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GDC: Stardock's Wardell Spills Beans On 'Core' Gamer Opportunity

In an entertaining Independent Games Summit talk, Stardock's Brad Wardell discussed the 'core' game market, and revealed revenues for major releases Galactic Civilizations II and Sins Of A Solar Empire.
In an entertaining Independent Games Summit talk, Stardock's Brad Wardell discussed the 'core' game market, and revealed some intriguing stats about the revenues for the company's two major recent releases, Galactic Civilizations II and Sins Of A Solar Empire. Wardell's company, which also operates the Impulse digital download service, both distributes other people's games and works on major products both internally and with close partners such as Gas Powered Games. His definition of 'core' gamers included players 25 or older, generally 90% male, and technically savvy, with lower support costs. They also seem to have lower piracy rates, and people into strategy games tend to want to have a lot of single player playability. They also like modding, and like contributing to the game and its community. The Stardock founder then revealed specific revenue numbers for two of its recent projects. He explained that the PC title Galactic Civilizations II had a $1.2 million development budget for the base game plus two expansions. The marketing budget, including advertising, press tours, and so on was $500,000, and the was a $500,000 distribution budget for "market development funds" to get shelf space at major retailers. From there, the title has done $10 million lifetime revenue and counting, according to Wardell. An even newer Stardock title, developed by Ironclad Games in association with the company, Sins Of A Solar Empire, had a $1 million development budget, taking into account the base game and first expansion. Ironclad is only comprised of 8 developers, and yet, with a $600,000 marketing budget and a $800,000 distribution budget, the game has now done more than $8 million in revenue and counting. Wardell also noted that half of the revenue from Sins Of A Solar Empire has come from Impulse, commenting that "digital distribution is going to make the PC retail market get smaller and smaller." However, he concluded that one digital distributor dominating would be a bad thing for the PC market, commenting that, what ever happens, "you want these guys competing." What will happen if you don't have alternatives is that, overall, "your options as a game developer go down", the veteran designer and businessman suggested. [Picture by Vincent Diamante.]

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