional) though. But you can at least select a different install path for various application types and the games separatelly, that was exactly what I needed with my tools and such going in C while games going to F :)

    Cian, I don’t think they can do mucb about that. They do promote region free distribution for their own games and the games they publish themselves but they can’t hope to force their way of thinking to other publishers really. Perhaps just seeing the long term success of the region free titles will be enough to sway those, but other than that I can’t fault Stardock for allowing other publishers to stick to what they know, especially when it can involve legalities like certain games being banned in certain regions or countries or being rated differently or whatever…

  37. Alexander Mangel says:

    uhh.. yeah.. nothing interesting in the webshop?

    I am all for stimulating competition anywhere, but the problem is and will always be infrastructure. It would be great if valve opened up steam for indie productions even further while still considering production values, maybe separating it slightly from the official store.

    Steam will have to invest more and more time in UI though, steam looks like a mammoth in comparison.

  38. Al3xand3r says:

    Nothing interesting? Nothing all new to go with the Impulse official launch perhaps, but they do offer several high quality titles, namely the mentioned Galactic Civilizations 2 and expansions , Space Rangers 2, Sins of a Solar Empire, Depths of Peril, Sword of the Stars and expansions, the Penny Arcade game and a few others. It can only grow from all this really. I’m sure the launch of a future Gal Civ III alone would do wonders to boost this software…

  39. Zeus says:

    Yay, the Space Rangers 2 expansion is also on

    I’m much more comfortable with a simple download service than a complex “steam-killer”. All I want installed is the game, thank you. Let’s hope they continue to support now that they have this new thing to play with. :)

  40. Brad Wardell says:

    Thanks! Also, for Europeans, I should also mention that new installs are worldwide distributed based on your IP.

    For instance, let’s say you’re in Germany and buy Corel Draw or whatever, you should see downloads that max out your Internet connection. The servers for the downloads are in nearly ever major country in the world (whether it be a country in Europe, Australia, etc.).

    The idea is that for this sort of thing to be feasible, it has to be very very fast. Some of these downloads are huge and if it isn’t maxing out your connection (if you want it to) then it needs to be faster. :)

    Also, as I’ve said elsewhere, Impulse isn’t designed to wipe out Steam. You’d have to pry Steam out of my cold dead hands. I like Steam. Impulse is designed as more of a platform first than as a digital store. For instance, a lot (LOT) of freeware will soon be on here too.

    If I had to sum it up: Impulse is designed to let users assign software to them as individuals as opposed to computers. Your licenses follow you rather than your machine.

  41. Al3xand3r says:

    “Your licenses follow you rather than your machine.”
    Isn’t that the same as Steam really? I would also say that Steam itself is more of a platform than a store since all the extra features far surpass the one feature of “you can buy your games through it” and wouldn’t be all necessary if all they cared for was an online store.

    Impulse seems to have an equal dose of purchasing ability and extra features while I’ve been using it really. Not to mention one of my small gripes is it actually loads the store page even if you never navigate to it (check your temp net files folder) after opening the program.

    But like I said, I love I don’t actually have to open the program to play the games I own except for when I want to use the extra features like auto updating or to buy something through it.

    Also, what’s the point of freeware on the likes of Impulse? I guess it’s nice they will help promote some nice developers’ efforts in this way but other than that putting the software on it doesn’t offer anything substantial does it?

    It’s also obviously a marketing thing to give Impulse more popularity and helps Impulse as much as the games’ developers. Get Impulse, get free games, even if said games are free without Impulse anyway.

    Unless they actually plan to put out patches or extra content for such freeware which I think is unlikely. Or maybe it will be freeware developed for Impulse alone. But really even all that would show an obvious (but also very welcome, nothing against it) marketing trick.

    So I really don’t think that the “free games!” thing alone excludes it as a Steam competitor. What excludes it in my opinion is that it’s so easy for it to co exist with Steam rather than have it conflict with yet more OS clutter and such, making people use one or the other and never at the same time to avoid bloat.

    The different philosophies of the companies help separate and distance it even if they really are competing at least in terms of attempting to become as known as Steam and get as much player and publisher support as Steam (or more).

    If what you say about content servers is true, how come all I can select from the server options of Impulse is “US 1” and “US 2” then? Is it just for the login servers? Why not just auto pick the fastest responding server to avoid confusion if that’s the case?

  42. MeestaNob! says:

    I’m all for competition EXCEPT FOR THIS. I dearly wish Stardock and Valve would work together instead of going at each other.

  43. Al3xand3r says:

    I think it’s very healthy the way it’s done here MeestaNob. Valve would never allow their games to be run without Steam running in the background.

    Stardock will hopefully never do that. If anything I’ll probably buy games available on both via Impulse since I prefer not having to run the clutter, especially for games that don’t really use Steam’s core like server browsers and the like.

    But I still like Steam and it’s also much less intrusive than it could have been for something aiming to be so mainstream and aiding noobs in keeping themselves up to date and the like and I obviously do like Valve’s games and other games only available through it as far as digital distribution goes.

    I’d probably never ever install another platform like Steam which has to always run while you game but I’ve been happy with using Impulse (and Stardock Central before that).

  44. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    Trouble is, I use Steam for all my IM-ing, and if you don’t run the game through steam you can’t get the steam overlay and hence can’t chat – I therefore have to run my games via steam really.

  45. Burgerboy says:

    Sigh, the one product I want to buy (The SR2 exp) is the only one i’m not allowed to :(

    I had to import the original, i’m not even sure if a .au publishing deal ever eventuated.

    On an impulse-specific note – it sure would be nice if the window borders actually used the windows theme, instead of a fake look-alike of the vista default.

  46. Al3xand3r says:

    Burger, maybe your existing SR2 key will work in Impulse and will allow you to get the expansion after it thinks you have the original? I’m not sure if it has the Steam-like activation where you just input a CD key and it unlocks the program though, I bought all the games I have on Impulse (including SR2) through it anyway, that’s why…

    John P, it doesn’t mean you always want to IM while gaming… And Steam is quite the heavy messenger if that’s really the only feature you use it for. In any case, Impulse doesn’t conflict against that either since you can IM via Steam and play games bought via Impulse without actually running Impulse and adding to the bloat :)

  47. Brad Wardell says:

    “Isn’t that the same as Steam really? I would also say that Steam itself is more of a platform than a store since all the extra features far surpass the one feature of “you can buy your games through it” and wouldn’t be all necessary if all they cared for was an online store.”

    Steam works that way if you buy a Valve game certainly. But the idea with Impulse is to support everything not just games.

    When you install a new machine, don’t you guys have a ton of freeware programs too that you put on your computers? Not to mention utilities, applications, etc.?

    When I set up a new machine, i want to press a button and leave and come back and have it done.

    “I’m all for competition EXCEPT FOR THIS. I dearly wish Stardock and Valve would work together instead of going at each other.”

    Oh I dunno. As much as people might like Stardock and Steam, I think this early on, you would totally NOT want there to be only one vendor.

    Mark my words: You’re going to see a ton of innovation in digital distribution in the next year or two that I suspect would never have happened if there had only been one company doing it.

    Read SR2, I’m checking into that. I *think* we’ll be able to make that available worldwide. I should know more tomorrow.

  48. Phil says:

    @Dodger – I just tried registering my store-bought copy of UT3 on Impulse, but got a message saying “Only serial numbers provided by Stardock will be accepted”.

  49. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    Alex – what I mean was specifically in relation to the cute little dock thing Stardock puts at the bottom of the screen – it’s nice but as I have to run my games through steam so I can chat to peeps whilst playing my games it means I can’t use it. This is obviously a failing of Steam rather than Impulse, though!

    I loaded up Impulse just now, and I think it has a lot of promise – at the moment it is very slow though, and sometimes pages just won’t load at all until you’ve navigated somewhere else and come back. I have no doubt these issues will all be sorted fairly rapidly though

    edit: CRAP its 2am. How did that happen. I was having too much fun making my Impulse blog entry lewl. Night!

  50. Burgerboy says:


    Good idea re: SR2 key, however now i’ve dug out my cd’s it’s the version from 1C Company, which i’m guessing is the .uk edition – dosen’t seem to require a key to install.