Stardock reveals Impulse digital distribution platform for games

A challenger to Steam, Direct2Drive to arrive later this month

A new challenger appears in the already-contested field of digital distribution for PC games. Publisher Stardock enters the fray with an online content delivery platform in the vein of Valve Software's Steam, currently christened "Impulse". Stardock itself is no stranger to digital distribution, running for downloadable games.

Impulse intends to be an extension of, and like Steam will feature downloadable games which require activation online, depending on the game itself. According to Stardock founder Brad Wardell, Impulse will also come to support Xbox Live-inspired community features like profiles, blogs, clans, etc. Games published on Impulse will benefit from updates which users can subscribe to online; these updates can be free, or developers/publishers could charge a monthly suscription fee depending on the content up for grabs.

Interestingly, Impulse will feature an affiliate system where developers who choose to distribute their titles on the platform can earn a percentage of the sales generated by users who install and run Impulse. Affiliate revenue can earned through any purchase made by users through Impulse, not just for a given developer's own products. For publishers, this affiliate revenue can be on top of any royalties they already stand to earn. Stardock is definitely trying to make Impulse an attractive platform for developers and publishers to push their software.

Impulse is set to go live this April 17th. The first game title designed for digital distribution over the platform is Gas Powered Games' Demigod, which will not feature any heavy handed digital rights management (DRM) enforcement to curb software piracy. Again, part of the way around this will be online activation, and possibly the regular downloadable updates from companies. In addition to games, Impulse will also be home to desktop applications for Windows-based PCs.

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