Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
Published on March 10, 2008 By Draginol In GalCiv Journals

Recently there has been a lot of talk about how piracy affects PC gaming. And if you listen to game developers, it apparently is a foregone conclusion - if a high quality PC game doesn't sell as many copies as it should, it must be because of piracy.

Now, I don't like piracy at all. It really bugs me when I see my game up on some torrent site just on the principle of the matter. And piracy certainly does cost sales.  But arguing that piracy is the primary factor in lower sales of well made games? I don't think so. People who never buy software aren't lost sales.

Is it about business or glory?

Most people who know of Stardock in the gaming world think of it as a tiny indie shop. And we certainly are tiny in terms of game development. But in the desktop enhancement market, Stardock owns that market and it's a market with many millions of users. According to CNET, 6 of the top 10 most popular desktop enhancements are developed by Stardock.  Our most popular desktop enhancement, WindowBlinds, has almost 14 million downloads just on We have over a million registered users.

If you want to talk about piracy, talk about desktop enhancements. The piracy on that is huge.  But the question isn't about piracy. It's about sales

So here is the deal: When you develop for a market, you don't go by the user base. You go by the potential customer base.  That's what most software companies do. They base what they want to create on the size of the market they're developing for. But not PC game developers.

PC game developers seem to focus more on the "cool" factor. What game can they make that will get them glory with the game magazines and gaming websites and hard core gamers? These days, it seems like game developers want to be like rock stars more than businessmen.  I've never considered myself a real game developer. I'm a gamer who happens to know how to code and also happens to be reasonably good at business.

So when I make a game, I focus on making games that I think will be the most profitable. As a gamer, I like most games.  I love Bioshock. I think the Orange Box is one of the best gaming deals ever. I love Company of Heroes and Oblivion was captivating.  My two favorite games of all time are Civilization (I, II, III, and IV) and Total Annihilation. And I won't even get into the hours lost in WoW.  Heck, I even like The Sims. 

So when it comes time to make a game, I don't have a hard time thinking of a game I'd like to play. The hard part is coming up with a game that we can actually make that will be profitable.  And that means looking at the market as a business not about trying to be "cool".

Making games for customers versus making games for users

So even though Galactic Civilizations II sold 300,000 copies making 8 digits in revenue on a budget of less than $1 million, it's still largely off the radar. I practically have to agree to mow editors lawns to get coverage. And you should see Jeff Green's (Games for Windows) yard. I still can't find my hedge trimmers.

Another game that has been off the radar until recently was Sins of a Solar Empire. With a small budget, it has already sold about 200,000 copies in the first month of release. It's the highest rated PC game of 2008 and probably the best selling 2008 PC title.  Neither of these titles have CD copy protection.

And yet we don't get nearly the attention of other PC games. Lack of marketing on our part? We bang on the doors for coverage as next as the next shop. Lack of advertising? Open up your favorite PC game publication for the past few months and take note of all the 2 page spreads for Sins of a Solar Empire. So we certainly try. 

But we still don't get the editorial buzz that some of the big name titles do because our genre isn't considered as "cool" as other genres.  Imagine what our sales would be if our games had gotten game magazine covers and just massive editorial coverage like some of the big name games get.  I don't want to suggest we get treated poorly by game magazine and web sites (not just because I fear them -- which I do), we got good preview coverage on Sins, just not the same level as one of the "mega" titles would get. Hard core gamers have different tastes in games than the mainstream PC gaming market of game buyers. Remember Roller Coaster Tycoon? Heck, how much buzz does The Sims get in terms of editorial when compared to its popularity. Those things just aren't that cool to the hard core gaming crowd that everything seems geared toward despite the fact that they're not the ones buying most of the games.

I won't even mention some of the big name PC titles that GalCiv and Sins have outsold.  There's plenty of PC games that have gotten dedicated covers that haven't sold as well.  So why is that?

Our games sell well for three reasons.  First, they're good games which is a pre-requisite. But there's lots of great games that don't sell well.

The other two reasons are:

  • Our games work on a very wide variety of hardware configurations.
  • Our games target genres with the largest customer bases per cost to produce for.


We also don't make games targeting the Chinese market

When you make a game for a target market, you have to look at how many people will actually buy your game combined with how much it will cost to make a game for that target market. What good is a large number of users if they're not going to buy your game? And what good is a market where the minimal commitment to make a game for it is $10 million if the target audience isn't likely to pay for the game?

If the target demographic for your game is full of pirates who won't buy your game, then why support them? That's one of the things I have a hard time understanding.  It's irrelevant how many people will play your game (if you're in the business of selling games that is). It's only relevant how many people are likely to buy your game.

Stardock doesn't make games targeting the Chinese market. If we spent $10 million on a PC game explicitly for the Chinese market and we lost our shirts, would you really feel that much sympathy for us? Or would you think "Duh."


You need a machine how fast?

Anyone who keeps track of how many PCs the "Gamer PC" vendors sell each year could tell you that it's insane to develop a game explicitly for hard core gamers.  Insane.  I think people would be shocked to find out how few hard core gamers there really are out there. This data is available. The number of high end graphics cards sold each year isn't a trade secret (in some cases you may have to get an NDA but if you're a partner you can find out). So why are companies making games that require them to sell to 15% of a given market to be profitable? In what other market do companies do that? In other software markets, getting 1% of the target market is considered good.  If you need to sell 500,000 of your game to break even and your game requires Pixel Shader 3 to not look like crap or play like crap, do you you really think that there are 50 MILLION PC users with Pixel Shader 3 capable machines who a) play games and will actually buy your game if a pirated version is available?

In our case, we make games that target the widest possible audience as long as as we can still deliver the gaming experience we set out to.  Anyone who's looked at the graphics in Sins of a Solar Empire would, I think, agree that the graphics are pretty phenomenal (particularly space battles).  But could they be even fancier? Sure. But only if we degraded the gaming experience for the largest chunk of people who buy games.


The problem with blaming piracy

I don't want anyone to walk away from this article thinking I am poo-pooing the effect of piracy.  I'm not.  I definitely feel for game developers who want to make kick ass PC games who see their efforts diminished by a bunch of greedy pirates.  I just don't count pirates in the first place.  If you're a pirate, you don't get a vote on what gets made -- or you shouldn't if the company in question is trying to make a profit. 

The reason why we don't put CD copy protection on our games isn't because we're nice guys. We do it because the people who actually buy games don't like to mess with it. Our customers make the rules, not the pirates. Pirates don't count. We know our customers could pirate our games if they want but choose to support our efforts. So we return the favor - we make the games they want and deliver them how they want it. This is also known as operating like every other industry outside the PC game industry.

One of the jokes I've seen in the desktop enhancement market is how "ugly" WindowBlinds skins are (though there are plenty of awesome ones too). But the thing is, the people who buy WindowBlinds tend to like a different style of skin than the people who would never buy it in the first place.  Natural selection, so to speak, over many years has created a number of styles that seem to be unique to people who actually buy WindowBlinds.  That's the problem with piracy.  What gets made targets people who buy it, not the people who would never buy it in the first place. When someone complains about "fat borders" on some popular WindowBlinds skin my question is always "Would you buy WindowBlinds even if there was a perfect skin for you?" and the answer is inevitably "Probably not". That's how it works in every market -- the people who buy stuff call the shots.  Only in the PC game market are the people who pirate stuff still getting the overwhelming percentage of development resources and editorial support.

When you blame piracy for disappointing sales, you tend to tar the entire market with a broad brush.  Piracy isn't evenly distributed in the PC gaming market. And there are far more effective ways of getting people who might buy your product to buy it without inconveniencing them.

Blaming piracy is easy. But it hides other underlying causes.  When Sins popped up as the #1 best selling game at retail a couple weeks ago, a game that has no copy protect whatsoever, that should tell you that piracy is not the primary issue.

In the end, the pirates hurt themselves. PC game developers will either slowly migrate to making games that cater to the people who buy PC games or they'll move to platforms where people are more inclined to buy games.

In the meantime, if you want to make profitable PC games, I'd recommend focusing more effort on satisfying the people willing to spend money on your product and less effort on making what others perceive as hot.  But then again, I don't romanticize PC game development. I just want to play cool games and make a profit on games that I work on.

Comments (Page 10)
on Mar 13, 2008
You guys are my Favorite developers. I have bought all Galatic Civ games and Addons, and Sins. You guys treat us good. You talk to us. And you let us all participate in Betas if we wish.

I wish all companies were like you guys. Don't ever get to big though.. Cause if you become like UBI, or the others. I will be mad.

Keep up the good work.

PS the thing that is killing the PC gameing world is the Poor customer service. The shady bugged games some companies release and never fix. Nothing to do with pirates. They are annoying, but they are not killing the industry.
on Mar 13, 2008
Pirating will never stop, and no one will ever stop Pirating. Whatever technology enables as "protection", eventually technology will undo. Always been that way - always will.

A lot of the noise on Pirating is driven by Corporate Bonus chasers calculating 'what could be'. Almost by definition they take their eye off the ball of the game quality - a double lunacy. People who point their finger at supposed sources of grief should take a look down and see what direction most of their fingers are pointing. Its a pointless exercise that only benefits those who love hot air.

A mass market game that sells 1million at $20 a throw, is a good revenue stream, be happy move on. There may well be 2million or more pirated out there, but if their development strategy was stupid enough to take into account the pirated sector as potential revenue , and costed that as assumed income for overall budget, they don't live in the real world - greed kills off many that way.

As far as I am concerned Stardock have it nailed, and attract increasing quedos and converts as the days go by. Could more revenue be made without Pirating - for sure - but its pointless chasing fools gold, estimate the numbers that will be bought as the basis for the development budget and move on.

Running around like headless chickens yelling doom and gloom does no one any good. Once they collapse exhausted from all the yelling and failed "copy protection" methods, the situation hasnt changed one jot - a pointless waste of time and effort. One day maybe a good practical copy protection system will come along, although I'm not holding my breath. Until then pirating, as revolting as it most certainly is, is here for the long term.

Making great games at sensible prices with great customer support is by far the best way to go. The success of GC2 & Sins is an Object lesson to many in the PC game industry as far as I am concerned. Eventually they will follow suit once the crazy illogical Corporate bonus structures are revised to focus on real world revenue generation, not fantasy world "no pirate" revenue streams.

on Mar 13, 2008
That's quite an amazing article, and it's true. I got Galactic Civs I & II with all the expansions and hardly use the mods. I do like to enhance my gaming experience, but the graphics are amazing enough! I use three computers, an old Millenium Edition Pentium III, with a Diamon Stealth S60, Radeon 7000 32bit video card, A XP Laptop with service pack 2,Pentium IV, and a new Windows Vista with the latest hardware and software. All of them work well with both games. Even faster on the two older computers thanks to the improved graphics. I love all your games. I think you should make more stragety games like Galactic Civilizations, but first person games are cool, too.   

Love your games,

on Mar 13, 2008
Companies like Stardock & Ironclad Games are a breath of fresh air in the gaming industry... Epic was the developer I respected most in the industry... but we all know how they turned out once turned their backs on the fans that made them what they are... enough about them because they are dead to me... I just want to say the rest of gaming industry can learn a few things stardock on how respecting the ones that pay you and not treating every one like common criminals...

Thanks Stardock & Ironclad for showing us what PC gaming needs to be!
on Mar 14, 2008
Thank you, Draginol. That was a truly amazing and well worded thesis of your business model.
on Mar 14, 2008
I have to largely agree with the article. I don't believe piracy is a major contributor to diminishing PC game sales. I think mediocre games are a major contributor to diminishing PC game sales.

Furthermore, I believe mediocre games are a major contributor to piracy. Most of the "pirates" I know pirate games because they feel like they have been "ripped off" too many times by game developers to spend more of their money on "crappy games." Being an ex-pirate myself, I used to have a moral-imperitive set upon myself, "If I'm still playing it in a month, I will actually go buy the game." It seemed like a fair business arrangement to me. If you keep my attention for more than 30 days, I will pay you the $45-$60 in support for your game. Most of my "pirate" friends that I know of express the same sentiment. Actually, I picked up the moral from one of them.

I don't blame the lack of PC sales on piracy, I blame piracy on PC game developers.

You really only have 4 types of pirates.

1: The type that doesn't have the money to pay for your game to begin with. You don't have to worry about these types. They aren't lost sales or lost revenue, they are kids, mostly, who simply don't have the money to buy your game.

2: You have the preview pirate who, with honest intentions, is only out to protect themselves and feel like they have a right to preview your product before they purchase it. They have all intentions of purchasing it if your product doesn't suck and if it keeps their interest past a certain time period. From personal experience, this is a very large US percentage.

3: You have the multiplayer gamers who buy one copy of your game then "pirate" it to play it on a LAN with their friends. Again, another large US percentage which I was a member of once. I didn't feel like I should have to purchase a game twice (to four times) to share a LAN multiplayer experience with my wife or my son. I have, in later years, favored games which offered me this option without me having to resort to piracy, like HOMM V. The only real exception is Starcraft, but I can pick up the game and the expansion for $20 now a days.

4: The immoral populace who is simply out to steal your product, which represents a very small percentage in the US and a very large percentage in every other country, mostly because they want to "stick it to the US economy" by stealing our stuff, and in many cases, repackaging it and selling it back to us at a discount rate.

Now a days, I have shed my piracy ways, but a very long string of very poor, impulse PC game buying decisions have caused me to seriously reconsider piracy as a "filtering option" for games. The PC gaming market is the only market I know of that has a "no return" mandate. This is largely due to claims of piracy and what that piracy would do to the market, but I honestly believe that some companies take advantage of this "rule" and use it to abuse PC gamers. I have also noticed an ongoing trend for game developers, most game developers, to release games before they are done with the intention of correcting them in future patch releases, or in some cases, future expansion packs (which you have to pay for). Heroes of Might and Magic IV fully advertised Multiplayer capability, with multiplayer requirements on the box, yet when I opened the game and clicked multiplayer and it said "To be released in a future patch" I was infuriated. All and all, PC gamers are getting raped.

I have also noticed a drastic decline in the quality of PC games v/s the console gaming market over the years. In the 90's we had iconic greats like Starcraft, Total Annhilation, DOOM, Pax Imperia, Diablo II, Half-life (Counter-strike), Descent, Forsaken, Mech Warriors, Neverwinter Nights. These are games that still sit on my shelf and still, on occassion, get played. I even daydream of playing Planetside again on occassion. Of late, I have forced to endure the forgettable like Heroes IV, Nox, Aliens V/s Predators, Dungeon Siege, Dragon Shard, Neverwinter Nights 2, Supreme Commander, and some that I honestly believe are so poorly done that they are an act of fraud and were uninstalled from my system in less than an hour like Two-Worlds and Genesis Rising. There have been precious few games that have emerged from the heap and have gotten more than a month's worth of attention like Heroes V (despite many problems) and Battlefield 2142 (despite my dislike of EA games in general).

At the same time, I have noticed a steady increase in the quality and technology driving the console gaming market recently. Much of this is due to the tendency for console platforms to be intentionally obscure to inhibit coders from learning how to program on multiple platforms or porting code from one console to another or to a PC so they will have a monopoly on a specific title. Another reason is, console gaming is just getting to be more cost effective. I was one of those who said that I would never spend $600 on a Playstation 3 just to play video games. Then I spent $800 on a graphics card for my PC. Didn't strike me as retarded at the time, but, it does now.

on Mar 14, 2008
I'm well informed by the rants of Chris Taylor, Epic and Iron Lore blaming me a North American consumer as some type of pirate. I am well within my rights to say I am not in the 90% pirate consumer base they are talking about, because I'm not a chinese communist or russian communist.

it has noting to do with what kind of goverment they have, like I say before and china isn't much of a communist country to begin with. I don't want to hear your pro capitalist or pro communist or pro whatever things -__-*

why do you think they are blaming North American? that cause their primary target is the North American and they are losing sell
and alot of torrent I see link back to the torrent site in North America and Europe since the major torrent sites are from those area. and chinese site doesn't have that much porns rampaging like those of western sites trying to scam people. majority of the chinese torrent site I been researching and been to, people like to download movies and music since majority of the site are full with those. just to let you know chinese make their own video games too and LOTs of it. not to mantion games there look and play better than most of it here in western countries. why do you think games like Final Fanstasy, Metal Gear and others imported games from japan and other eastern country are so popular here? and alot of western games needed better artworks like Elderscroll series and other games not to mantion alot of these games are over kill with the requirements, that mean if they can download them that doen't mean they can play them, they just going to delete them sooner or later
on Mar 14, 2008
I'm a PC gamer and don't have much interest in a game console.

I bought Sins of a Solar Empire and I'm enjoying it quite a bit. I was attracted to it because I like the Stardock method of distribution (SDC/Impulse) and it received a good review on IGN PC. I'll be keeping an eye out for other Stardock titles.

I've gotten a ton of play off GC2 and will probably get a good amount off Sins as well. Conversely, I really enjoyed the stunning graphics of Crysis, but it's not a game I can play over and over. I'm sure it will be forgotten when the next one like it comes along. I don't think most people look for that kind of game exclusively. For me (and probably most others), a game doesn't need to be visually stunning to have good value. Unfortunately, it's the games with the big "wow factor" that get all the press. It can be hard to even find good alternative games because of this.

One thing that really hurts the PC gaming industy are the hideous things these PC hardware makers are doing now. Not too long ago, I had a motherboard fail on me a few months after a new build and I couldn't replace it. The board was already obsolete. I had to do a whole new build. These new motherboards have a market life of like 6 months now. It's ridiculous. They're changing things so fast, they can't even get things fully ironed out before they change things again. Could you imagine tolerating this with any other applicance. I really wish they would take it down a notch. Who are they serving, not the consumer and definitely not the PC gaming industry. Although, I bet the PC magazines love it, ever notice how thick those things are?

Barring the obvious issues of piracy, you really take the health of your computer into your own hands with those torrents. I run the guantlet of viruses and trojans to to get "no CD" executables for games I've purchased legitimately, but otherwise, I steer clear of that stuff. I try to find out as much as I can about a game before I buy it. I got ripped off on a couple StarForce games that wouldn't run on my computer. That was probably a good thing since I didn't know about the StarForce rootkit at the time, but it cost me $100 to find out the hard way. Now I always research the copy protection method first. If it's something questionable, I just move on to another title.
on Mar 14, 2008
It amazes me when someone able to make business decisions actually sounds as if they are applying "common sense" to the situation, and isn't that just down right sad? Thanks much Draginol for the breath of fresh air and a different perspective on things.
on Mar 14, 2008

And THAT my friend, is EXACTLY why I support Stardock.

Thank goodness there are still people who understand what the CUSTOMER wants.

on Mar 15, 2008
I thought I add my views on this topic.

I brought a lot of games I wanted from day of release.

I will not deny that I have pirated some games in the past.

Reasons were:
I was unsure about them and did not want to spend my money on a game I may not of liked.

Big release date differences on some games so it was a chance to try and play it early before it was out in my country.

I played some demos of games before and when I got the final version it was a letdown and wished I saved my money.

A few games (final version) been buggy and not high quality release that I would expect and a lot of hassle when playing. One game I had was unplayable and kept crashing or slowing down.

For me piracy gives me the chance to look at some games that I may of looked at before and a chance to try it before I buy it.

I never kept a game I pirated. I either deleted it or I brought it.

I like to support the developers who make great games but when it comes to it I have to justify is it worth the price and is it great value to me.

I have to say that the fact is a lot of the games of today now have very good graphics but those games now lack a good story, good game play and replay value.

Most games now have a quick wow factor and then its worn off and put to the side and not played again.

I also have to agree with some of the issues brought up in the article. I got a high spec machine but most people don't also not everyone has the money to constantly keep upgrading to play the games of today. Most games made today seem to target a set audience or fans of a particular franchise or genre.

The games made today don't seem to be made for the mass market anymore and don't seem to be striking a balance between a high quality and good graphical game which can run on a low spec PC with high replay value and good game play.

Some of the reasons why I like star dock compared to the big publishers. It has open betas and listens to customer feedback to improve the games and that in its self makes the games more enjoyable. This I don't see many big publishers doing and they just give you what they want to give you.

You listen to your customers and also offer choice like Galactic Civilizations II - Twilight of the Arnor had the option for a full retail in December or Jan time or delay it till it's ready for release where as games from the publishers are just rushed out for the holiday seasons and most are not even ready for a proper release and buggy like hell.

You constantly patch the games and also add new content expanding the games life span. I not seen many games have constant patches for ages and extra content but all new content is often in the form of an expansion pack. No copy protection is a big plus as well as the distribution methods.
on Mar 15, 2008

You are an idiot. First off, while I have bought all your games, I think they are largely uninspired crap. At least they are blessedly bugfree but they are generic and formulaic in the extreme. Your races are basically the same exact things except mashed up together. You fail the most simple common sense checks when it comes to game balance. Such as IS A FRIGATE TOUGHER OR WEAKER THAN A CRUISER? How about a cruiser as compared to a capital ship? Can I just send ships straight to the enemy capitals and win the game in 5 minutes? Can I scout a 'large' galaxy with 4 scouts in a couple minutes??? Ares defenses of any use whatsoever?

The list could go on and on but to sum it up I always feel puzzlement more than anything else while playing. It's even more comical seeing the patches, which just make things successively more idiotic,e ven though in most cases the answers are obvious to many of your players who post about them int he forums. I just don't get it honestly.

Your games working with a wide variety of hardware is a good point. I won't disagree there because people won't buy something they can't play for 4 years.

Your third point is a little off. It is true but not in the sense you claim. It irritates me that you start this 'pirates are not a problem' thing when you have a game that has a very effective antipiracy scheme. We know that disc blockers are pretty worthless, at best slowing the crackers down a week or two. Having a serial at all has just about as much effect, killing casual piracy. The fact you have regular 'updates' that require login is even a bigger deterrent because they have to crack each one and the pirates have to pirate it multiple times which is a pain.

So basically, you have the most effective antipiracy system short of just making an MMO and you then turn around and say your sales are not affected by piracy. Are you a fucking idiot? or do you just think we are? If you truly believe it is of little use you would give free updates to anyone (like 99% of companies ) and you would disable the seril keys completely. I have to wonder if in some sick way you are pandering to the pirates to win popularity and free publicity from them with retarded articles like this one.

In China they all have healthcare, though not equivalent to the western world. That's expensive, too. They will never be a one for one sale marketplace comparedto the US unless currency exchange rates chage a great deal, but if piracy were not an issue then Chinese companies would be able to make games very very cheaply and sell them to chinese and still make a profit. But it is, so they can't. However, even WOW makes big bank in china and korea, because piracy is impossible.

So, either you are simply a moron or you are trying to manipulate us.







on Mar 15, 2008

Which is to say you are playing on the pirates, appealing to them to prove piracy is not a problem by buying your game even though you obviously know it's a problem. Manipulating them and manipulating us at the same time and at the same time encouraging piracy in general by obliquely defending it. If so, it's deplorable. That and to get good reviews and as marketing fud. "We sell well because we are good."

Throw that out there enough and maybe people will believe it. No, sorry. You sell well because you are in a niche that has absolutely no competition and you have the best antipiracy scheme in the world possible for a single player game, and you have stumbled upon a sick scheme of using pirates to evangelize your game and seduce them into buying it as well so they can morally justify to themselves they are not bad people because they buy one in twenty of the games they play.

Your games are no better than MOO3, really. Not after it was patched, at least. In fact I'd say MOO3 was better, and I never thought I'd long for MOO3 as if it were the good old days, but here I am doing just that. It's just the sad state of the industry that games that are mediocre/borderline crappy like yours can masquerade as 'quality' just because they don't crash to desktop every nine minutes.


on Mar 16, 2008
Well, I have to say I agree with most of the stuff that Draginol is talking about. I understand profit is a basic requirement for running a business, but I'm much happier with businesses that put their heart and soul into their products rather than trying a million things and hoping something sticks. You can definitely tell when the people in the business actually like what they're doing: It shows in their products. Stardock's products are definitely made by a team that loves what they're doing.

As far as the graphics stuff goes, I can see both sides. I think that occasional games like Crysis are good to keep technology going. I would agree, however, that the vast majority of games should not be like Crysis and should support the largest variety of platforms possible. One thing to keep in mind: On Valve's hardware survey, The GeForce 5200 is above all of the ATI cards. This is a video card four generations old! Yet it's still very popular. Draginol is absolutely right when he points out that the vast majority of gamers are not hard core nuts that always try to keep on the bleeding edge.

So yes, I very much agree that the vast majority of games should be designed for the largest range of systems possible. I'd say that developers should at least make sure it runs on anything above the 1% mark on Valve's hardware survey. That covers a lot of mid-end and even low-end cards such as the GeForce 5200 and the GeForce4.

In fact, until very recently (less than a week ago), I've been using my old GeForce 6800. Why? Because it will play every game on the market, and until very recently it will play all of them at the highest level of detail. As Mercestes points out, a good DirectX 10 video card costs (until very recently) around $800.

The 8800s are all crazily expensive. $500+ for a video card? No way. My budget isn't that big, and it's not going to be that big anytime soon. The 8600s are crazily crippled: They have 256 MB of memory, which is the same as my old 6800! Looking at the DirectX 10 games, I know for sure they're pushing for more detailed textures, and that there's no way I'm going to get a DirectX 10 card without giving myself a video memory boost.

Therefore, I didn't upgrade. There was no reason to. It didn't make sense. The games I owned never pushed my 6800 to its limits, despite the availability of the 7 series.

BUT - as you may have guessed, I very recently bought a new video card. It's the newest one that nVidia released for less than $200. The GeForce 9600. Lots of power, more video memory, and very cheap - it's a lot of bang for the buck, and it got great reviews. So I've bought it, it works great, and I look forward to more DirectX 10 games in the future. So, yeah - I prefer to buy when it makes sense, and I'm patient enough to wait for a good product rather than just grabbing the latest thing.

As far as Crysis goes, I'll probably wait until it's in the bargain bin. Which looks like it will happen very soon, considering it's more a tech demo than a game.

Apologies to any ATI fans out there that noticed I talk a lot about nVidia's cards. Yeah, I admit I'm a nVidia fan. I know ATI's cards are usually just as good - but I just can't seem to make heads or tails of their numbering system. nVidia's system makes sense to me, and their video cards always seem to work well, so I seem to gravitate towards them a lot.

One of the jokes I've seen in the desktop enhancement market is how "ugly" WindowBlinds skins are . . .

Heh, well the point of WindowsBlinds is that you can make any skin you want - including ugly ones. If you don't like one skin, you can always try another. There are lots of options. Which is unlike Windows XP, where you have only three colors for one skin (a big step backwards from previous versions). Vista is a bit better in adding a color mixer, but the choice of skins is still pretty limited.

So, yeah: if you like the OS to look small and minimalistic, you can choose one of the more minimalist skins or create your own - that's that beauty of Stardock's products.

I'll probably, just for fun, grab (or make) a Windows 3 skin and use it for a bit . Can you imagine somebody's response when they see you're using something that looks like Windows 3 and you launch the Crysis demo?

Anyways, I agree for the most part, and I love Stardock and what they are doing .
on Mar 16, 2008
I have just one thing to add to this discussion:

I bought GalCiv2 based mainly on supporting StarDock with their lack of copy protection concept. I wasn't even sure it would run on my aging hardware, but the respect the company has shown to normal people, not treating everybody like thieves, caused me to make the decision to support the company and their ideas.

Fortunately, GalCiv2 works very nicely on my laptop, though it locks up and runs out of memory from time to time, and I've pre-ordered the expansion, though I must wait to play it due to dial up connection speeds.

Thank you for your trust, and excellent quality, StarDock!