A new strategy: Why PC stalwart Stardock has set its sights on smartphones

Open to working with third-parties

A new strategy: Why PC stalwart Stardock has set its sights on smartphones

For the past 20 years, the Michigan-based Stardock Systems has developed some of the most memorable 4X strategy games for Windows PCs.

Last month, however, saw Stardock reveal an intention to expand into the mobile space, rolling out three games that deviate from the usual empire-building the studio is known for.

We caught up with Stardock's Derek Paxton to see what prompted the shift in focus from desktop PCs to pocket platforms, and what Stardock can do to stand out in the increasingly crowded world of mobile gaming.

Pocket Gamer: What convinced Stardock to open a mobile division in 2013? Derek Paxton: At Stardock, we make games we are passionate about. It isn't about chasing the game with the highest revenue potential.

Instead, we believe that if you do what you love, and you do it well, the financial side will take care of itself.

Though we love making large-scale 4X games, they take years to produce and we have lots of game ideas we are excited to explore. We want to play these new games, so we set up a team to make them.

What sort of games can we expect to see from Stardock other than the three announced titles?

We are open to anything that is fun to play, but Stardock's strength has always been in strategy games.

We have prototyped non-strategy games but they have never got to the point of being considered to be made into full games. I don't know if that's because we are strategy game players in our hearts or if it's because we just have more interesting things to offer as strategy game designers.

Either way, we love to make games where you sit and think about your options.

Dead Man's Draw for iOS

Mobile is perfect for that because the constraint of mobile gaming tends to be the relatively simple input controls - compared to a mouse and keyboard or a controller.

Strategy doesn't need elaborate controls, only interesting decisions, so it's a natural fit for mobile.

How do you plan to deal with the competition on the App Store?

We have been gathering blackmail material on high level Apple executives!

Seriously, though, Stardock has been making games for 20 years and has gathered a large fan base because of that. We are counting on those fans to help support our games so that we can continue making them.

It is tragic that, although there are a lot of bad games in the App Store, there are also excellent games that get lost in the huge App Store catalog. Our designers have worked hard to make sure the gameplay is unique; our artists have done an amazing job making sure they look great.

Are you planning to expand onto Google Play, or is your focus with mobile purely on iOS?

Dead Man's Draw will be initially released only on iOS. It's our first mobile game so we want to make sure that goes smoothly. Afterwards we are very open to releasing on Google Play and other platforms.

What sort of pricing strategy (free-to-play, premium, etc.) are you planning to pursue with these games?

These are premium games. Dead Man's Draw will cost $1.99 to play.

Will you be working with third-party developers, or will these games be developed in-house?

The three titles we showed in our announcement - Dead Man's Draw, Hero Busters, and Star Trails - have all been developed in-house, but we are open to working with third-party developers if they have a game we are excited about and that we think would appeal to our fans.

We had a great time working with the amazing team at Ironclad on the Sins of a Solar Empire franchise, and if there are developers like that making mobile games we would love to work with them.

Thanks to Derek for his time.
Matthew Diener
Matthew Diener
Representing the former colonies, Matt keeps the Pocket Gamer news feed updated when sleepy Europeans are sleeping. As a frustrated journalist, diehard gamer and recovering MMO addict, this is pretty much his dream job.