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Stardock's Brad Wardell talks about selling Impulse to GameStop


"Not everyone's goal in life is to run a thousand person company," said Stardock founder Brad Wardell, who just today announced that he's sold the growing digital distribution arm of his company, Impulse, to GameStop for an undisclosed sum. "Certainly the path of least resistance would have been to just grow with Impulse and become a digital retailer, but that's not what I signed up for."

Impulse was originally started as a way for Stardock to distribute its own games and software digitally, and was opened up three years ago to other developers. Since then, it's grown to compete with the big player in digital distribution, Steam. Wardell, speaking with Joystiq in an interview today, said that the growth in revenue actually became a cause for concern. "When Impulse became our number one source of revenue," said Wardell, "I realized it was time for us to look at our options there."

"Last year, because Impulse's revenue was growing so much, more resources were being dedicated to it," said Wardell. "We were either going to have to become a retailer, or we were going to have to find some other way." Wardell decided to find another company to run Impulse as an online retailer, but he wanted to be picky about who should do it. "At that point, who would be the best partner who was already a retailer? Not some startup, not someone who's getting into retail, but someone who knows retail and who knows games, who would provide the biggest boost to the PC market?"

"Having someone like GameStop get involved and become a major player in this space greatly increases the opportunities for developers like us" - Brad Wardell

Of course, GameStop fit the bill. "Impulse obviously is not the number one by far in terms of market share," admitted Wardell, "but it has three, four million users and is growing rapidly. So when you combine our technology, which is start-of-the-art and continuing, with GameStop's user base and retail experience, you have a pretty compelling story."

Though Impulse will be completely separate from Stardock when the deal goes through, Wardell said Stardock's games will stay exclusive on Impulse "for the foreseeable future." "Stardock is now using Impulse like any other publisher would," he said. In fact, Stardock plans to make full use of Impulse's various developer services, including the Impulse Reactor free-to-play options, so Wardell says that Stardock is still "actively engaged with GameStop on a day-to-day-basis and we expect that to continue."

There are a few functions in Stardock shared among the various Impulse and Stardock teams, including "operations, payroll management, technical support, and those kinds of things," said Wardell, but any redundant staffers will simply be brought back into Stardock. Does he expect any layoffs as a result of the deal? "Nope," he answers matter-of-factly.

But the most important effect of the deal, according to Wardell, may be a solid boost to the PC gaming market. "This is such a huge win for PC gamers," he said. PC gaming is a market that's long been declared dying, but Wardell says it's just moving away from traditional retail channels, and into digital distribution. "As far as the PC, there's so many other ways to interact with digital entertainment than going to a brick-and-mortar store and buying a box. So having someone like GameStop get involved and become a major player in this space greatly increases the opportunities for developers like us and all of the other indies out there."

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