I grandi giochi del passato tornano grazie a GoG
Gamemag: During the last week Gog has also featured a series of contests, spanning 5 days, which basically gave the occasion for members to win the entire games catalogue. Contests aren't new to Gog, and along with the new Gogmixes feature I'm thinking you're going great lenghts to make your members feel more part of a community rather than just clients to a service. Is this correct, and if so should we expect more contests and more ways to get involved with the site?
Lukasz Kukawski: From the very beginning we've stated that the community part on GOG is very important to us. We didn't want to become just another digital distribution platform selling games, we want GOG to be an ultimate place for all fans of classic PC games. We want gamers to come to GOG not only to see what's in store, but also to meet and discuss about the passion for good, old games with other fans of retro gaming. Every game available on GOG has it's own forum where you can talk to other gamers interested in this title, get some help from the community if you're stuck and don't know what to do next or have a minor issues with the game itself.
We also try to publish retrospective articles or interviews with developers who worked on some of the classics available in our service, so users get a "behind-the-scenes" look at how their favourite classic was made back in the days. Contests are another form of involving our community, giving them some fun and chances to win GOG games. It's also a lot of fun for us to look at the creativity of our users, for example in the last contest where we asked our users to create a GOG ad - there are some really great and creative ideas! We'll do our best to continue having those contests as long as our users want to participate.
Gamemag: If I had to summarize Gog to its three most important features, I think I'd say it sells old games a) DRM free, b) at cheap prices c) compatible with modern operative systems. So let's take a look at these features individually: can we safely assume that Gog's games will be DRM-free for the foreseeable future? And do you think your success has contributed in some way to change software companies' take on DRM?
Lukasz Kukawski: GOG.com is all about DRM-free classics and we can assure you we won't change anything in this matter. From the very beginning we knew we're going the DRM-free way, as we're gamers as well and we hate all the intrusive copy protection schemes that you can find in today's games. First of all we don't want to treat our customers like criminals - if you bought a legal copy of the game you shouldn't be checked on every step via online authentication, CD check, code verification, etc. if the game you're playing is really yours. Pirates don't have to deal with those as they download already cracked versions of software, so the only ones who are affected by the hassle DRM are the legitimate customers.
Second thing is that if we wanted to sell old games, which are in most cases available on different abandonware sites, we had to convince people that it's worth buying those classics instead of downloading them for free. Well of course we guarantee that it's legal and you don't have to worry if there's a virus instead of Duke Nukem 3D. But aside of that we made our games 100% DRM-free, so it's hassle-free if you want to install the game on all computers you own, back it up on a CD or play it on a laptop while you're off-line (i.e. in a plane). That's not all, we're also providing compatibility with modern operating systems and add lots of free goodies like soundtracks, artworks, wallpapers and more, so the games are like collector's editions.
The DRM-free approach also differs us from other digital distribution platforms. The shut down we made just before going out of beta showed all of us how today's games are internet-dependent and how people are used to using the standard digital distribution services. If today one of the services like Steam or Direct2Drive went down because of different reasons, thousands of users would be left without any access to their games. Because we're selling games without DRM you don't need our service to be on-line all the time and you still can play those great classics. Of course you have to have the installer backed up on a CD or local drive which is not always the case, as our closedown showed us, but we're going to put a bigger push on this matter.
So to sum it all up, we'll definitely remain DRM-free. As for our influence on other companies, I think GOG is one of the factors that started the discussion in the industry and it's an example that not having restrictive copy protection doesn't have to mean huge growth of piracy. Let's hope more companies will follow the lead.
Gamemag: Do you think game prices on Gog are going to remain the same they are now (between 5.99 and 9.99 dollars/euros)? Is there a chance prices might go up if and when you are going to put more recent games in your catalogue?
Lukasz Kukawski: When we were launching the service, the two price points seemed to be enough, but with time it's starting to limit us. That's why we're discussing internally adding more price points, not only higher ones but lower as well. Let's say that we can offer a newer game which would definitely fit our users tastes, but charging $10 is a bit to low? And how about a game that is definitely a classic, but no one would pay for it $10 or even $6? If we would add more price points it would probably make it easier for us to bring more content to the site.
Unfortunately it's nothing for sure yet, as it's still being discussed, so I can't say what and if any new price points will be introduced. I can only assure you that we'll continue to work on offering the best content for the best value - we've already decreased prices of games like Oddworld or Arx Fatalis.
Gamemag: Finally, OS compatibilty, which is personally my favourite feature. I believe there are many gamers who happily buy again on Gog games they already own back from the day, just because Gog allows them to play those games without problems on modern systems. At the moment not all games are compatible with Win 7 though: are there plans to correct this issue, and if so what is the status of work?
Lukasz Kukawski: Compatibility with modern operating systems is really important for us as even if you have the original disks of many games from the past, there is a big probability they won't work on your new, lightning-fast computer with Vista or W7. The idea behind GOG was to create a hassle-free and user friendly service where people can come, buy a game, download it, install and play without any problems.
As for Windows 7 compatibility, it's still a work in progress. For the relaunch of the website we've tested and optimized around half of the games from our catalogue, while the other half work on most configurations but still have some issues with specific graphic cards or drivers, etc. and we're working on them so everything runs flawlessly. It's like I stated before, we need to provide as much reasons as we can so gamers will decide to spend their hard earned money on a GOG game and not on a newly released hit title. Lack of DRM, compatibility with modern operating systems, good selection of games, bonus materials for free are among those most important reasons.
Gamemag: On the same subject, how does the work on game compatibility really happen? I noticed some games work through a pre-configured version of DOSbox, which I imagine is a viable option only for DOS games. When you have to work on game compatibility, is it only done 'in house' by your team, or do you get help by the company that owns the game?
Lukasz Kukawski: Frankly speaking sometimes even I wonder how our programmers manage to make those old games run so well on modern operating systems :) I have some suspicions that they are doing some black magic ;). But seriously, for example for DOS based games like you've noticed we're using DOSBox and ScummVM to guarantee the compatibility. We're really grateful to the great guys behind both DOSBox and ScummVM, that they allowed us to use their great software. They also are really helpful if our programmers have any doubts how to fix some issues. For other than DOS-based games our programmers are using their skills to make them work properly. We're making all work in house, so publishers don't have to worry about anything - they only provide us with the license to sell those games via GOG and we're taking care of compatibility, marketing, designs, etc. That's a perfect solution for publishers to monetize their back catalogue games.
Gamemag: I believe Gog's huge success should factor in any discussion concerning game piracy. You guys sell games that are very easy to find through illegal ways, especially considering that they are often very small in size, and that before Gog there were very few ways to get old games legally. Yet, it doesn't seem piracy really hindered your success (correct me if I'm wrong!). Do you think this could be related to the service you offer, including OS compatibility, cheap prices and the games being DRM free? If so, do you think your model could somehow be exported to the “big” game industry, to fight piracy?
Lukasz Kukawski: It's how I said before, we believe that if you respect your customers by giving them a good product for good value, they will respect you and your work. It's true you won't find many GOG installers on p2p services and it's because we have such a great community at GOG. We're delivering them good games with good added value like bonus materials, compatibility, etc. for a fair price.
As for exporting the model in a wider manner into the industry, we truly believe this could happen some day. In our opinion a better way to fight piracy is by giving gamers good reasons to buy an original copy than to punish them with a restrictive DRM. Like I said before, if you implement DRM in your game it won't work against pirates as they download already cracked versions of the games, while the hassle of on-line activation, limited installs, etc., is on the legitimate customers. We hope that our approach to digital distribution and GOG itself is the first rock which will start an avalanche and will change the approach to DRM in games.
Gamemag: Are there any plan to bring Gog to a different level than it is now? For example, making deals with software houses to bring remake versions of older games on Gog?
Lukasz Kukawski: What for? :) It's all part of fun to have those games to look exactly as they looked back in the days. Most of our users are gamers who used to play those games when they were originally released and they'd like to relieve those moments once again in the same way they did it in the past. I Frankly speaking, I don't think it would be really profitable as it's really hard to get your hands on the source code so it would probably require making the game from the ground up.