Summary: Head man Brad Wardell talks about Galactic Civilizations IIs success, reveals plans for an expansion, and more.
Brad Wardell: We were not anticipating anywhere near the sales levels we've seen. Our projections were essentially to do about 30% to 50% more sales than the original. But in the first 10 days, we've shipped more units than the original has sold in its entire lifetime.
FiringSquad: The game is selling well in retail stores but you also offer the game via paid download. Can you comment on how the download sales of the game are doing versus the retail sales?
Brad Wardell: On Galactic Civilizations 1, the ratio was approximately 10 to 1. That is, 10 retail sales for every electronic version. This time around it's closer to 7 to 1.
FiringSquad: Do you see a time where downloads of PC games will be more popular than buying a boxed copy at a retail store?
Brad Wardell: No. Not anytime soon anyway. Most people still prefer to purchase their games at a store.
FiringSquad: Stardock spend a lot of money marketing the game, with big ads in game magazines and hiring an outside PR firm for the title as well. How did the marketing budget affect the overall development of the game?
Brad Wardell: Well we made some mistakes there. For instance, it's amazing how long a dated screenshot will stick around. I've seen news items on GalCiv II with screenshots from early last year. Oye. So in future games, we'll be more attentive to having the art assets be done sooner.
FiringSquad: What can we expect in terms of upcoming free updates to Galactic Civilizations II?
Brad Wardell: We're currently working on v1.1. There's a lot of new stuff in there such as random opponents, randomized intelligence levels based on an overall difficulty level, more ship design goodies, updated AI, and lots of gameplay tweaks.
FiringSquad: Are there any plans for a paid expansion pack in the works?
Brad Wardell: We do have one on the drawing board called Dark Avatar (Galactic Civilizations II: Dark Avatar). In it, the player will take on the role of the evil guy for a change -- play as the leader of a clan of the Drengin Empire.
FiringSquad: Can you comment at this time about a possible Galactic Civilizations III?
Brad Wardell: Oh that'll be a long time from now. We have the features and story for it in mind but you're talking some years from now. We need to build up our development team further before tackling that. ;)
FiringSquad: Can you give us an update on Stardock's other game projects, such as your upcoming free MMORPG?
Brad Wardell: Society is coming along. We're stretched a bit thin right now which we're addressing by aggressively hiring more developers. The free version will probably lag the premium version by a little bit since the game engines are different (Society is being designed to be very cross-platform so each client is a front end to their society).
SIDEBAR: The first Galactic Civilizations title was released way back in 1994 for IBM's aborted OS/2 PC operating system
Brad Wardell: Well the "death" part is overblown anyway. What's happened is that players are playing MMOs. I spent a lot of time playing World of Warcraft last year. That's time I didn't spend buying new games. I think the PC game industry is evolving. It will continue to evolve in many different ways I think as more people get high speed net connections. MMOs are just one of probably several different ways that this evolution will manifest itself.
FiringSquad: Recently a Starforce message board admin posted up a link to a supposed pirate copy of Galactic Civilizations II. How did you feel about that and how does this affect your opinion on copy protection for PC games?
Brad Wardell: I don't really have a strong feeling on copy protection. I.e. it's not a crusade to me. I believe that CD copy protection costs game companies more sales than it saves from piracy. So from a purely competitive point of view - viva copy protection. ;) But seriously, for us it's just business. We just don't think CD copy protection is effective at increasing sales.
The question isn't about piracy. It's about sales. Piracy does cost some lost sales. But how many is open to dispute. When a StarForce or whatever argues that they reduce piracy, they may very well do that. I don't know. But there's no evidence that it increases sales because a lot of people won't buy games that have CD copy protection because, well let's face it, it's only a matter of time before we lose or damage that CD.
FiringSquad: Do you see a time when Stardock might make a console game?
Brad Wardell: Society could end up having a console version.
FiringSquad: What are some of the main challenges for the video and PC game industry in the next few years?
Brad Wardell: I think one of the challenges coming up is how the industry is going to respond to selling used games. One of the things we've been pained to see is how much shelf-space at retail has been lost to used games.
The problem with the game industry is that games only have 1 real shot at making their money back. You make the game, it goes to retail, that's it. MMOs have changed that some but that only works for MMOs.
In the movie industry, the movie comes out and is at the theater and makes some of its money back. Then it goes to DVD and makes more money back. Then it goes to cable and makes money back. Then it goes to regular TV and makes money.
The game industry needs to find more channels to make its money back. That's one of the things we're trying to do with TotalGaming.net (http://www.totalgaming.net). There, indies and big publishers alike and make their games available to purchase and download. So the initial retail release can act as the theater release and TotalGaming.net would act like the DVD release. At least this way, consumers can get games less expensively and the developer/publisher still makes money back. By contrast, used games don't help developers at all.
Developers need a way to offer consumers their older titles at prices competitive to used games so that they can still be part of the transaction.
FiringSquad: Finally is there anything else you want to say about Stardock's current and future plans?
Brad Wardell: Yea, we're hiring. If you're looking for a fun place to work and make games and other software and are willing to move to Michigan, Email me at Bwardell@stardock.com. ;)
We’d like to thank Stardock’s Brad Wardell for answering our questions on Galactic Civilizations II, the PC gaming industry, and Starforce.
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