GOG.com

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GOG Sp. z o.o.
Gog-logo-2014.svg
Screenshot
GOG.com website screenshot.png
GOG.com homepage as seen on 15 December 2014
Type of businessSubsidiary
Type of site
Digital distribution
Available inEnglish, German, French, Russian, Brazilian Portuguese, Simplified Chinese, Polish
Founded22 February 2008; 10 years ago (2008-02-22)[1]
HeadquartersWarsaw, Poland
Area servedWorldwide
OwnerCD Projekt
Managing directorPiotr Karwowski
Websitewww.gog.com
Alexa rankPositive decrease 1,534 (July 2018)[2]
AdvertisingNo
RegistrationRequired
Launched1 August 2008; 10 years ago (2008-08-01)[1]
Current statusActive
Native client(s) onMicrosoft Windows, macOS
Written inPHP, C++
Logo from 2008 to 2014

GOG.com (formerly Good Old Games) is a digital distribution platform for video games and films. It is operated by GOG Sp. z o.o., a wholly owned subsidiary of CD Projekt based in Warsaw, Poland.[3][4] GOG.com delivers DRM-free video games through its digital platform for Microsoft Windows, OS X and Linux. In March 2012, it began selling more recent titles such as Alan Wake, Assassin's Creed and the Metro Redux series, among many others.[5][6]

History[edit]

Launch of Good Old Games[edit]

Poland, where CD Projekt and Good Old Games were founded, had previously been under Communist rule but in 1990, the old government had fallen in favor of a more democratic government which spurred economic growth. While under Communism, copyright laws in Poland were virtually non-existent and unenforceable, and copyright infringement, in the form of piracy by stripping out any digital rights management (DRM), was rampant across electronic media. The consumer perception of copyright in Poland remained the same after the change of government, making it difficult for legitimate sales of electronic media; pirated and bootlegged versions were sold in open markets next to boxed copies of the legitimate productions for a fraction of the cost.[7]

CD Projekt was founded by Marcin Iwiński and Michał Kiciński in 1994 for the purposes to trying to bring legitimate sales of foreign game titles into Poland, knowing they would have no easy way to compete against pirated copies. They would obtain import rights from foreign publishers, and where possible, provide in-game localization for text and voice lines, typically through reverse engineering to decompile the game's code. They would then package the game with localized instruction manuals and other physical goodies, hoping that the added features would draw buyers away from pirated copies.[8][9] Their first major success was with Baldur's Gate (1998) which with they had 18,000 units sold on its first day of release in Poland.[9] Due to this success, Interplay, the publisher of Baldur's Gate, asked CD Projekt if they could do a similar treatment to Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance, a console title released in 2001. As their past work had been strictly on personal computers, the company accepted to try to port it, but the project fell through before it was completed. However, as a result, CD Projekt realized they had the ability to make their own games, and moved into games development. This eventually proved fruitful, as it ultimately landed the company with rights to The Witcher video game series. The company's interest in game distribution has declined since then.[9]

Digital distribution grew in the 2000s, along with the use of DRM to control access to games, which raised some resentment with players. CD Projekt saw potential to look back at their distribution days to offer DRM-free versions of classic games through digital distribution, using their past experience in reverse engineering to make the games work on modern platforms and provide a wide array of localization options. In this manner, they would have a reason to draw players to buy their product instead of simply downloading it for free from pirate game websites and services.[8] They founded a new subsidiary, Good Old Games, to serve this purpose in early 2008.[9][10] Their first challenge was to find a publisher that would be willing to work with them; they spoke to several who were generally unaware of CD Projekt; their first big break was from Interplay, who knew of the company's past work, and allowed them to offer their games on the service.[8] After some time, Good Old Games was approached by Ubisoft, who were interested in selling their older titles through the service as well.[8] Once Ubisoft was signed, it became easier for Good Old Games to convince other publishers to allow them to offer older titles on the service.[8]

Marketing stunt and relaunch[edit]

During a period of days from 19 to 22 September 2010, the GOG.com website was disabled, leaving behind messages on the web site and their Twitter accounts that the site had been closed.[11] A spokesman for Good Old Games reiterated that the site was not being shut down, and confirmed news would be forthcoming about changes to the service.[12] A clarification posted on the site on 20 September 2010 said they had to shut down the site temporarily "due to business and technical reasons", with industry journalists believing the shutdown may be related to the nature of DRM-free strategy, based on Twitter messages from the company.[13] On 22 September 2010, GOG.com revealed that this shutdown was a marketing hoax as part of the site coming out of beta.[14][15] The site's management, aware of the reactions to the fake closure, stated: "First of all we'd like to apologize to everyone who felt deceived or harmed in any way by the closedown of GOG.com. As a small company we don't have a huge marketing budget and this is why we could not miss a chance to generate some buzz around an event as big as launching a brand new version of our website and even more important, bringing back Baldur's Gate to life!"[14]

The site returned on 23 September 2010, with an improved storefront and additional benefits, as outlined during a webcast presentation.[16] During the presentation, GOG.com's co-founder Marcin Iwinski and managing director Guillaume Rambourg had dressed as monks to atone for their sins.[17] The relaunch of the site was considered by Rambourg to have been successful, having brought new customers that were previously unaware of GOG.com.[18] As promised after its relaunch, GOG.com was able to offer several Black Isle Studios games such as Baldur's Gate, Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale which have previously been unreleased through any download service due to legal issues about the ownership of Dungeons & Dragons-related games between Atari, Hasbro, and other companies.[19][20]

On 27 March 2012, Good Old Games announced that it was branching out to feature "AAA" and independent titles in addition to older games. The site was rebranded to GOG.com.[21]

OS X and Linux support[edit]

In October 2012, GOG.com was announced to be bringing DRM-free games to OS X. This included the previously Steam exclusive (OS X version) The Witcher and The Witcher 2, both made by CD Projekt Red. GOG.com gathered user feedback in a community wishlist, and one of the most demanded feature requests was support for native Linux games, which gathered close to 15,000 votes before it was marked as "in progress".[22] Originally GOG.com representatives said, that there are technical and operational issues which make it harder than it seems,[23] however it's something they would love to do, and they have been looking at.[24] On 18 March 2014, GOG.com officially announced that they would be adding support for Linux, initially targeting Ubuntu and Linux Mint in the fall of 2014.[25] On 25 July 2014, Linux support was released early, and 50 games were released compatible with the operating system.[26] Several of the launch titles included games that were newly compatible with Linux, while most of the games already supported downloads made for the operating system on other distribution platforms.

Expansion to DRM-free video[edit]

On 27 August 2014 GOG.com announced the launch of the new addition to their service – distribution of DRM-free films.[27] GOG.com offers DRM-free downloading in mp4 format and streaming of video in standard and DRM-free HTML fashion which doesn't bind users to any specific platforms or devices. The movies are made available in Full HD 1080p, 720p and 576p for limited bandwidth or download quotas; however, a few titles do not have the Full HD 1080p format available. GOG.com started with adding 21 documentaries about Internet culture and gaming. They also have plans for adding fiction films and series; according to GOG.com's managing director Guillaume Rambourg, they were in talks with many major studios. While studios' representatives liked the idea, they also were reluctant to let go of their current DRM approach until some other major studio would make the first step. Still GOG.com plan to work on overcoming the initial reluctance and moving DRM-free video forward.[28]

Policies[edit]

On 9 December 2013, GOG.com introduced a money-back guarantee for the first 30 days if a customer faces unresolvable technical problems with a bought game.[29][30] Beginning 2 April 2015, GOG.com began to offer DRM-free downloads to holders of game keys from boxed copies of select games whose DRM validation systems no longer operate;[31] examples are the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series and the Master of Orion series.[32] Over $1,700,000 of retail game purchases had been redeemed through this system by November 2017.[33]

FCK DRM Initiative[edit]

In August 2018, GOG created an anti-DRM program called "FCK DRM".[34] The homepage of the initiative offers links to the websites of Defective by Design, the EFF, Bandcamp, itch.io, Wikisource, Project Gutenberg and other projects that promote free culture.[35]

Approach[edit]

GOG.com works to offer older games as well as new releases to users, with the product lacking any type of digital rights management to give consumers the ability to install the game anywhere and as many times as they want.

Prior to any development work to bring an older game for use on modern computers, legal experts within GOG.com need to track down all ownership rights to games and make sure that all necessary parties agree to their redistribution. This can be difficult for many games of the late 1990s and early 2000s, where very few publishers and developers kept digital records of their legal documentation, and there were large numbers of acquisitions and dissolutions that make tracking down rights difficult and take years to complete. One difficult case was acquiring the rights for the Strategic Simulations "Gold Box" series games, due to the number of acquisitions that Strategic Simulations went through since the 1990s.[8] GOG.com offers users a means to request back-catalog games they would like to see, and the company uses this list to identify games that may require more extensive licensing research. Some of this work has been done in coordination with Nightdive Studios, who were able to find and acquire the rights to System Shock 2, one of the most requested games at GOG.com for years, and have since found and relicensed other older games thought lost to licensing issues.[36]

In order to ensure compatibility with newer versions of operating systems and current PC hardware, games are pre-patched and restored by GOG.com. Whenever possible, GOG.com attempts to acquire the game's original source code, which can prove as difficult as determining the legal rights to games.[8] From this, they can work to make the game compatible with modern and future hardware, directly apply compatibility fixes, and sometimes incorporate well-established community-made patches from a game's fan-community.[37] They also will seek external help with some of the code issues, approaching developers that may have previously worked on the title for assistance. They may also need to reverse engineer the game's code if it is not available.[8] In cases where it is impossible to recode the game, they will instead package the game with open-source emulation or compatibility software, such as ScummVM and DOSBox[38]

For newer titles, particularly for indie games, GOG.com offers the ability to publish their games on the site starting 2013. GOG.com offers indie developers a typical 70/30 split on revenue (with GOG.com taking 30% of the sale), as well as an option for an upfront payment to the developer, with then GOG.com taking 40% of the sales until the upfront payment has been covered, reverting the cost back to 30%. Such games are still distributed DRM-free.[39]

Publishing agreements[edit]

On 26 March 2009, GOG.com announced it had signed a deal with Ubisoft to publish games from their back catalogue; this was the first deal with a major publisher to offer DRM-free downloads. The deal to publish through GOG.com also included games that were not available through any other online distribution channel. On 5 September 2014, GOG.com started to sell Amiga games from Cinemaware's catalogue, starting with Defender of the Crown.[40] This was technically made possible through Cinemaware's own written emulator called "Rocklobster".[41] On 28 October 2014, GOG.com was able to secure another major publisher as a DRM-free partner, Disney Interactive / LucasArts. With this new partnership, GOG.com began to re-release several often-requested game titles from LucasArts,[42][43] starting with six titles (Star Wars: X-Wing, Star Wars: TIE Fighter, Sam & Max Hit the Road, The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic).[44] On 5 May 2015, GOG.com released Pacific General and Fantasy General and named itself, GOG Ltd, as the publisher.[45] The company revealed that it had acquired the copyright to these titles and that it intends to acquire more in the future.[46] On 26 August 2015, Bethesda Softworks joined GOG.com with classical titles as id Software's Doom and Quake, Fallout (which had been sold on GOG by Interplay before the rights changed hands), and also some classic Elder Scrolls titles.[47] GOG.com has more than 2,000 DRM-free games in its catalogue and new ones are added several times a week.[48]

Features[edit]

The offered digital goods (video games and movies) can be purchased and downloaded online and they are distributed without digital rights management.[49] The prices of products typically range from about $5 to $10 for older games, along with special offers in sales held several times a week. Some newer titles have a higher price. GOG.com's digital products can also be given to other persons via redeemable gift certificates.[50]

The user does not have to install special client software to download or run the games,[51] although a download manager, which is due to be phased out,[52] and the GOG Galaxy client, which is currently in beta, are available. After downloading, the customer is free to use the software for any personal use like installing on multiple devices,[53] archiving on any personal storage media for unlimited time, modding and patching; with the restriction that reselling and sharing is not permitted.[54] The software installers are technically independent of the customer's GOG.com account, although still subject to GOG.com's EULA, where a "licensed, not sold" formulation is used.[54] The "licensed, not sold" model frequently raises questions of ownership of digital goods.[55] In the European Union, the European Court of Justice held that a copyright holder cannot oppose the resale of a digitally sold software, in accordance with the rule of copyright exhaustion on first sale as ownership is transferred, and questions therefore the "licensed, not sold" EULA.[56][57][58][59][60][61]

Along with the games, customers are also able to download numerous extra materials relating to the game they purchased. Often these extras include the game's soundtrack (partly as FLAC[62]), wallpapers, avatars, and manuals. GOG.com also offers full customer support for all purchases and a money-back guarantee for the first 30 days.[29]

Promotions are organized regularly. The style of these promotions varies from a discount for products that are bought in bundles, to thematic competitions like riddles, "guess a game from a picture" contests or "best time on a specific level". Also, GOG.com gives away promotion codes for a game with review contests.

GOG Galaxy[edit]

In the CD Projekt Red company update in June 2014, GOG.com announced that it would be bringing a Steam-like client, GOG Galaxy, to Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms. The client is designed as a storefront, software delivery, and social network client, allowing players to buy and play games from GOG.com and share them with friends. Galaxy is also going to include an original multiplayer API, allowing developers to include the same kind of multiplayer functionality in GOG.com versions of games as on Steam. The client is optional and will retain the DRM-free objective of the GOG.com website.[63] On 15 October 2014 the open multiplayer beta of the GOG Galaxy client was started, accompanied by the giveaway of Alien vs Predator.[64] In July 2015 the GOG Galaxy beta client was reviewed favorably by the PC Gamer magazine, especially noting the focus on user respect in comparison to Steam.[65] On 22 March 2017, the client added in cloud saves for 29 games from its catalog.[66] GOG Galaxy is currently available for Microsoft Windows and macOS, and a Linux version is planned.[67]

GOG Connect[edit]

Revealed in June 2016, GOG Connect enables users with both GOG.com and Steam accounts to claim certain games they already own on Steam as part of their GOG.com library, allowing them to download the DRM-free version and other bonus items for that game offered by GOG.com. Not all such games are part of this offer, as it requires GOG.com to work with the game publishers to enable this. Further, the time to claim such games will be limited, though once a user has claimed their game on GOG.com, it otherwise remains in their library indefinitely.[68]

Market share[edit]

As GOG.com does not typically release absolute game selling numbers, market share considerations of GOG.com among the digital distributors are a challenge. But, sometimes an individual game developer releases their internal statistics about the selling performance on different game distribution channels for their specific game.

In an article dated 11 November 2011, PC Gamer reported statistics for online sales of The Witcher 2.[69] According to PC Gamer, Direct2Drive, Impulse and Gamersgate's combined sales were a total of 10,000 (4%),[69] GOG.com sold 40,000 copies (16%),[69] while Steam sold in the same time period 200,000 copies (80%).[69]

On 20 February 2013, Defender's Quest developer Lars Doucet revealed the first three months of revenue following his game's release across 6 different digital distribution platforms, including 4 major digital game distributors and 2 methods of purchasing and downloading the game directly from the developer. The results showed that GOG.com generated 8.5% of the revenue – second only to Steam's 58.6% among the digital distribution platforms used. Doucet noted that "for the major [digital game distributors], GOG's star is clearly rising. Even under direct competition, GOG generated 14.5 percent as much revenue as Steam. [...] Steam enjoys a captive market of ardent loyalists, but GOG is swiftly becoming an attractive alternative and gaining loyalists of its own, especially in the anti-DRM crowd."[70]

As of 9 June 2015, GOG.com had seen 690,000 units[71] of CD Projekt Red's game The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt redeemed through the service, more than the second largest digital seller Steam (approx. 580,000 units[72]) and all other PC digital distribution services combined.[73]

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External links[edit]