The Interview: Good Old Games

gog Good old games logo
gog Good old games logo

Good Old Games

Good Old Games offers classic PC game titles at low prices with no DRM. Pretty much any classic PC game you are looking to play you can find there with more added regularly, which is why we, as classic gamers ourselves, love them so much. Obsolete Gamer had an exclusive interview with Lukasz Kukawski from Good Old Games where we discussed the origin of GOG.com, his personal gaming background and the infamous re-launch marketing stunt that caused quite a bit of heat.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us in your own words what Good old Games is?

In one sentence Good Old Games, or GOG.com, is a digital distribution platform with cheap and DRM-free classic PC games. But there’s more know about GOG as we’re one of a kind :). First of all game. We’ve got such great classics like Baldur’s Gate series, Fallout, Duke Nukem 3D, Freespace 2, Outcast, Arcanum, Heroes of Might and Magic, Beyond Good & Evil (overall we have 300+ titles) for crazy low prices $5.99 or $9.99, no matter where you live. The second big thing on GOG is the DRM-free feature – this means we don’t have any copy protection in our games – when you buy a game on GOG you can download it anytime you want, as many times as you need, you can burn it on a CD, install on any PC you own and you don’t have to be online to play. What’s even better every game is guaranteed to work on modern operating systems and comes with additional materials like soundtracks, guides, artworks, wallpapers and more.

That’s pretty cool, right? But GOG isn’t just a digital outlet. Our goal is to make it the ultimate destination for all classic games fans, that’s why every game has it’s own forum where you can meet people who share the same passion for old games as you. We publish retrospective articles and interviews with developers which bring you the idea how the game was made and what decisions developers had to make during the development.

But you don’t have to listen to me, just visit GOG.com, create a free account and download one (or all) of four free games to check the GOG experience.

Obsolete Gamer: How did the idea come about and how did it get started?

I suppose the concept of offering old games had long been germinating in the minds of CD Projekt’s management guys, as GOG.com is part of the CD Projekt group of companies that also includes CD Projekt RED development studio who created the acclaimed RPG The Witcher. CD Projekt started their business as retail distributor of games in Poland in mid-90’s. One of the biggest successes in pirated-driven Polish gaming market was introducing to the Polish gamers a budget series of classic PC games called “extra classics”. Sometime around 2007 they have started to think about offering the old and beloved games with full compatibility on modern operating systems to a worldwide audience and the best way to reach such audience is via internet. A quick research showed that most of classic PC games are no longer available to buy legally, often are very expensive at on-line auctions and there are lots of issues with running them on modern machines with latest operating systems installed. That’s how the idea of GOG.com came to life.

The next couple of months were strictly dedicated to analyzing the digital distribution market, expanding the concept of the service and preparing the design and programming side of the project. At first the team was consisted of a very small group of designers and a programmer, but it quickly developed into 20 staffers including more programmers :), business development people, a band of support guys/testers and marketing folks. With Interplay and Codemasters as the first publishers getting on board, the service has been announced on July 2008 and started operating in September first in closed beta and then in October in an open beta for everyone. Since then we’ve managed to sign more than 40 partners (publishers and developers) and offer more than 300 classic PC games.

Obsolete Gamer: What made you want to focus on Classic games?

There are already services that offer digital distribution of new games, so the idea was to find a niche and develop it. As CD Projekt already had experience in bringing back classic PC games to gamers on the Polish market it was a good idea to expand this successful concept to a wider audience. Gaming industry is the only one in the entertainment business that isn’t actively preserving it’s heritage from fading into the black. You can always see new, remastered versions of old classic movies or music albums, but games are stuck somewhere in publishers’ magazines and getting covered with dust. Our research showed us that gamers are really interested in reviving the classics they used to play back in the days or the games they heard of, but  were too young to play them. GOG.com’s big success confirms that there’s a demand for those games and we’re happy to bring them back for old and new generations of gamers.


Obsolete Gamer: Were you worried it would be hard to get people to purchase older games even if they are DRM free?

GOG wouldn’t be such a success venture if we would just license the content and distribute it in an industrial store-front way. Without any added value for the end user we would probably end up as a service with old games that you can actually download for free on abandon-ware sites. But that’s not how we do business 🙂

Our approach to reviving the classics is way different. We are gamers ourselves and we have passion for titles we offer on GOG, that’s why we want to give our customers as much added value as possible. That’s why you won’t see any DRM in our games, that’s why we test all titles from the beginning to the very end so we’re sure they work on modern operating systems, that’s why we’re searching the whole internet and our own gaming archives to get all the best additional materials for games on the offer. Our commitment to revive the classic brands for gamers is rewarded by our users respecting our business model and supporting the idea behind GOG.

Obsolete Gamer: How many games has GOG sold and how many members do you currently have?

Unfortunately, these are all confidential information and I can’t share that with you. I can say that GOG is a huge business success for CD Projekt – after 2 years of operation our service is one of the top players in digital distribution of games and we’re just getting started so expect even more from us in the upcoming months and years.

Obsolete Gamer: How do you choose which games you will offer and how hard is it to get the licenses to sell them?

There are no strict rules which games should be made available via GOG.com. Of course we won’t be releasing new games (yes, The Witcher 2 is a one-time exception, as it’s a game made by our sister company ad we just couldn’t resist to promote this great game on GOG), we try not to cross the “at least 3 years old” line. As for “is that game good enough to appear on GOG?” it’s a difficult thing, as there are as many opinions on a game as many people that played it. Basically that’s very subjective and one can agree that game X is a true classic while other will say it doesn’t deserve to be called a classic. What we do is try to offer not only the games that were acclaimed by press and gamers, but also games that went under the radar of journalists and mass audience, because of different reasons like bad marketing or bad release date, but are still considered as cult games. You’ll find different games in the catalogue, so everyone can find something for themselves.

As for getting licenses for games, it’s different for every game. The whole process is a time consuming work as we need to find the rights holders of the games and this could be tricky as some of the IPs are either shattered among couple companies or have been sold to other company, etc. So finding the people who own a game is half of the success. Then we have to convince the owners of an IP that it’s worth reviving it and selling via GOG without DRM. The DRM-free feature isn’t actually helping out in negotiations as still most of publishers are afraid that this will imply the game being pirated all over the internet, while we believe that it’s exactly the opposite – offering a hassle free experience and a good value for money will convince gamers that it’s worth spending their hard earned money on original copy of a game rather than pirating it. If that works for the publisher we’re pretty much good to go, if the legal department is ok with that of course and this could take some time ;).


Obsolete Gamer: What features does GOG offer that sets you apart?

As I mentioned before GOG is not an ordinary digital distribution service, we do things differently. First we’re solely focused on classic PC games, so if you’re looking for a good selection of acclaimed titles from the past GOG’s your place to go. Then we have no DRM in our games, which makes the whole experience with GOG games totally hassle free – you don’t need to worry about any kind of activations, limited number of installations or being on-line while playing games. On GOG when you buy the game it’s practically yours – you can install it on all your computers or even back it up on a CD or external HDD. We’ve got one, fair pricing for everyone worldwide, so it doesn’t matter if you live in the US or on Ivory Coast, you’ll always pay $5.99 USD for Fallout or Duke Nukem 3D. Last but not least, every game on GOG comes with some cool additional materials like artworks, soundtracks, wallpapers and more, and every title has been remastered and tested to run on Windows XP, Vista and 7, so you get the best value for your money.

Obsolete Gamer: How important is it to the people at GOG to spread the word of classic games?

As I said before, we are gamers ourselves and in most cases, we played those games back when they were released, so we keep a special place in our hearts for those titles. Our goal from the very beginning was to bring those great games back to gamers, both the older ones who already played them and the new generation of gamers who never had a chance to get their hands on those.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about the member interaction on your site including GOGmixes?

GOGmixes were designed for gamers not familiar with the GOG offer in mind. They allow more experienced gamers create a list of games around a theme they like, for example, games that feature big robots, or games you can beat in two days, etc. This way those users who don’t know many games from the catalogue can browse through GOGmixes and find e.g. “genre defining games” or “games with unique atmosphere”. With the ever growing catalogue of games at GOG such tools will be more and more useful for our users as browsing through 400 or more products might get “difficult” ;).

Obsolete Gamer: What games do you hope to offer on GOG.com in the near future?

All the best you and other gamers can think of :). Seriously, we’re discussing with every publisher, developer, rights owner who have back catalogue games about getting them on GOG. With Atari-Hasbro games the whole process took more than 2 years, so as you can see some things just require time.


Obsolete Gamer: The re-launch marketing stunt that made people believe you were shutting down, what was the thinking behind and execution of that plan?

Because of replacing the old, beta version of the service with the new one we had to take down the site. So if we had to do it we thought we’ll make it in a different, more creative way. In our opinion, the gaming industry is getting a bit stiff and too serious and we wanted to show people we’re not like that. Unfortunately, there were some assumptions we made which were wrong and we made some of our users mad.

But GOG’s closedown also raised the question about DRM systems in general. It basically means that if a DD service selling games with DRM shuts down for different reasons, be it financial problems or issues with servers, every user is cut off the games he paid for. I’m sure every company that has a digital distribution platform is making everything not to allow such situation to happen, but if something goes wrong all opponents of DRM, including us, will add another reason not to use those systems to the list.

Obsolete Gamer: Do you think the reaction was too harsh?

There were different reactions for the “PR stunt” – some users felt deceived, some laughed and some were angry they can’t download their games. And all those reactions were understandable and show us how or users are engaged with the service we’re providing them. We’ve apologized everyone who felt deceived by the fact we didn’t inform them about the closure beforehand and we didn’t provide an option to download the games they bought.

Putting aside the inconvenience of not being able of downloading games for 4 days, the closedown pushed the word about GOG out to the world and we saw many comments on different sites where people admit that “thanks” to this they have heard about GOG for the first time.

Obsolete Gamer: What would you do differently if you had the chance?

Our biggest mistake in taking this action was a false assumption we made. On GOG.com when you buy a game, you download the installer and you can back it up somewhere as the service is DRM-free. You don’t need the service itself to play your games. We believed that most GOG users keep their installers somewhere on their local disks, etc. Of course, we give everyone the access to re-downloading their games anytime they need, but we felt like it was an additional feature, a backup option if they lose the files.

Unfortunately, as I said, our assumption was wrong. Gamers are probably used to digital distribution services like Steam where you have to have constant access to the service to play your games. If we would have a chance to do something differently, we would find a way to give our users access to download their games.


Obsolete Gamer: The site is all-new can you tell us about the changes?

GOG.com is full of new or redesigned features on which we have spent quite some time – some of them are visible when you enter the site, but some were done on the backend so you won’t see them but you can feel the difference. Our dev team has rewritten 98% of the code so the site runs faster and can handle more users. As for other changes, let’s name a few:

– GOGmixes, which allow you to share your tastes and passion for games with other users by creating theme based list of games;

– new product pages (“what’s cool about it” description of each game, which in short three lines sums up each title – this comes straight from our super knowledgeable QA team – these guys spent hundreds of hours with every single game at GOG.com and they know what they are talking about);

– the super -simple sign-up process (just 3 fields to fill out), which enables new users to register in just a few seconds and get access to the free games we have up on GOG.com to start with.

The above is just a short selection – there’s a full list of what is new and redesigned at http://www.gog.com/en/overview/

Obsolete Gamer: Was there anything you were not able to add or wish to add in the near future?

There are still things we can add to the service and our dev team is actually working on now, so expect another big update in 2011, but I won’t spoil the surprise as to what you can expect 😉

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about your own gaming background?

I’m a gamer from the late 80’s. My first computer was Spectrum and I actually learned English on it 🙂 Then I had a Commodore 64 with a floppy disc so the games were loading lightning fast ;). After Commodore I had Amiga 600 to which I have a huge fondness – I fell in love in point and click adventures on that system. After Amiga I started to play on PC (486, then Pentium, then 3D accelerators, etc.) and that’s how my story goes. Right now I don’t have a gaming PC, so for new games I use my PS3, but I love to play some GOGs on my laptop and some Amiga classics on the Amiga 500 system we have in the office.

Obsolete Gamer: What is your favorite classic video game and why?

That’s a very hard question and I don’t think I’ll manage to give you a clear answer for that 🙂 As I told you, I’m a huge point and click games fan, so for my favorite games I would probably go with the likes of Sam & Max Hit the Road, Day of Tentacle, Indiana Jones series, Space Quest series, Larry series – mainly because the stories in those games are awesome and funny plus I love those puzzles. As for new games, I loved Red Dead Redemption, Uncharted and Assasin’s Creed, plus I like to play some Fifa and Buzz! with my friends.

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J.A. Laraque

J.A. Laraque is a freelance writer and novelist. His passion for writing mixed with a comedic style and intelligent commentary has brought him success in his various endeavors. Whatever the subject, J.A. has an opinion on it and will present it in writing with an insight and flair that is both refreshing and informative.