You can't have "some of the things that we love" if you want to "appeal to the masses." Being "middle-market" keeps things open. Paxton is 'reining in' Elemental.
"I do think that once you start making games that have such a large budget that you have to sell a million copies to break even, or that’s the criteria for success from the publisher at least, then there are certain areas that you as a designer cannot explore anymore,” said Derek Paxton. Stardock brought him on to oversee Elemental: Fallen Enchantress.
“You can’t have some of the things that we love in our games if you want to appeal to the masses.” Turn-based strategies tend not to attract the larger companies.
"As a middle-market company with a middle-market budget, we don’t have to sell that many copies to operate, and that lets me on the design side do more of the things we love,” he said. “Even if they do not make mass-market sense.”
Stardock's indie ways aren't all good though as Paxton points out you need a central driving force, not just everyone throwing out ideas and working on them. "That doesn’t work on larger projects," Paxton pointed out, like on Elemental their new IP.
“... It’s my job to bring some of the processes and procedures from the business community into the way Stardock makes games.”
“The role of producers in game development has been undervalued,” he added.
“Especially as you get to the larger games that’s a critical role – making sure that the producer has a handle on creating the plan, controlling the plan, and making sure there’s a consistent vision is key. And that’s more than sharing a few Google docs and running the spreadsheets for the game." Elemental: War of Magic suffered terribly at launch from bugs.
“Good project management definitely makes the difference between a game that doesn’t hit all of its marks and the one that does.” Fallen Enchantress is a standalone expansion to Elemental and a sequel to War of Magic.
Stardock Games has offered free copies of Fallen Enchantress to early day owners of War of Magic because of the numerous issues that plagued the game.