|Strategy Informer Talk's to GOG|
|Posted: 26.03.2009 17:57 by||Comments: 5|
While it’s fair to say that most gamers can only see as far as the next release, the more mature gamer always holds a healthy appreciation for the classics. Whether that be reminiscing of the days of Goldeneye, or marvelling at how cool Total Annihilation, or Duke Nukem seemed at the time.
Enter Good Old Games, a new digital distribution platform for classic PC games. It’s still in the BETA stages at the moment, but it’s already proving to be a serious contender in the market. We talked to Lukasz Kukawski, Marketing & PR Manager for GOG to find out more:
Strategy Informer: What is the underlying ethos behind Good old Games?
Lukasz Kukawski: Good Old Games is a digital distribution platform dedicated to classic PC games. What is different about GOG.com and other services, aside of the games catalogue, is that we offer DRM-free games. This means after you buy a game on GOG.com you can download it as many times as you want, install it on all computers that you own, burn it to CD and play it without having an internet connection. It's like a CD version of the game, but without the CD.
The games offered on GOG.com are sometimes impossible to get in retail or even on on-line auctions and if you manage somehow to get them it's possible they won't work on modern OS. That's why we guarantee all games from GOG.com will run on your Windows Vista or XP computer! If that's still not impressing you, for $5.99 or $9.99 you're not only getting DRM-free game but you also get bonus content like soundtracks, wallpapers, artworks, guides and more. Generally, GOG.com is the best place for anyone that's looking for PC classics.
Lukasz Kukawski: Yes, the service is still in the beta, as every self-respected website we have to stay in the beta for at least for a year or even longer! But seriously, we're working all the time on bringing the best digital distribution service there can be. We want to provide our users with a service that we'd like to use and because we're idealists we're working on every little aspect of the site to be functional, user friendly and look nice :).
The beta itself is going really well. We receive a lot of feedback from the users and our Dev & Design team is still adding more and more features that came from the community. Till today we have done one major update to the service that, among others, added virtual shelf life for the GOG.com games and improved the forums. Aside of that there were lots of smaller updates that improved the whole GOG.com experience. Generally we're very happy how the service is received by the users and how we're developing the GOG.com brand :).
Strategy Informer: What is your specific business model for the website? What allows you to sell these games so cheap?
Lukasz Kukawski: We had to choose from the subscription or the pay-per-game business models. We're not big fans of the subscription model and with our, let's call it "original", approach to DRM the choice was obvious. On GOG.com you pay $5.99 or $9.99 for an all-time PC classic 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 on-line.
So you won't be 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. It's all about making it as easy as possible for the end-user.
As for the prices of games we have chosen the most reasonable price points in our opinion. We think that either $5.99 or $9.99 is a good price for both the customers and for us, especially that with the purchase of the game you receive not only a DRM-free classic game, but also some additional materials like guides, soundtracks, wallpapers, artworks and more.
Strategy Informer: How many games to you currently have in your catalogue?
Lukasz Kukawski: At the moment we have almost 90 Good Old Games available in the catalogue. We'll be hitting the milestone of 100 games very soon and we're going to do it in a big way, so stay tuned!
Strategy Informer: What do you do to make sure these golden oldies are fully compatible with modern technology? Has been any games you haven’t been able to upgrade? What about Windows 7?
Lukasz Kukawski: The compatibility with modern OSs is aside of the lack of DRM another great feature that we offer on GOG.com. It's very frustrating that most of the classics are very hard or even impossible to run on your modern, lightning-fast computers. That's why our programming team is making its magic tricks to guarantee that all games available on GOG.com will run smoothly on both Windows Vista and XP as they were originally developed under those systems.
Also some of our games, as you've probably seen, are wrapped up with DOSBox or ScummVM that help with the compatibility issues. We're in constant contact with the teams behind these projects and we receive a lot of help from them that we're grateful for.
Some games require a lot of work from our programmers so it takes time to release it, but we do what we can to bypass all the problems and release a smoothly working game. We had some issues with WaxWorks that required some real magic from the programing team, but they did great job and the game, after being visible in the upcoming section for couple weeks, has been release and received a very warm welcome from our community.
As for Windows 7, the system is still in beta and we haven't tested our games on it yet, but we received information from our users who played GOG.com versions of the games under Windows 7 and they worked fine.
Strategy Informer: What games to consider ‘old’ enough to feature in your catalogue? What’s your cut-off point?
Lukasz Kukawski: As for how old game should be to appear on GOG.com, there's no specific rule for it. Simply saying we release games that aren't new, so don't expect the new Dawn of War or Empire Total War. The shelves in game stores are too short to have all games on them, that's why a game that is 6 months old is sometimes hard to get. We want to offer games that are hard or even impossible to find in retail, that's why aside of games like Stonekeep, Simon the Sorcerer you'll also find the newer titles like TOCA Race Driver 3 or Unreal Tournament 2004. But still these are all Good Old Games.
Strategy Informer: Are you in talks with any of the big publishers? They all started out somewhere after all, and I know that some people would like to see EA’s Bullfrog for instance, or the original Alone in the Dark.
Lukasz Kukawski: Our Bizdev guys are constantly talking with publishers, developers and right owners. As you can see we're announcing new publishers joining GOG almost every week. Sometimes these are smaller publishers that add one or two games to the catalogue and from time to time we have really big names joining our service like Apogee with Duke Nukem 3D. All I can suggest is keep checking GOG.com for new announcements.
Strategy Informer: You've just announced that Ubisoft will become a supporting service for Good old Games. Can you briefly explain what that means for you and your customers?
Lukasz Kukawski: First and foremost it means we're expanding our games catalogue with the addition of great titles from Ubisoft.
But aside of adding more Good Old Games, we're signing one of the biggest game publishers in the world! This deal means the idea of GOG.com, including the DRM-free approach, is accepted by a company which has such big influence on the gaming industry. It's a huge step for us and we're really excited about it.
Strategy Informer: Do you think this will be a major breakthrough for your service? Do you hope that other bigger publishers will follow suit?
Lukasz Kukawski: I think that the agreement with Ubisoft will help us in terms of showing other companies that even a major publisher is accepting the DRM-free approach and are willing to trust gamers. I hope this will make other publishers look at GOG.com as a great way to sell their back-catalogue games.
Strategy Informer: Can you tell us which games exactly that you will be adding to your catalogue from this deal?
Lukasz Kukawski: With the announcement we're releasing Prince of Persia: Sands of Time and IL-2 Sturmovik 1946. The coming soon section is expanding with the addition of Beyond Good and Evil, Heroes of Might and Magic, Far Cry, Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six. We have also some games that we're keeping in a secret for now.
Strategy Informer: Some of the older Ubi games were infamous for including the Starforce DRM software, will that be removed before they are added to the catalogue?
Lukasz Kukawski: All games on GOG.com are free of any DRMs. That's what makes us so different from other digital distribution services and what are we proud of. There's no reason it would be different with Ubisoft games. That's great news, isn't it? :)
Strategy Informer: What are your thoughts on DRM?
Lukasz Kukawski: We are all gamers at GOG.com and frankly saying we hate DRMs implemented in games. We don't think DRM is the best way to fight piracy. You won't find any copy protection that haven't been broken, so this won't stop pirates from getting the games the illegal way. DRM is more of an obstacle for legitimate buyers than people who pirate games, because if you get the pirated version you'll get it stripped from all forms of copy protection and you can do with the game whatever you want.
But if you've bought the game legally then you have to register the game on-line, play it on specific number of computers, install some additional trash-software, etc... And that's not helping. We think that the best way to fight piracy is to offer good games in a reasonable price with cool additional content.
Strategy Informer: How easy/difficult was it to secure this arrangement with Ubisoft?
Lukasz Kukawski: It took us a while to finalize everything, but it went pretty smooth. Our business development team really did great, taking care of everything from the very beginning. There are always lots of things that must be done and take some time if you're signing a contract. And if you're signing a deal with such big international company like Ubisoft it may take even longer, but we have everything finalized and now we can share the great news with all GOG.com fans!
Strategy Informer: How hard was it to get all of the extra and exclusive content for the games?
Lukasz Kukawski: You have to give credit to our brave and good looking product team for the bonus content. They're digging up archives, warehouses full of weird stuff and even the whole internet in the search of cool content. Sometimes we receive the stuff from the publishers, but most of things that you can download with the game have been found by us. For very old games it's sometimes to find even boxarts, but somehow we manage to get everything done.
Lukasz Kukawski: It's hard to say at the moment. Right now we want to bring all the classics from the vast and rich PC gaming history. There are thousands of great games that need to be revived for the games all around the world. The console games are being brought back by services like PSN, XBL or WiiWare. But who knows, when we'll finally get all the games we want form the PC market, maybe we'll add console classics.
Strategy Informer: How has the community aspect evolved since you launched the website? Where do you see it going from here?
Lukasz Kukawski: We don't want GOG.com to be just another digital distribution outlet, that's why we're putting a lot of attention to the community aspect. Aside of giving our users the forums dedicated to every title available on the service, we also publish retrospective articles about the development process of some games that might push people to write their own impressions and memoirs about those classics. We're also trying to stimulate the community by contests where you can win free games. Our community is really great and we have some surprises up in our sleeves, so you can be sure we're not stopping here.
So it’s so far, so good for this new digital platform. With Ubisoft now on board, the guys at GOG can only hope that some of the other big publishers will follow. One thing’s for certain though, their relaxed attitude towards DRM, their competitive prices, and their appreciation for gamers’ nostalgic tendencies will certainly take them far. Definitely ones to watch.