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A quick look back at the launch of Stardock 30 years ago today

On October 19, 1993, Brad Wardell officially started Stardock. 30 years later and having employed more than 100 employees, the company is still going strong developing software for Windows and PC games.

stardock object desktop os2

Object Desktop for OS/2 from 1995

Stardock didn't start out as a Windows-based company, however. In a recent interview with Neowin, Wardell told us that at first, he was creating programs like Object Desktop and games like the original Galactic Civilizations for IBM's OS/2 system. "We had so much invested in OS/2 at the time," Wardell told us, adding that Stardock even helped to improve the operating system.

However, just a few years after Stardock began, the OS/2 market shut down in 1998. Stardock was at its lowest point, according to Wardell, and had to quickly pivot to supporting Microsoft's Windows operating system for its software and games.


Start8 for Windows 8 from 2012

In the end, the switch from OS/2 to Windows was successful, and Stardock has been releasing new software ever since. One of their biggest software releases was Start8, a Start menu for Windows 8 which, in Microsoft's wisdom, decided to remove from that operating system in 2012.

Wardell told us that he was approached by someone who told him about the missing Start menu in Windows 8. He said at the time "We are going to fix that right now", and in a day came up with their first test version. Start8 was officially announced in March 2012, and launched for the Windows 8 Consumer Preview version just a few days later. The first commercial version of Start8 launched in November 2012, and by January 2013 the Start menu software had reached three million downloads.

When we asked Wardell how would Stardock be affected if Microsoft hadn't made so many mistakes in its Windows software, he bluntly told us, "I think this would be the end of our software business." Indeed, the company has refined its Start menu software over the years and is currently on Start11 for Windows 11.

galactic civilizations iv

Stardock is not just a Windows productivity and desktop enhancement software company. It's also a full-fledged game developer. Today, on the 30th anniversary of the company's start, it is officially launching Galactic Civilizations IV: Supernova. It's the latest game in the game series that's been part of the company since nearly the beginning.

Wardell told us in an earlier interview about how players in the game can create their own alien civilizations with just a few text prompts via "AlienGPT". In our latest chat, he told us that AI will be a huge shift in game development. He feels that while some jobs might be lost due to AI, others will also be created. Stardock is also working on Sins of a Solar Empire II in Early Access with developer Ironclad Studios.

In our recent chat, he also told us that Stardock is also preparing to release The Political Machine 2024, the latest version of its US presidential election sim game. The early access version is currently scheduled to launch in November and will include the primary elections for the first time in a game. He also hinted at some possible AI features. We will do a more in-depth interview with Wardell on The Political Machine 2024 in the near future. Stardock also has another major game in the works but Wardell is not talking about that title just yet.

After 30 years, it looks like Stardock is not only continuing to develop software and games but is looking toward the future by incorporating generative AI and other future features. It will certainly be interesting to see where the next 30 years will take the company.

Disclaimer: Neowin's relationship to Stardock

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