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By Jose Vilches on October 6, 2009
Following on from our last giveaway earlier this year, Good Old Games is just reaching its first anniversary, so we thought it would be a good idea to check back on them to see how things were going (and get more freebies for our readers, of course).
Read on as the service's PR manager, Lukasz Kukawski, comments on the challenges of offering a digital download service for classic PC games, their DRM-free model, and a few other tidbits on the GoG operation.
TechSpot: First off, thank you for taking the time to respond to our questions and accepting this interview. There’s no other way for us to get started but to ask you what drove you to build a service like Good Old Games? Please tell us about your team and the person(s) that pushed for the idea and brought it to realization.
Lukasz (GoG): The idea to launch a service that offers only classic PC games came from the passion for these old-timers. The idea first appeared in the discussion between guys from CD Projekt's management -- huge fans of RPG games. They were talking about what made the old games so fun and started to look for some classics to buy, but realized it's not so easy. Because of limited shelf space you probably won't find games that are 2 years old, not to mention those released in the mid or late 90s. As for on-line auctions, the prices might be way beyond what you'd want to spend on a 10 year old game or you won't find the games you're looking for at all.
After the idea appeared came the first researches, building the team and realization of the project. At first GOG.com team consisted of only 3 employees: our MD, a designer and a programmer who helped to create one of the biggest Polish gaming portals. After the works on the service began the team grew with additions of more programmers, designers, php specialists, testers, etc., but the one thing in common for all of us stayed the same: we all love old games which we grew up on.
TechSpot: Was there a game in particular you wanted to bring back from oblivion that fired up the whole idea or was it more a business-type decision where you saw the void in the marketplace opening the doors for a new venture?
Lukasz (GoG): The answer for this question is a mix of both approaches. Of course launching GOG.com was a business decision, but as I previously said it came from the passion for classic games. Guys from CD Project, which GOG Limited is a part of, are huge fans of RPGs -- no surprise, they made "The Witcher", so the games that pushed them to develop the idea of GOG.com were definitely Fallouts, Baldur's Gate series, Neverwinter Nights, etc.
TechSpot: It's been a year since the launch of GOG.com and in that timeframe we've seen the list of titles grow from just a handful to a over a hundred. What has been the biggest challenge in signing new publishers?
Lukasz (GoG): Yes, we've decided we will release at least two games every week and we've managed to do it with more than 150 games currently in the catalogue. The biggest challenge in signing new deals is actually finding the rights owners of these old games. Sometimes it's really a very long and winding road to finally get in touch with someone who owns the rights to a game or with someone who is taking care of old brands and digital distribution in a big company.
But our Business Development team is working really hard and they are in constant contact with almost every publisher who owns the right for some great older titles and I'm sure it's just a matter of time that we'll have all the games you could think of when saying "PC classic".
TechSpot: You only offer DRM-free downloads and looking at your FAQ it's clear that you have a very relaxed stance against piracy. How has this played off for you in terms of PC gamers' reception and, conversely, publisher support?
Lukasz (GoG): We're really proud of this feature. As you can probably say, we're not huge fans of DRM as we think it's not a good method to fight with piracy. In our opinion offering good games in reasonable prices is the way to get rid of piracy and that's what we're trying to achieve with GOG.com. From the thousands of emails and comments on many forums, including our own, we can see that gamers are really happy about the DRM-free versions of our games. They aren't treated like criminals. If we respect our customers they will respect us and our work.
With publishers it's not so easy. Many of them still believe that copy protection schemes are essential to avoid piracy. We're trying to convince them that it's not a problem for pirates to avoid any kind of DRM and if someone wanted to get their game from torrent they already did get it. As you can see by our growing list of new publishers joining GOG.com we're slowly obtaining publishers' confidence. Also the thing that helps us in this is that you won't find many if any GOG.com installers on the torrent sites and that's why we love our community.
TechSpot: Would you be willing to compromise for an old game that you absolutely want to have on GOG but can't without DRM?
Lukasz (GoG): We really have a precise view on the DRM matter and adding any sort of copy protection would be against fundaments of GOG.com. It's our job to convince publishers that piracy isn't a problem in case of our users and such old games. We strongly believe that DRM hurts legitimate customers and we'll defend our position.
TechSpot: Surely you must have at least some security measures in place to appease your partners. Do you check on accounts to make sure someone doesn't buy a game once and then share their login info with others?
Lukasz (GoG): Of course we're controlling this, but in a way it won't affect our users. For example if we see a huge activity on one account - one game has been downloaded 10 or 20 times from one account, we get in touch with the owner of the account to clarify this.
TechSpot: Moving on to other topics. Are there any particular rules on how old a game must be in order to be a part of GOG?
Lukasz (GoG): First and foremost it can't be new, but I think that's obvious :). With today's technology developing so fast, sometimes even a 6 months old game is considered as "old", so it's pretty subjective to say if a game is still new or it's already old. But we decided that games we're releasing on GOG.com should be at least 3-4 years old. As for how back in the past we can go, there's no limit. We can release the games from the 80s if that's what our users want.
TechSpot: Most of the games you offer were developed in many cases over a decade ago, has OS compatibility brought a big challenge on getting the games to work smoothly to all customers?
Lukasz (GoG): It all depends from the game. Sometimes it only requires some simple programming and sometimes our programming team is using their magic to make the games run smoothly. With DOS games we use DOSBox software and the guys from DOSBox Team are really helpful if we have any problems. It's really great to have such support from them and we really appreciate it.
TechSpot: What is your best selling game since opening GoG?
Lukasz (GoG): Fallout games are the bestsellers and it's no surprise as these games are 110% classics. Duke Nukem 3D and Heroes of Might and Magic series, another very popular titles, have been in the offer for less time but are selling very well and are close on Fallouts' heels :)
TechSpot: How about the most surprising title in terms of your sales expectations being surpassed?
Lukasz (GoG): I think it would be Stonekeep which remains in our top 15-20 all-time bestsellers. Don't get me wrong, we think it's a great game and it shows that our users love classic RPGs. The game was released back in 1995 and as we can see it's still very popular among gamers. We can only be happy that they can grab the game via GOG.
TechSpot: PC gaming as a whole seems to be moving towards a download model, as evidenced by a few services like Steam which have found considerable success. With a distribution platform already in place, do you see yourselves competing against these services in the future by expanding your scope and offering newer stuff (perhaps under a different brand)?
Lukasz (GoG): If we would decide to offer new games we'd probably have to do it under a different brand as Good Old Games wouldn't quite fit ;). But at the moment we're focusing on developing the GOG brand and expanding its catalogue. We still have hundreds of games to revive for our users and that's the main goal in front of us. I agree that the digital distribution market is growing bigger with every year, so who knows, maybe a new platform for newer games will appear in the future.
TechSpot: In that same "looking into the future" frame of mind, having you tweaking games in order to get them running on newer Windows versions. So long as you are already messing with code, do you plan on adapting games so they work on other platforms as well, namely on mobile phones and the like?
Lukasz (GoG): We are making preparations for the Windows 7 system and so far everything looks pretty good. With some games there are no issues and with some we have to do some tweaks, so in most cases our users shouldn't have a problem when changing operating systems into Windows 7.
Mobile platforms is a fast growing market and we're aware of it. It's something we have in our mind, but at the moment there are some technical and legal obstacles that keep us away from this market. We're monitoring mobile platforms as a way of development for GOG.com and we'll see if it's something we want and can do. And for now we keep bringing new releases.
TechSpot: Forgive the mandatory question, for how long do you expect to continue in "beta" mode?
Lukasz (GoG): Well, there are still some things in the service itself that we need to improve and change before we move out of the beta. Our goal is to provide the best service there is and because we're all perfectionists there's always something to improve. Apart from that it's so popular to stay in beta for a long time ;).
TechSpot: What’s next for GoG?
Lukasz (GoG): Plenty of things which are unfortunately top secret :). We have some really huge deals coming in the next months and we predict that many if not all fans of classic gaming should be very happy about the games we'll bring to the catalogue. Except from expanding the offer our Design & Development team is slowly finalizing the big site update which will add many cool features to the community as well as to the store section. We'll definitely inform TechSpot about all those things, so don't worry nothing will get past your attention.
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