Q&A: GOG.com's DRM-free downloadable games

GameSpot News gets the details on this upcoming PC game online distribution service from managing director Adam Oldakowski.

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The distribution model of computer games has seen changes in the last several years, going from an exclusively brick-and-mortar model to an age of emerging digital distribution. Digital distribution services use a variety of different pricing and copyright protection systems, but they typically set themselves apart by their selection of games.

The latest in these distribution series is GOG.com. The "GOG" in "GOG.com" stands for "Good Old Games," because the service itself is devoted to distributing what the company considers to be "good old" PC games, at a modest price point and free of any digital rights management software. We had a chance to sit in with Adam Oldakowski, managing director of the upcoming GOG.com distribution service, to discuss the details of the service's unusual business model.

GameSpot: Please give us an overview of the service that your company provides. How is it different from other online game delivery services?

Adam Oldakowski: Good Old Games, or GOG.com for short, is a new digital distribution site that specializes in classic PC games. We've tried to build the site to be really simple to use, making it as easy as possible to buy, download, and play classic PC games--it takes just a few clicks to get from the home page to the installer. We're offering worldwide service with our sights set on the best PC games of all time, without DRM and compatible with modern operating systems. Add to this a big community section with forums dedicated to every game, a news section, user-submitted reviews and rankings and additional materials like game guides, wallpapers, avatars, and soundtracks to download with every game--GOG.com is all of that. And that's really just the tip of the iceberg; we've got lots of ideas to develop and expand the service. We want GOG.com to become the definitive place to buy classic PC games.

GS: Why did you decide to use this business model? Tell us about why you selected the price points you did, for instance.

AO: We had two models to go with. We could either have a subscription service or pay-per-game model. We're not big fans of the subscription model and it really would have gotten in the way of our idea of having DRM-free games. At GOG.com you pay $5.99 or $9.99 for the classic game of your choice and you own it forever. With the subscription services you can play games only during your subscription, and you have to be online, so you aren't able to install the game on your laptop and play it on your business trip or on vacation if you don't have the Internet connection. We're really all about making it as easy as possible for the end user.

The pricing model is another area we wanted to make things easier--in this case, on players' wallets. We wanted to offer the games for a really good price, and generally the price only varies based on the age of the game. The "newer" games, or rather, not-so-old games, are priced at $9.99 and the older ones are sold for $5.99. The price points seem to be reasonable for both the customers and for us, especially considering that with the purchase of the game you receive not only a DRM-free classic game, but also some of the additional materials I mentioned earlier, like soundtracks, wallpapers, game guides, and so on.

GS: And why set up the service as DRM-free? Will there be some kind of online check required each time you begin play? How will you prevent piracy from cutting into the company's bottom line?

AO: GOG.com features no copy protection, DRM, or online activation. This is just like owning the game--you buy it, you keep it. DRM-free games is one of the key features of GOG.com, and we decided to push for that because everyone at GOG.com is a gamer, and we hate all intrusive copy protection and DRM systems implemented in games. It's time to stop treating gamers who buy their games as criminals. As gamers, we want to have an opportunity to have a copy of the game on a laptop to take it on trips, and to have it at home.

It's our opinion that DRM is not the way to fight piracy. We believe that the best way to fight it is by offering great games at a reasonable price with some extra additional content. We think that this will ultimately work on a bit of an honor or loyalty system, naturally rewarding the people who pay for games. As more people buy games at GOG.com, we'll be able to offer them more games, leading again to more sales and so on.

GS: We understand that the beta begins today. Give us an overview of what's going into it and what we can expect.

AO: The "early access beta" works just like the final site will. Everyone who takes part in the early access beta will be able to buy games from the catalog, get involved in the community, write reviews, rate games, and download additional materials for games they've already bought. We'll be also adding more games every week and we have prepared a special limited-time, "Buy one, get one free" promotion. Everyone who buys their first game at GOG.com will receive a bonus code for a free game from GOG.com's Interplay catalogue--which includes classics like the Fallout series, MDK 1 and 2, the Descent series, Messiah, Giants: Citizen Kabuto. and Sacrifice. We're hoping for a lot of good feedback from players to help us make the site as good as it can possibly be.

GS: At the risk of sounding indelicate, we have to ask: What kind of subscription numbers are you estimating for the service? How is the service's infrastructure intended to provide the best results for delivery with this kind of audience? What happens, for instance, if demand outpaces supply of bandwidth and the servers start getting hammered?

AO: We've seen a lot of interest from gamers and the gaming media, and word about GOG.com has spread all over the Web, so it seems to be going in the right direction. As for numbers...we have some internal estimates, but ultimately we just want people to get excited about the service. We got tens of thousands of signups for beta access, and we're happy with that.

We're in the beta stage, so we're expecting some problems in various aspects, but that's why we're doing the beta in the first place. We will be seeking out any problems if they occur and fix them as quickly as possible. We're staggering the distribution of access keys to ensure that we can monitor server loads and address any problems early; as the week goes on we'll be sending more keys out to everyone who signed up.

GS: How did you select which "old" games were "good" enough to join the service? How will you select additional "good old games" to add in the future?

AO: Our goal is to offer games which generally aren't available in retail stores and are also very hard to find online. We want to give gamers those fondly remembered "Good Old Games" they would love to play again. Going through lots of forums, we've built up a long list of classic PC games that form our wish list. It's very long. We have a lot of games to bring to the service and a lot of publishers to talk to, so we'll be able to offer a huge catalogue of great classic games. Ultimately we're focusing on titles that were commercially successful, critically acclaimed, or just cult classics. Anything that had an impact on the industry is probably fair game; even some games that are widely considered "not great" can have huge followings that think those titles are excellent.

GS: Speaking of which, can you give us any hints on new candidates we might see popping up on the service in the future?

AO: There's nothing we can officially talk about. We're closing couple of deals right now and we had some very productive meetings with publishers at Games Convention in Leipzig, so everything seems to be heading the right way.

GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about the service?

AO: We just really hope everyone enjoys the site and the products we're offering. There are a lot of new gamers coming up that may have missed out on some of these classics, so now's a great time to give them a shot. Come and visit our site to get information about our service including the launch date of the open beta. We're still accepting new signups!

GS: Thanks, Adam.

Discussion

61 comments
nate1222
nate1222

As of this typing (April, 2012), I now own over 60 games via GOG. And their business model and selection are every bit the reasons. I own a few games via Amazon download -mostly Sega Genesis golden oldies. At this point, I only own 8 games via Steam. And if it weren't for Half-Life, my Steam account would completely lose relevance.

DeadlyRamon
DeadlyRamon

I subscribed to Good Old Games about 1 year and 9 months ago. While that wasn't on its beta's opening day, it was at least long enough for me to have become very familiar with its service by now. After amassing quite a nice collection of titles through it, I must say that this is a most excellent business and I encourage everyone who either fondly remembers older computer classics or those who were too young or otherwise unable to play those games when they were new but are interested in experiencing them for their first time to browse through the company's software catalog and give them a try. They even have a few games, including Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons' cult classic Beneath a Steel Sky, available at no charge!

Chronikas
Chronikas

Does anyone else feel like a kid in a candy store after scoping their site? I know I do...

Nephilim83
Nephilim83

Man, I've been looking everywhere for a copy of Fallout and finally found a free download on Gametap.com. I downloaded and played it and was happy, but then I wanted to take my laptop offshore with me so I could play out there and realized I needed to be hooked to the internet!!?? That's BS!! And think I was about to get a subcription to play Fallout2! I LOVE the idea of owning my own copy of the game. I'd pay 20 bucks a game if they wanted me to I just want to have the damn thing on my computer without all the extra hassles!!! So, F**k YEAH, GOG.com!!!!!

exponential7216
exponential7216

I can't wait to play all these classic games. They seem to have better gameplay than the newer eye-candy filled games coming out recently. And this service is a lot more convenient than hunting through the bargain bin. I would pay $5-$10 for these games rather than pirate them. The price is just right! I just hope they go up and running before Fallout 3 comes out so I can get up to speed with Fallouts 1 and 2 (LOL).

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

Firstly, as a beta user of GOG.com,to answer someone below, there is no advertising slots on the website or in the games. To those that think 36 titles from the first day of beta is not many, well, I beg to differ! As to DRM free and piracy. This will be the test, won't it? In my experience, for older games on bittorrent, etc you get 100's of titles placed together in huge 1gb+ downloads. I really don;t think pirates will be interested. It's just to easy! Much more likely they will find ways to play Steam's X-Com games without activation and internet access being needed! This, quite simply, is a fantastic idea! Retro gaming is taking off with 360 and PS3 'Live' services, huge growth in ebay's retro gaming section and the 10 million downloads of DOSBox. These have all got to be good news for GOG.com and retro gamers alike! Interesting that the same week GOG.com goes beta, Home of the Underdogs servers go down - they just couldn't cope! :) All hail GOG.com!

AZisBack
AZisBack

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

GoodkupoBan
GoodkupoBan

I so far have bought Fallout 1 & 2 and Free Space 2. I love that you can download the OST for the games after you bought it and their forums have a list of mods that have been test with their version of the game.

Deckard2323
Deckard2323

jcasanova: Actually, it is good for their business. Right now to get many of those old classics you have to search abandonware sites. Neither developers (or I guess I should say license holders) nor gamers benefit from it. License holders don't get any money for their software, while gamers download old games for free, but many of them aren't compatible with new operating systems unless you mess around with settings and get DosBox. And while "newer" games may not require DoxBox, they require cracks to run properly without CDs etc. With GOG.com everybody's happy. One side gets the money, the other a product that works.

polsci1503
polsci1503

I've been psyched for this site to open it's doors for awhile. I can buy the game don't have to be online to play it (like Steam) and it's $6? I'm all over that...

Superdude475
Superdude475

Broken link. I clicked on the spiderman preview and ended up here.

Italianmoose
Italianmoose

Just one slight problem with this, you can get Freespace 2 for free, with superb graphics from the Freespace Open Source Project. So, on some of the games, the developers might have released the Source code, so you'd waste a few quid.

tohle01
tohle01

Nope, no advertising or anything. We're just nice people who don't want to bog gamers down with DRM. We HOPE that people can see that the games are cheap -- no need to pirate them if it's only $5.99 or $9.99. If everyone's pirating the games, it'll be difficult to attract new publishers to the site, which will ultimately mean that what was a cool idea doesn't actually work. The idea here is that gamers WANT to pay for games but generally pirate things to make sure they work on their PCs or because of the intrusive copy protection of a legal version. Hopefully people don't turn out to be crooks! :)

Paladin_King
Paladin_King

broken link. I clicked on the link to the Vampire Rain: Altered Species review on the front page and ended up here.

ne0man
ne0man

I already were given access to the beta site, and it's cool. I got interested by descent 3 and fallout 1 since I only own fallout 2 and the fact that all the games were optimized for xp and vista, It's not the first time I got a old game on the bargain bin only to install it and find out it doesn't work. Haven't bought nothing yet but it sounds terrific

jcasanova
jcasanova

I don't know if I'm getting it: You purchase one game for $5 or $10 and receive a second game for free. That's $2.50 or $5 per game. This games have no piracy protection. My guess is: hundreds of thousands will be playing a game that gave gog.com only $2.50 or $5 profit. This cant be good for their business. Also I don't know but I think good old games were cracked to be downloaded and played for free a while ago. I think gog.com will be selling advertisement spaces to each game, that's why they don't care about "sharing" but instead encourage it. Can anyone on the beta confirm advertisement spaces in gog.com's games?

Jigsaw9798
Jigsaw9798

I would be extremely happy if they have Planescape Torment.

bufflehead
bufflehead

So with no DRM all your friends can play for free? Ever heard of bittorrent? Any of us can fire it up this minute and have any popular PC game on our drive overnight, DRM free and playable by all our friends. And many great old games you can't find anywhere and they wouldn't run if you could. This if a great idea!

fenriz275
fenriz275

I think this DRM free model could work as long as the games are less than $10. Anyone can scrape up $10 for a good game.

raahsnavj
raahsnavj

if these GOG's run on my new PC they just found a new customer. Descent I have loved since the beginning, and I always wanted to try out Fallout.

king_bobo
king_bobo

I have to admit that whilst it's very trusting to keep the site DRM free, it is going to make piracy incredibly easy and so they are likely to lose massive amounts of potential customers, even if they gain a few who wouldn't have used it if it had used DRM.

somberfox
somberfox

I got a beta code, unfortunately the selection currently is lacking, there's only 34 games listed and some of them aren't even available for purchase yet.

Tebbit
Tebbit

For Fallout, I would give them at least $12.99

futs22
futs22

This is definitely something I want to get in on. I do wonder about widescreen support for all these old games. I guess they won't have it and we'll all have to play at a maximum resolution of 1024x768. I don't mind. Just give me my retro-gaming fix!

Kentelyoo
Kentelyoo

The thing I like the most is the fact that you can copy the game on a disk and need no activation. That way, in 15 years, even if the company doesn't exist anymore, you still can play the games you bought. That's why I don't like the Steam way. What if Steam disapears in 10 years ? Will I be able to replay my Valve games, even the ones I bought on disk (they need online activation to work) ? What about the games I bought directly through Steam ? I'm sure they'll be lost forever. And they will modify the games to be Vista and XP compatible ! And they provide technical support just like if it was a new game ! You can't beat that.

Precyse
Precyse

Could be a very good investment, i like how there focusing on old games that are everybody's favs. and selling them for 5-10. Could take off like steam and be a huge hit i know when i build my new pc i'm getting both fallout games, cuz they optimized it for xp and vista.

Nintendo_Man
Nintendo_Man moderator

I just got the beta code, not many games yet but i am sure that will change soon.

dual_barrel
dual_barrel

Since there's no kind of copy protection, so when one user buys the game, his friends' can play it and own it for free as well. Is this really what they're going for? I'm confused.

coughing
coughing

This is the way forward for fighting piracy. Some people cannot afford 30+ euros for ONE game, and their only option is to pirate it, whilst this lower price is very reasonable.

Sagacious_Tien
Sagacious_Tien

This is the way of the future. Worldwide release - hopefully = worldwide pricing. Without DRM - heck, I'm in.

Nintendo_Man
Nintendo_Man moderator

I signed up a while ago when i first heard about it.

Merl57
Merl57

I might actually try this now my achievement addiction isn't so bad

Rx7FC3S
Rx7FC3S

This is fantastic. I see myself using this service a lot.

cruzolo
cruzolo

Imagine playing Quarantine or X-Com on your 64-bit Vista? :). Another huge step in games distribution, and made by a Polish team :). I agree with Adam - the only way to win over piracy is to provide high quality games at reasonable price.

combatsoldier
combatsoldier

Finally these great old classics are compatible. I am excited.

bioghost
bioghost

Cheap for some classic games, can't wait!

desanvium
desanvium

Gametap is dead; long live Good Old Games. May they put Gametap out of business, buy their game library, and resell it DRM-free.

lamprey263
lamprey263

@Flatline304 Sweet!! I guess I can feel better knowing these games are now Vista and XP compatible. I'm probably going to end up getting lots and lots of these classics, I can only hope the keep them coming.

Einhanderkiller
Einhanderkiller

AZisBack, Steam has all the X-Com games for purchase. They have DRM, but they can be played on as many computers as you want. Just log into your account, download the game, and play. You just can't have two people on the same account playing the game at the same time.

Myst2
Myst2

Wow awesome site

Myst2
Myst2

Wow awesome site

swmeek
swmeek

This sounds like a great idea! Hopefully they'll be nice and they provide all the necessary info before you buy it!

AZisBack
AZisBack

"It's our opinion that DRM is not the way to fight piracy. We believe that the best way to fight it is by offering great games at a reasonable price with some extra additional content. We think that this will ultimately work on a bit of an honor or loyalty system, naturally rewarding the people who pay for games. As more people buy games at GOG.com, we'll be able to offer them more games, leading again to more sales and so on." He is absolutely right about DRM. I would love to buy X-Com again but I can't. I won't buy a DRM copy because I know I wouldn't be able to use it on my two computers.

HuxleyHobbes
HuxleyHobbes

I love the concept of GOG. I'm pretty much sold on the whole thing; between that and Steam starting to fix up older games they sell (I refer specifically to the X-Com series), it's a good time to play old classics.

Flatline304
Flatline304

According to the site the games are Vista and XP compatible:)

Deckard2323
Deckard2323

lamprey263: From what I remember reading earlier about GOG.com, all games will be tested for compatibility and those in need of "adjustments" will get special attention from guys at DosBox.