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Layoffs at Stardock following "disastrous launch"

CEO's "catastrophic poor judgement" led to lost revenue on strategy title Elemental

An undisclosed number of staff and a future game project have been axed by PC developer/publisher Stardock, following the rocky launch of fantasy strategy title Elemental.

The game attracted ire from its community and the media due to its buggy release state and the absence of promised features such as multiplayer.

Following an initial defence of the title, Stardock CEO Brad Wardell last week issued a public mea culpa.

"I don't think people yet fully realize the completeness of Stardock's fail on Elemental 's launch," he wrote on the game's forums, blaming both managerial decisions and an "insufficient" QA process.

"Lack of time wasn't the issue. It was blindness, sheer blindness. We felt the game was finished... Elemental's launch is the result of catastrophic poor judgment on my part."

Later confirming poor reviews and "weakened sales," Wardell also spoke of "massive consequences," which came over the weekend in the form of job losses and the likely cancellation of a unannounced game.

"Elemental's revenue was anticipated to provide the revenue both for our main games team's next project as well as a second team," he revealed. "Unfortunately, that is unlikely to happen so we've had to start laying people off.

"No one is being fired. None of these people did anything wrong. We haven't had to lay anyone off since our migration from the OS/2 market in 1998. It would be great if we can bring as many of these people back over time if the studio can afford it."

However, Wardell claimed that the core Elemental team would be unaffected, and that purchasers of the game would be granted a free expansion pack by way of apology.

A Joystiq story (via Big Download), quoting an unnamed Stardock source as alleging that losses amounted to 20 people and that the company was unable to pay back Elemental's capital investors, was later redacted.

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Alec Meer

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A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.

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