Impulse Sale Good For Indies Say Stardock


We’ve just spoken to Stardock’s boss regarding the story we just reported, that GameStop has purchased Stardock’s digital download service, Impulse. And no, it’s not an April Fool. The megacorp plans to integrate Impulse into their own website in the coming months, although Stardock say that at least for the foreseeable future Impulse will still be run by its current staff.

This is certain the case in the “near-term”, explains Stardock CEO Brad Wardell to us, who thinks that the purchase could be good for independent developers’ profiles. You can read his comments below.

We asked Wardell how the acquisition would affect Stardock. He explained,

“Stardock’s relationship with Impulse itself won’t change much in the near-term since our titles will continue to be sold on it as they are today.”

Of course this is because Stardock as a PC games developer has always existed as a separate operation from Impulse. But there’s no question that a lot of people were drawn to Impulse because of Stardock’s reputation. So what about how this may affect Stardock’s laudable treatment of customers? Will GameStop continue the same?

“As for how GameStop will treat the Gamers Bill of Rights, I can’t really speak to. Generally speaking, GameStop has always seemed pretty progressive in their sales policies such as with their handling of game trade-ins and such. 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.”

The other aspect of this is how it may represent a real challenge for Valve, having a major player like GameStop step into their market. What does Wardell, who enjoys the competition with Steam, think about this?

“Only time will tell. Times are getting interesting.”


  1. Bodminzer says:

    You forgot the “Satire is Dead” tag.

  2. Javier-de-Ass says:

    This definitely could be a very good thing for putting a stop, or at least providing an alternative, to all those Steam only retail games as well. Which has been a complete scourge to my PC games buying lately.

    • thristhart says:

      This actually makes me highly reluctant to implement Impulse’s equivalent to Steamworks in my game now. Gamestop gives me the chills.

    • Javier-de-Ass says:

      Well I don’t know who you are, but it seems to me like Gamestop is one of the very few companies who would be able to put enough pressure on publishers like THQ, Eidos/Square Enix, Bethesda, Sega and make them switch to Impulse Reactor over Steamworks. Impulse Reactor has always seemed like the perfect system that no one’s really used, you could have Impulse Reactor games “magically” show up on all the different download services (for example if you buy Red Faction Guerrilla on Gamersgate it will also be added to your account on Impulse), I think they’ve (Stardock) talked about being able to sell your Impulse games in the past and that’s probably also something Gamestop would be interested in doing with digital only games.

    • JohnnyMaverik says:

      Why on Earth would you want the fate of PC gaming out of Valve’s hands and into GameStops!?

      That’s like taking your testicles out of a Goldfish bowl and sticking them into a Rottweiler’s mouth.

    • Heliocentric says:

      @johnny, this is why you aren’t allowed pets!

    • myca77 says:

      I really can’t see big name publishers widely adopting a major Digital Distribution system that allows people to re-sell/trade in their games. After all behind closed doors publishers tend to think that second hand games are killing the industry and their profits, even though the irony is that without second hand games many people who can’t afford a £40 game every week or two would stop buying, and those week one sales would look terrible if these people couldn’t trade in to make a purchase.
      This is why I think the rise of DLC isn’t only there to monetize games after the point of sale, it’s to keep those games off of the second hand shelfs, something which publishers don’t have to worry about with digital purchases. This in turn has allowed stores like Steam and D2D et-al to have these crazy sales which you just don’t see in brick and mortar stores.

    • Archonsod says:

      “I really can’t see big name publishers widely adopting a major Digital Distribution system that allows people to re-sell/trade in their games.”

      Yes, but in this case they’re dealing with a digital distributor who is also the biggest brick & mortar retailer to boot. It could well be a case of you either deal with them or you don’t deal at all.

    • Rhin says:

      @Johnny: I’d rather no company have complete control of this market.

      Thus giving you the choice of the rottweiler or the piranha tank.

      But supposing they both had to bid over your nuts

      Or maybe you have enough nuts for both of them

      Actually, this analogy doesn’t really work.


    • sneetch says:

      It could well be a case of you either deal with them or you don’t deal at all.

      They may be big but Gamestop aren’t the only retailer, if they want to boycott publishers then it’s their funeral: if they don’t carry a publisher’s games then all that does is push people further towards their digital download, bricks and mortar and online competitors. I don’t see that being a winner. I think the power remains firmly with the publishers.

    • Tatourmi says:

      Besides gamestop is pretty much US only as far as I, small little european guy, can tell. I never heard of it before my trip to the United States of Meuhrica and didn’t hear much after that except in U.S-based webcomics. If they can’t be international in these times I don’t believe 3 seconds that they have any solid kind of power over publishers like E.A or Ubisoft. Steam haves that kind of power in the PC section.

      Besides: How is Steam a bad thing to deal with? They saved introversion, they fund Valve, and they provide us regularly with dirt-cheap games. I would never even have dreamt of having so many toys if it weren’t for them. I don’t truly believe that the fight of two big ass corporation is necessarily a good thing. Only time will tell.

  3. thepaleking says:

    Wonder how long it’ll take them to develop some crooked used games download service, that gives no profit to the developers.

    • Giant, fussy whingebag says:

      They’ll just buy Green Man Gaming, too…

    • Ragnar says:

      Gamestop is a video game pawnshop. Their business strategy is: Sell used games for 10% less than new, thus pocketing all the money instead of having to split it 50/50 with the developer. Then buy back those games for 1/4 of their original value and resell them.

      I’m sure Gamestop will introduce some sort of “Download this game new for $50, or rent it for a week for only $45” system, along with a “Trade in your previously downloaded game for $10 off a future game rental.”

  4. Terics says:

    I’m still waiting for the mass marketing of Steam in stores other than codes in boxes. I’m talking purchase able cards. This is not helping.

  5. lorddon says:

    Did anyone else get tripped up by the Gamespot/Gamestop switch up in the story?

    • John Walker says:

      Funnily enough both Brad and I made that mistake. It’s all fixed now.

    • Navagon says:

      Bahaha Are you sure he knows who he’s doing business with?

      Someone should ask him if this will mean a fairer deal for non-US customers.

  6. Reverend Speed says:




    • Delusibeta says:

      Jostiq claimed that pun, sorry.

    • Grygus says:

      Do you see how the frustration clouds your judgment? This leads to defeat; not letting you know when the wordplay is coming is consistent with the teachings of Pun Tsu.

    • Reverend Speed says:

      BUT IT’S just such an obvious, it’s just, it’s jus’… it’s…

      I’ll go and have a lie down now.

  7. feeble says:

    Is this an April Fool’s joke?

    It’s hard to till since its the 1st at the moment

  8. somnolentsurfer says:

    Does this mean I’ll finally be able to buy Gal Civ 2 on Steam?

    • Martha Stuart says:

      Nope, Stardock has expressly stated that there games will never be sold on Steam.

  9. Hunam says:

    I take it now Gamestop will refuse to take on any steamworks game?

  10. Rinox says:

    Major competitor for Steam, I dunno. Steam is so solidly entrenched in its position that I can’t really see anyone overtaking let alone near them, unless they go CRAZY on prices. Which, granted, is how megacorps destroy small business, but not other juggernauts. Colour me surprised if prices on either service will be much lower in a year than they are now. So basically, I don’t see anyone touching Steam anytime soon if Valve don’t suddenly turn into the corporate antichrist.

    • Oak says:

      Blizzard could probably pull it off, since really rivalling Steam would require imitating them and there isn’t anyone in a better position to force a client on their customers and get them to accept it.

    • Archonsod says:

      Gamestop is the biggest game retailer in brick & mortar stores, which is still the biggest market for PC sales. All it really takes is for them to integrate the physical and digital services and they’d be outselling Steam by default.

    • Oak says:

      How? They’re just selling boxed copies of the games; it’s not like they can stick their own DRM in there.

    • propjoe says:

      The only way Impulse/Gamestop could undercut Steam on pricing is to offer games for free. Steam sales are ludicrous. As it stands right now, Steam has such great selection, prices and features that I’m not even considering buying from another service in the foreseeable future (or from a Brick-and-Mortar for that matter).

    • StingingVelvet says:

      They can use their relationship with publishers and their boxed game prowess to put Impulse into retail games in a big way, which is one of the things that got Steam so commonly used.

      They could very easily become a major competitor.

    • Archonsod says:

      “The only way Impulse/Gamestop could undercut Steam on pricing is to offer games for free.”

      You kidding? Amazon already undercut Steam on prices, I’ve even seen Steam sale prices which are higher than the Amazon regular price.

    • Rinox says:

      @ Archonsod: I think he may be referring to the infamous Steam sales, since steam prices indeed aren’t better than regular retail for most games.

      And I’m not denying Gamestop’s financial ‘pull’, I just don’t think it’ll be that easy for them to convince people who are already on Steam -the vast, vast majority of ‘serious’ gamers who use DD- to use Impulse next to that. People aren’t very eager to chance their set ways.

      As a mental exercise, imagine Gamestop proposing to team up with a major publisher, say Ubi or EA, so that their games only get sold over Impulse. Even with a lot of financial incentive, they are extremely unlikely to make that deal…Steam is many times bigger than Impulse at this point, and publishers aren’t exactly known for taking financial risks. They’re not gonna go along for the ride in the hope that Impulse actually catches up with Steam – they’ll stick to what they know.

      So…Impulse will be offering the same AAA games as Steam for about the same price. Why would I start buying them there when I Steam is basically my personal games library?

    • Tasloi says:

      I tend to agree this won’t have much of an impact on Steam. What’s funny to me is how alot of these major anti-Steam people are so gung-ho about taking them on that they don’t seem to fully care who they’re doing it with or what we eventually might end up with instead. Take Gamestop here for instance: slapped with class action suits over deceptive used game sales (DLC), improper handling of customer cc info, employee benefits. Not to mention their handling of the PC platform in general.

      To me it seems like a definate bad day for Impulse PC gamers and potentially a bad day for PC gamers in general.

  11. eAi says:

    For Gamestop this makes a lot of sense – they can insist that publishers put their games on Impulse or they won’t stock them in their stores. For now at least, they have the clout to do that – traditional publishers are still very much at the beck-and-call of the games retailers. Once they’ve done that, they’ll have established Impulse as having a good catalogue and be well set-up for the post-retail era.

    • myca77 says:

      If I’m not mistaken Gamestop petty much own the brick and mortar games retail industry in the US, so if they did this wouldn’t it be an actual case of anti-competetive behaviour?

    • Tatourmi says:

      In the U.S only by the way. And that is probably not going to force publishers to do anything else than destroying them. International Steam sales are probably much more important for them than local brick and mortar.

    • Martha Stuart says:

      Not to mention the overhead for running all of those brick and mortor shops. haveing that many store fronts is extremely expensive and i don’t really see brick and mortor stores actually surviving for much longer. once Broad band internet gets to the majority of people in the world its game over for phyisical media.

  12. _wdh says:

    Didn’t GameStop also buy Kongregate? Looks like they are trying to expand out of the retail real world space and expand. Which is probably a good thing, does anyone buy any games from ‘real’ shops anyway? Apart from all the people that do but aren’t on this website because they don’t really follow gaming blogs on the internet.

    • Premium User Badge

      DollarOfReactivity says:

      Well, I have to imagine most of their in-store sales are consoles and console games. This certainly could be an excellent way for them to expand their digital distro presence fast, and get back to the PC market after it was chased out of physical stores.

      Impulse (at least since the Gal Civ II days) was ok but never user friendly, and their store interface was abysmal. Maybe GS can grow and refine Impulse and show they’re willing to keep the balance between DRM and user rights… Also their corporate clout will probably net them bigger “Impulse-exclusive” games.

    • icupnimpn2 says:

      @DollarOfReactivity It is interesting to see them get back into the PC so long after abandoning the market. It’s an incredible admission that the PC is a profitable, booming platform.I’m not sure what having Impulse “integrated” with Gamestop means, considering that they sell no PC nuthin’ in-store.

      If I let imagination roam free, I can imagine Gamestop starting to sell its own branded pcs in-store with limited configurations, like a ready-to-go gaming rig that could be tied to a permanent discount to Impulse games. These could be placed on the shelf ala a gaming console, with demos and everything. Why not?

    • Bhazor says:

      I’m very surprised this hasn’t already been done yet. Selling a PC as a console and a list of games guaranteed to run on it. If theres anything holding back core pc gaming from reaching a larger market it’s the alien language that constitutes Minimum Specs. If people realised what games could run on that laptop they use just for the internet we could see a real surge in the market.

    • Archonsod says:

      “I’m not sure what having Impulse “integrated” with Gamestop means, considering that they sell no PC nuthin’ in-store.”

      Expect that to change. Set up a terminal in store that lets you browse the Impulse catalogue and then pay for the game at the counter. Lets you offer a full range of PC games with zero stock requirement.

    • icupnimpn2 says:

      But don’t forget that some of the highest margin in retail comes from accessories. Gamestop should want to sell controllers, mice, and etc in combination with that. All of which leads to the question… shouldn’t they sell a pc, too? Otherwise they’re steering potential business to another store that might also sell software and accessories, like Best Buy

    • Clovis says:

      Yeah, we shouldn’t support a company that goes after the highest profit margin possible. Er … actually, isn’t that exactly what companies are supposed to do? And it’s not like Gamestop is doing something evil to accomplish this like destroying the environment or something. People are willing to buy used games for $45. Why on Earth would Gamestop not charge that much? What is wrong with this business model, besides the idiot customers?

  13. dsi1 says:

    This is an April Fool’s, right? RIGHT?

    Well, at least Steam doesn’t have any half-way viable competition now, good for them! (Desura… maybe…)

  14. DarkFenix says:

    And that confirms I’m never purchasing anything via Impulse again.

    • Commisar says:

      why the hell, not especially if you ever want the Sins of a solar empire expansions or the Gal Civ 2 complete pack. Impulse games DON’T REQUIRE A CLIENT TO RUN!!!!! sure, Gamestop could F it up royally, but for the near future, it is still run by Stardock

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      Galactic Civilizations II: Ultimate Edition & Sins of a Solar Empire are the only reason I’ve ever found to use Impulse. I got them both (basic SoaSE, no expansions) for under £10 after currency conversion. If the expansions for SoaSE ever go on a decent sale I’ll pick them up but as I’ve yet to play it (GalCiv2, Sword of the Stars & AI War scratching the Space 4X itch well enough so far) I’ve not felt the need.

      Sadly I recently bought Demigod for around £4 (on sale plus 20% off survey code). Won’t make that mistake with Elemental.

  15. Vinraith says:

    Well, if the goal is to create a digital distribution platform that would make Steam look less monopolistic and controlling, I suspect they’ll succeed swimmingly.

  16. Ryz says:

    “As for how GameStop will treat the Gamers Bill of Rights, I can’t really speak to. Generally speaking, GameStop has always seemed pretty progressive in their sales policies such as with their handling of game trade-ins and such.”


    No, really. What?

    • Shortwave says:

      I don’t quite understand what the hell that is suppose to mean either.

    • Hallgrim says:

      Pretty sure its all made up. The real Brad Wardell would burst into flames if he uttered the phrase “Gamer’s Bill of Rights”.

    • Baines says:

      Stardock hasn’t been doing the greatest job with the Gamers Bill of Rights, so maybe Wardell wouldn’t find much fault with GameStop either.

    • TheSaddestSort says:


      That word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      He’s saying since they focus on second-hand sales they obviously have a healthy respect for the first-sale doctrine and a vested interest in keeping console games DRM-free.

      I doubt that amounts to much when it comes to PC digital distribution though.

    • amishmonster says:

      Except that Gamestop is the #1 perpetrator of pre-order exclusives, which kind of nixes any theory that they’re in it for the consumer. Their margins on used games are ridiculous, as well.

      I suppose it’s “progressive” that they do trade-ins at all, but that’s as far as it goes. Their rates and practices are nothing short of extortion.

  17. Bhazor says:


    Gamestop owns Kongeragate.

  18. Mario Figueiredo says:

    Who gives a crap about indies. Is it good for gamers?

  19. DTKT says:

    More pre-order exclusives divided through way too many retailers.

    Fuckin awesome.


  20. bluebogle says:

    My only question is WHY?

    Why would Stardock do this?

    • propjoe says:

      Because Gamestop gave them a ton of money.

    • The Dark One says:

      Presumably because Elemental: War of Magic was a huge fiasco that they didn’t have enough cash on hand to fund development before their next game goes on sale.

      As for gamestop, I guess they could see their slide to into irrelevance coming and decided to pounce on the first wounded digital distributor they could find.

    • Archonsod says:

      Stardock could release games for free without it making much noticeable difference in their bottom line. Advantage of having someone like Microsoft licensing your technology.

    • Premium User Badge

      DollarOfReactivity says:

      @The Dark One
      Hardly the first digital distro they could find I think, but definitely one easily bought out that comes with not just the distro, but bundled DRM and store.

      This is the Steam model rather than the GOG or D2D model. More invasive tech, more in-your-face store, but offering the user more social and convenience features. This seems to fit the Gamestop model perfectly: get into the PC market in a reasonably sized way, and do it so their customers can be repeatedly reminded to come back and buy more from them. This gives them the ability to offer titles (digital or physical) that will be locked-in to their store.

    • adonf says:


      What technology are you talking about ?

  21. TillEulenspiegel says:

    I’m completely certain Brad Wardell is a crazy right-wing asshole. I’m *not* certain that the owners of GameStop are crazy right-wing assholes.

    Therefore: possibly a good thing. I’ll have to do a little poking around and maybe lift my personal boycott of Impulse. Those fuckers at GOG will still have to suffer under conditions of not getting my money, though. They’re totally assholes.

    • Commisar says:

      get you and your political agenda off of this website troll, who cares what sort of “wing” the Stardock CEO is. Also, have fun never experiencing the wonder that is I’ll bet you don’y like them because thy are Polish. >:P

    • Dawngreeter says:

      “who cares what sort of “wing” the Stardock CEO is”

      People wary of fascism do.

    • cliffski says:

      So the owner of stardock is now being compared to mussolini and hitler. That’s awesome, it takes extreme angry internet ranting to a whole new plateau.
      Please link to the bits where Brad calls for the gassing of jews and the execution of disabled people.

    • Tatourmi says:

      Cliffski, crazy-right-wing asshole does not make you hitler or mussolini in the same way that being a painter does not make you Van Gogh.

    • Icarus says:


      Hitler and Mussolini were in fact left wing.

    • amishmonster says:

      Umm…no. Wardell’s politics aside, fascism is by definition far right-wing.

    • Demiath says:

      @amishmonster: Ever heard that “Nazis” is an abbreviation of “National Socialists“? On a less literal level, there’s a reasonably good case to be made for the broadly left-wing radical nature of Hitler’s regime; which after all sought to radically change the existing society as well as the relationship between the individual and the state. Such brutal transformation crucially depends on the fundamentally “progressive” (using the term loosely here) notion that societal change is both possible and desirable, and that human nature itself in some form or other can be described as malleable. One needn’t to go to the logical extremes of, say, Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism” to accept that there’s something essentially left-leaning about the principles underlying all forms of totalitarian thinking.

  22. Devilturnip says:

    Calling it now: Gamestop will figure out a way to marginalize PC downloads to make room for a giant push for console downloading.
    I’m not sure how they’ll do it…. they’re sneaky.

    • Warskull says:

      Steamworks is coming to PS3, it really isn’t that far fetched. Gamestop can use their position to try and bully the consoles. “If you don’t let us put our digital store on your machine, we start treating you like we treated PC games and give all the shelf space to your competition.”

  23. thebigJ_A says:

    So the Elemental flop hit them harder than they let on, huh?

    I mean, during that whole thing, Wardell said over and over how everything was cool, they could afford to fix the game and give out the expansions for free and they weren’t going out of business in spite of the layoffs etc. etc., all because they had Impulse to fund them. Impulse made them more money than their games, he said. That and non-game software were there two biggest cash cows.

    So, was it BS?

    • amishmonster says:

      This was my thought too. I can’t imagine them selling off a continual revenue maker unless they desperately needed cash NOW. It didn’t make sense.

    • Warskull says:

      It was two gigantic disasters in a row. Considering how Brad Wardell has a gigantic ego and Impulse is where they actually made money, I can only see this happening if they were broken and desperate. Gamestop probably offered them a massive sum of money and they were looking at bankruptcy if they didn’t take it.

  24. Zogtee says:

    Funny thing is that Stardock’s games would have done so much better, if they had sold them on Steam! :)

    How was all this good for indies, btw?

  25. Gabbo says:

    I’ll wait and see how the service changes in the coming weeks and months. I use impulse a bit, but of the major PC services I use, it’s the one I use least. If Gamestop sinks the service, I’ll just make sure to have the few games that use Impulse for patching/installing up to date and backed up.
    If GS is actually able to provide a quality service that can provide competition to Steam, something that is definitely needed in the PC space (no matter what the Steam-hard line crowd may say) and perhaps implement some features like digital trade in or the like, I will gladly stick around. But I’ve seen GS gobble EB here and kill their PC section, so I’m skeptical of GS doing positive things PC gaming.

    • Baines says:

      The PC sections were killed because the shelf space was more profitable holding other merchandise. With and online distribution service, that isn’t an issue.

      The whole deal makes sense for Gamestop. We are moving increasingly towards online downloads. Worse for Gamestop, they are cut out of the console online market. The more consoles shift towards downloads, the smaller Gamestop’s market becomes, and they shouldn’t be able to wedge their way into that market either. (The most they can manage currently is to try to get more new game sells by getting pre-order bonuses.)

      PC games, however, are a bit more open. And without shelf space as a concern with downloads, Gamestop isn’t hurting itself in the short run by “stocking” PC games. And Steam hasn’t established a monopoly, so Gamestop can buy one of the competitors, skipping all the work (and risk) of building and establishing its own download store.

  26. lunarplasma says:

    What does this mean for us in the UK in the long run? As it is, we get a bit shafted on Impulse deals as it is because of Territory issues. Is Gamestop’s acquisition going to make it any better, or worse?

  27. mbp says:

    I am trying to figure out why 90% of the games I buy come from Steam despite the fact that I hate monopolies and would prefer to spread my money around.

    Partly it is laziness – I have Steam load on boot so it is always there in the background.

    Not wanting to have multiple clients running on my PC is another issue (although Gamers gate doesn’t have a client).

    The really big thing though is the games that Steam discounts in its sales. Steam seems more likely to have the games II want to play on sale and I basically never pay full price for games any more. I know the other services also have plenty of sales but somehow the games the offer aren’t as interesting to me.

  28. Malibu Stacey says:

    So another reason to never bother with Impulse then?
    I wonder if once Gamestop take over Impulse will still have games on sale for the low price of “Not available in your region” even though the game is available to buy from Impulse’s competitors.

  29. pakoito says:

    Demigod and Elemental. Bill of rights my ass. Brad Wardel my ass.

  30. sneetch says:

    One good possibility that may come out of this is the ability to perhaps go to a little machine in the corner of your local GameStop and buy and burn to DVD a copy of a game you want from Impulse.

    Not in stock? Not a problem.

    • Rinox says:

      If they can do it for books already, then it sure as hell should be possible for games!

  31. Talorc says:

    To the fine journalists at RPS:

    Media Conference Call Information

    Tony Bartel, president, and Shawn Freeman, senior vice president and general manager of digital for GameStop, will host a media conference call at 10 a.m. Central Time (11 a.m. Eastern Time) on Monday, April 4, 2011 to discuss the acquisitions. To access the conference call in number and accompanying passcode, media outlets and working journalists should email The conference call will be simulcast on the Internet at link to and will be archived on the website until April 29, 2011.

    I assume appropriate questions will be asked!

  32. ChampionHyena says:

    “GameStop has always seemed pretty progressive in their sales policies such as with their handling of game trade-ins and such.”


    Oh, wow. Jesus, Brad, what are you smoking? Can I have some? Don’t Bogart it, dude.

  33. winterwolves says:

    Hmm good for indies? I haven’t got a reply in 2 weeks about getting my latest turnbased sci-fi RPG on Impulse… :(

    • Vinraith says:

      I just heard someone say “turn based sci fi RPG.”

      You have my attention.

    • Kamos says:

      And my axe!

      Sorry, couldn’t help it. You have my attention too.