Stardock Launches Impulse: PC Gaming’s Next-Generation Distribution Platform

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With the backing of industry powerhouse games and software developers and publishers, Stardock today announced the launch of its next-generation digital distribution platform, Impulse ( Impulse is a cohesive, integrated virtual platform for consumers and developers that is designed to simplify buying, supporting, and developing PC games and applications for Windows XP and Vista.

"Impulse is a platform first, a store second," said Brad Wardell, president and CEO of Stardock Corp. "Our primary objective with Impulse is to address the issues users have with their Windows experience today. That includes being able to boot up a new PC, install Impulse, and then be able to press a button and have it install all of your software and games with one click."

To this end, Stardock has been working with major PC game publishers and software developers to bring as many titles onto Impulse over the next several months. For developers and publishers, Impulse supports localized currencies, custom pricing models for affiliates, exclusive store items on a per-partner basis, publisher controlled availability, and more. For consumers, Impulse is expected to have the largest selection of digitally-available software on the market within its first year of operation. Currently Impulse features more than 100 games and software applications.

Stardock is currently working with premier game and software companies including Epic Games, THQ, AVG, iolo, Gas Powered Games, Hothead Games, Ironclad Games, Meridian4 and many others.

"Impulse is, by far, the most advanced digital distribution platform we’ve seen, and we’re extremely excited to take advantage of the features of Impulse Reactor," said Chris Taylor, CEO of Gas Powered Games. "It’s easy to use, has awesome capabilities for developers, and it doesn’t tie consumers to a single digital distribution platform."

Continued Wardell, "Impulse is designed to help consumers get the full use of their PC. For example, a user who has purchased multiple programs over the years is left hunting for CDs and registration numbers when setting up a new machine, and their data may be scattered across multiple USB drives and other computers. If the user has games, it can be needlessly complex to find and set up multiplayer games and keep up to date on drivers."

Impulse addresses these issues; once a user purchases a program, it is automatically associated with their Impulse account. Users can update or re-download a given program when they set up a new machine or as needed. In addition, Impulse allows users to associate programs with their Impulse accounts even if those programs weren’t purchased through Impulse. For example, a user who purchases a game from their local retailer or a different digital distribution service would be able to associate their purchase with Impulse if the program’s publisher takes advantage of the free option. Additionally, Impulse supports refunds for users who have technical issues with a game or application.

"Digital distribution empowers independent developers like Hothead and is exactly what the game industry needs today," said Vlad Ceraldi, president of Hothead Games. "Impulse will offer more choices to gamers and developers alike -- we are truly excited about the games we will bring to Impulse, starting with our first game series, On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness."

Impulse will also provide a virtual platform called Impulse Reactor, a set of server-side features for developers that will work even if the user doesn’t have the Impulse client installed. Impulse Reactor will include support for virtual drives for saved game data, multiplayer matchmaking, game rankings, NAT negotiation for multiplayer games, friends lists, and support forums.

Also unique to Impulse is its distribution model. Companies and individuals will be able to distribute their own branded version of Impulse starting in mid-August, and every time a user creates an account with an affiliated distributor, that distributor will receive a percentage of the gross revenue of any future purchases.

Amongst the first distributors of Impulse will be AMD, which will be distributing Impulse as part of their Ruby ROM content disk that accompanies their graphics cards as well as from the AMD Game! website.

Darren McPhee, senior marketing manager for gaming at AMD said, "We are excited about the potential of Impulse to help enhance the user experience of our customers. With the continuing advances in PC technology, we see Impulse as a terrific way to help bring these advances to our user base."

Impulse can be used by developers, publishers, and even retailers. "Digital distribution shouldn’t be seen as a threat to our retail partners, rather as an opportunity," said Wardell.

By passing Microsoft’s stringent testing procedures, Impulse has been Certified for Windows Vista. Applications that receive this recognition have been independently tested to assure the highest levels of compatibility, functionality and reliability and must meet both Microsoft’s own security guidelines and the privacy standards set for by the Anti-Spyware coalition.

"Microsoft is pleased that Stardock has earned the Certified for Windows Vista software logo for their Impulse application," said Jeff Price, senior director in Windows Client Product Management at Microsoft Corp. "This highlights Stardock’s commitment to providing its customers with higher quality applications that deliver a more secure, reliable and compatible experience with Windows Vista."

"We are excited to be working with Stardock on the launch of Impulse. We believe that through Impulse, the iolo brand, and System Mechanic in particular, will be introduced into a promising new market. Through Impulse, consumers will be able to benefit from having access to a variety of software applications, games and drivers through a single platform," said Tim Weinzirl, business development manager, iolo technology.

Stardock will be releasing Impulse in three phases. Today marks the initial launch of the Impulse client, with the immediate availability of titles from multiple PC game publishers and software developers. Phase two, scheduled for mid-August, will include Impulse Reactor and the beta of MyImpulse, a utility that will allow developers to automatically submit their games or software to Impulse under a streamlined, uniform royalty agreement for moderation. Phase three will be launched in early 2009 and will greatly automate the ability for developers to publish their games and software on Impulse as well as include virtual drive management tools.

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