GOG’s Two Cents On Retro Mania, DRM’s Demise

It was a dark and stormy evening when I recently spoke with GOG‘s Trevor Longino. We met in a Japanese hotel in San Francisco, him proudly carrying some manner of whooping cough from Poland, and me trying to keep pace with this year’s Canadian model (it’s a long story). It was, in other words, quite a momentous meeting of virus cultures – not to mention fever-addled minds. But really, this does seem to be quite a pivotal moment for the storefront formerly known as Good Old Games. The industry’s slowly but surely conforming to its philosophies, with numerous indie games embracing nostalgia wholeheartedly and DRM’s grip loosening on even the likes of big, bad Ubisoft. So where exactly does that leave GOG? Longino and I tackled that topic and many more – including Steam Greenlight and GOG’s apparent flip-flop on steep discounts being bad for the industry.

Trevor Longino wants his product’s main selling point to dry up. He’s probably a crazy person, but he might also just really like videogames.

“It’s great to see companies like Ubisoft rein in their DRM policies,” he begins excitedly, completely unprompted. “When ‘DRM-free’ as a sales point for GOG isn’t special anymore, it’ll actually be really awesome. It’ll make my job harder, but it would be really awesome to just have gamers assume, ‘If I have this game, I own it.'”

Currently, “DRM-free” is a cornerstone of GOG’s identity – especially with the recent move away from peddling retro games exclusively – but that willingness to roll with the punches characterizes GOG’s entire operation. The service may have been founded on old-school values, but that doesn’t mean it’s stuck in the past. That said, when its main interests collide with major industry trends, well, Longino certainly can’t complain.

“[The recent resurgence in retro-style games] does work out well for us,” he says with a laugh. “Not just Kickstarter, but also people who are self-funding their indie projects. It’s a very cool time to be selling games like we do and to have the audience we do.”

“Indie games are important to us. Back when a lot of the classics we have were being made, you could argue they were all pretty much of the size and scope indie games are now. They were hundred-thousand or quarter million dollar investments. That sounds like a lot, but you look at something like Skyrim – which probably cost $60 million – and it’s much more modest. So seeing people who are able to take those risks on game development because it’s less of an investment is definitely exciting for us. Some of the best games ever made were risky gambles. Things like Thief and System Shock. And if you look at the things we’re bringing onto GOG, they all have something unique about them. We’re not really interested in World War II Shooter 6.”

That careful selection process, too, gives GOG a stronger feeling of direction and consistency than many other services, but obviously, it’s an ever-evolving process. Longino goes onto explain that there are two sides to it: formal and informal. The business folks and the audience – or at least, a sample of the audience. A core team of testers, Longino notes, leverage decades of gaming experience and pull no punches in their feedback. “You know, right away, they say, ‘I played this game, and it was garbage. I played this game, and it was awesome.’ And the ones they really like, we definitely have more interest in. I mean, on Legend of Grimrock, they were like, ‘This is amazing. Sign away whatever organs you have to. Just get it.'”

It is, however, still a far more directed process than, say, Steam Greenlight or other similarly crowd-dependent processes, which Longino admits definitely have their  flaws.

“Greenlight falls to that problem of which games are best marketed by developers and sound most appealing to the mainstream voters – such as they are – who shop there. But, as a result, people miss the chance to play gems.”

“There’s a great quote by the CEO of Porsche who says, ‘If we listen to our customers, all of our Porsches will have a little more legroom, a little more head room, a little more trunk room, a little slower acceleration. Essentially, our customers all want BMWs. But they buy Porsche because we give them what they really want. When you ask them, they want something else.’ Minecraft, I’m sure if you described it to someone… ‘Oh, you punch things and then you use the things you punch to build things. You build stuff!’ ‘But where’s the game?’ ‘That is the game.’ I bet, hearing that, people would’ve been like, ‘Well that sounds boring.’ But then you play it and get six million customers.”

Striking a balance between keeping an ear to the ground and your head above misguided chatter, then, is key, according to Longino. GOG, he says, walks a fine line between level-headed business and rabid fandom, and it’s definitely no walk in the park. Ultimately, though, it’s about sticking to a core set of unflinching principles.

Except, well, when it isn’t. Or at least, when it certainly seems that way. Earlier this year, managing director Guillaume Rambourg and Longino both contended that ultra-steep sales (ala Steam’s seasonals) were hurting the industry by devaluing games and producing a fire-sale-only mentality. Flash forward just a few months, though, and GOG’s slashing price tags by 50 and 60 percent. So what, exactly, provoked such a rapid about-face?

“I’d say we still kind of agree that this isn’t good for the industry,” Longino replies, resolute. “But also, our users made it very clear that they’d rather have the choice. And at GOG, we want to give them that choice. So we got a lot of feedback, and we said, ‘OK, but this still reaches a point where people don’t buy games unless they’re on steep discount.'”

“That’s not good for the industry. But users want the option because they never would’ve bought it otherwise. So our stance was, ‘If you’re buying a game you wouldn’t have bought otherwise unless it was 80 percent off, what are the odds you’re going to play it?’ And our users said, ‘We don’t care. Sometimes we like to collect games, or maybe we’ll play them later. That’s not your concern. Just let us buy the games we want.'”

Which naturally casts some doubt on GOG’s other equally principled stances (for instance, DRM-free and careful game selection), but maybe that’s just part of changing with the times. Because the ways people buy and pre-purchase and even fund games are evolving rapidly, and it’d be utterly foolish to root yourself in one place and ignore that. For now, though, Longino promises that good things are on the horizon. Notably, he claims that GOG’s a few pen strokes away from signing the formidable back catalog of either Microsoft, Take-Two, or LucasArts, which would give its stable of classics quite the injection of fresh blood. There are also more “unique” sales – ala the recent pay-what-you-want Interplay bundle – on the way, with one that Longino “doesn’t think anyone else has tried before” en route to November. And beyond that? Well, Longino can’t delve into specifics, but apparently, some pretty important doors are starting to open.

“We’ve learned that ‘No’ usually means ‘Not yet.’ Maybe people don’t want to be part of your crazy experiment. Some guys still aren’t sold on DRM-free, some don’t want to go through all the trouble. And some don’t even know who owns their IPs. That’s particularly embarrassing. But once you’ve proven it can make money, they might be willing to come back and talk about it more.”


  1. InternetBatman says:

    Their attitude toward sales is a little hypocritical when the offered Fallout for free; that’s an amazing retro game at the lowest possible sale price. I get that they say they’re evolving, but that’s a pretty rapid shift.

    Also, Greenlight has its problems, but his analysis of it seems pretty wrong. A lot of the games released (like McPixel) are not mass appeal games, but rather were successful at driving their niche towards greenlight. Steam’s role in the market is very different from GoG’s, so it needs a different process to suit its requirements, but they have been equally vigorous at pursuing quality titles that aren’t on Steam like Minecraft, or Jeff Vogel’s games.

    • Prime says:

      But is giving something away – a ‘gift’ – a sale of that product in any way? I’d say not, meaning there’s been no hypocrisy.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      That very much depends on what their books say; if they costed each copy as $9.99 value given for marketing then they didn’t devalue it – but we will never ever get to see their books!

    • wccrawford says:

      And they’re completely misrepresenting Greenlight anyhow. It’s not a replacement for the existing approval system. Steam has everything that GoG has for approval (i.e. manual approval), PLUS Greenlight. You can still get on Steam without submitting to the Greenlight process. It’s optional and designed to catch some games that were falling through the cracks.

      It’s the answer to a problem, not a solution designed to replace everything else.

      • RobF says:

        It absolutely is a replacement for the old process.

        • Brun says:

          My understanding was that Greenlight replaces the traditional process for new or minor publishers/developers. The big publishing shops who were already pumping multiple AAA titles per year through Steam will maintain the “manual” approval process with Valve and won’t have to go through Greenlight. Having a special elite club for big publishers seems unfair but you have to keep in mind that Valve probably depends on those big titles for the vast majority of its Steam revenue, so excluding them and forcing them through a community greenlighting process made little business sense. What will be interesting to see is that if any new major publisher (of comparable size to Activision or Bethesda, say) that may arise will be extended the same favorable treatment – my guess is yes, they will be, because again it will make business sense for Valve to do so.

        • Parable says:

          No it’s not. It’s for games that Valve may not approve but will later be greenlit because the community interest turns out to be strong. It’s not a replacement because you won’t see CoD Blops on there waiting to be approved.

          • RobF says:

            “2. What do you look for when accepting games for Steam?

            Going forward, we’re putting the choice into the hands of customers through Steam Greenlight. You can find about more about Steam Greenlight here. ”

            Fairly conclusive stuff, guys.

          • pupsikaso says:

            Oh man, if only CoDBLOPS had to go through Steam’s Greenlight… man THAT would send the publishers a message. If they ever cared to even listen…

          • Kaira- says:

            You mean CoDBlops wouldn’t have gotten through Greenlight? Strange universe you live in.

          • Caiman says:

            So then how to Valve decide what has to go through Greenlight and what does not? Clearly CODBLOPS17 isn’t going to go through Greenlight, so where is the cutoff? Do you have to be on the secret list or something?

          • RobF says:

            The line is “if you have an existing relationship with us” which of course all the megapubs do.

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          You’re right, at least partially. I’ve always viewed Greenlight as a way for Valve to deflect attention from their lackadaisical QA process. They rarely playtest the games they approve for sale, and allowing the customer base to have a say in it all means they can simply blame the consumer for glitchy Day One releases — “You approved it and you bought it, therefore it’s not our fault the game isn’t ready. Deal with it.” Greenlight just makes it even easier for Valve to avoid spending more money on testing and customer service.

          I’m not sure if you’re implying that Greenlight is going to be used for major AAA releases, because it certainly never will be.

          • RobF says:

            Big publishers never had to go through the black box approval process in the first place.

            I don’t think Valve have anything to gain from saying “it was the customers that did it, not us” either.

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            “I don’t think Valve have anything to gain from saying “it was the customers that did it, not us” either.”

            Of course they do. By laying the responsibility of game inclusion squarely on the shoulders of the customer base, Valve can continue to spend less time playtesting games and concentrate on other areas. By officially stating “this game was Greenlit, and outside of final approval we have no further association with the quality of the product” (which is inevitably going to happen when customers start complaining about shoddy Day One Greenlight releases), Valve will feel free to ignore ongoing criticism of their QA process. They also cut down on the time it takes to resolve those pesky customer service requests — not many consumers have the time or patience to get beyond the first canned response that Steam sends them.

            I mean, Valve virtually ignore criticism on the topic of QA anyway, but now Greenlight gives them an official excuse.

          • RobF says:

            So, Valve get to put broken games on their store and then get to deny all responsibility and blame the customers for them being there and that’s a win? I’d say that I don’t think you’ve thought this through but I fear you’re thinking about it waaaaaaaaaaay too hard.

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            Obviously Valve are not going to come right out and say broken games are the customer’s fault, but yeah, it’s a win for Valve. It seems like you’re not thinking it through, especially since I made some very clear and concise points. What’s so hard to understand about it?

          • RobF says:

            So they don’t come out and say it but they’ll be thinking it? Customer support people will be informed to brush people off with “the game was chosen by the customer and Valve absolve themselves of all responsibility” except they obviously won’t actually say that, they’ll just hint at it or something? Because it’s now some sort of internal policy and a happy side effect of trying to clear the submissions queue?

            And to what benefit? You get to piss off your customers massively by having the finger point at them, you piss off developers because no-one wants to work with a store that sets up such an antagonistic relationship with its customer base because that’s pretty toxic and you end up in a more shit place than you were before you started all this.

            There is no way it could possibly be a gain for Valve. It’s the stuff disasters are made of.

            Worth noting! When you go to Game/Gamestop/whatever, they don’t playtest the games for release in their stores because that’s the job of the dev/publisher, not the store front. Steam is a store. Ergo…

    • YogSo says:

      InternetBatman, tell me which of these two scenarios I’m going to present to you is stupid, and which one is actually happening:

      a) I got a free game once from a digital provider. They had gifted some other games before, but it was totally unexpected anyway, and I don’t know if they’ll ever decide to give away more games; but since then I’ve stopped buying any game at any price in the hopes that I’ll get the rest of the games for free as well.

      b) I bought a game in a sale for very little. I had heard about these sales beforehand, so I waited for the game to be discounted before I bought it, and the totally predictable sale didn’t disappoint me. Moreover, I’m not buying games full-price anymore. Why would I? Just a bit of waiting, and I can get all of them for ridiculously low prices.

      So, no, gifting a game “now and then” is not educating their customers to wait for crazy sales before getting the games they want to play.

    • Baines says:

      Fallout was an incentive to get more people to try GOG’s service.

      GOG had to offer something of some value to draw attention and fence sitters. Steam could justify its early big sales with similar logic, that the sales brought in new customers, who could then become repeat customers.

      The problem comes with repetition and expectation. You wouldn’t expect GOG to give out a free game every other month, much less a Fallout-quality free game. That would be silly, as it would undermine their whole service as a store. That, however, is arguably what Steam has done, and what Steam has driven its competitors to also do.

      Steam has created an online store environment where customers *expect* all titles to see at least two major sales a year, and even relatively new games can see relatively steep price drops. Other services, to compete, have instituted their own steep sales and more events. And more publishers have joined in with steeper drops, because they see other games doing steep drops and feel they need to do the same to compete.

      The problem is the long term effect, and how hard it is to stop what has started. Now that everyone has joined in, it is hard to rein in the steep sales. If Steam stops, the other services will continue in an attempt to increase their market share. Some publishers may bow out, but others will continue to see the practice as necessary. Presumably, with so many sales and deals expected, more people have become willing to wait for longer periods to get a game on sale than to buy it at full price. Steep sales prices are becoming the norm, not just for old titles, but for newer ones.

      • RobF says:

        It would be a problem if day 1 sales were notably down in any way. This is kinda the exact opposite of what’s happening though so the belief that there’s harm being done is generally just that. It seems to be the opposite of a problem we’re talking about here.

  2. flang says:

    I’m not sure where people are seeing this new DRM-free reality we’re apparently living in. Ubisoft lightened up a little, sure, but the forecast for the future of gaming is still always-online, all games, no exceptions, with EA now leading the charge.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      Only a small percentage of EA’s games require that you be online to play them. The vast majority of those are multiplayer games. It’s a little unfair to be using EA as a prime example for bad DRM practices when practically all of the AAA publishers are using some kind of DRM, online or otherwise, in their products.

      • Alexrd says:

        True. Although I agree when he says that there is no DRM-free “revolution” going in the industry. Steam, EA, Ubisoft and most major publishers still have their online DRM.

      • diamondmx says:

        Blizzard is a better example of this: Starcraft 2 (pretty much) always-online, and Diablo 3 (really really) always-online were unnecessary and damaging.

      • Emeraude says:

        That’s the thing with Ubisoft though: they went so far on the DRM front that backpedaling to what used to be unacceptable (online registration) is now considered mellowing… I like to say that they took one for the team: now people say “well, at least it’s not always online” as, by itself, if it justified the use of other intrusive DRM.

        On GoG’s DRM free front,comment from a friend that kept me thinking: he recently bought a boxed copy of The Witcher 2, and had to download a 11gig “patch”. As he said to me: “what’s the point of a game being DRM free if I have to download more than half of it online anyway ?”.

        To which I had no pleasant nor easy answer.

        • Droniac says:

          I can see how there wouldn’t be a pleasant or easy answer to that, seeing as it’s your friend’s fault that he completely misunderstood the situation.

          On the DRM-free front… it was always clearly communicated that only the GOG version was DRM-free. All boxed copies of The Witcher 2 have DRM courtesy of Atari / Namco-Bandai. So effectively, his point is moot. Although it has to be said CD Projekt RED are saints and removed the DRM from all versions of the game shortly after launch with a patch.

          Secondly, the specific patch that he’s complaining about is the enhanced edition update. A collection of a year of additional content and polish that CD Projekt RED put into the game after it was released. Not some launch-day mishap or content they held back as some sneaky form of DRM. This update was only released in April of this year!

          I wonder why your friend didn’t buy the Enhanced Edition version if he bought the game recently? Clearly if you buy the normal version despite the Enhanced Edition version being perfectly on sale in the exact same stores, well you will have to download those enhancements on your own now wont you? This whole thing is entirely his own fault, not the game’s or the developer’s, and it’s certainly no form of DRM.

    • MichaelPalin says:

      Yes, yes, yes, this is not said enough, Ubisoft is now just another Steam, which is still a huge amount of DRM. Before this, you could still have a few surprises like the Spain and UK versions of AssCreedBro being DRM-Free (except the multiplayer), now all their titles will have DRM. At least they have the newest “classics” on gog.com, which gives some hope.

  3. shamann says:

    I’m thankful for the occasional firesale prices. For me, it isn’t so much that I wouldn’t have bought the game otherwise, rather I couldn’t justify/afford spending full price on all the games I’d like to play. The alternative would be that I’d play far fewer games, but ultimately spend roughly the same sum on them.

    The industry gets paid the same in either scenario, but is it better for the industry if gamers are playing lots of games or fewer?

    RE:GOG, while it might cast doubt on their most deeply held beliefs, like DRM-freedom, I’m at least appreciative of companies willing to admit mistakes and revise their plans accordingly. Within limits, of course.

  4. Pryde says:

    So true about those hyper-sales being baaad. As a fanatical gamer I, personally, try to buy EVERYTHING GOOD THERE IS TO BUY, hoping that my kind of “thanks” would bare me more tastey gamey fruits unlike soulless CoD or something, meaning developers of the game I like will stay afloat and create more. But for a couple of years or so I already feel like an idiot. Buy a game – and not after a year, not after a half of it or something, MONTH later this game often gets 75% or like off. All this concept is really sabotaging normal functioning of the whole market. We are not millionaires, and when you buy something, though you may enjoy it, and see that month later that something is being thrown out as lowball garbage, you get not the best emotions in the world. It has to stop. Start selling games cheap from the start or cut the crap with these neverending sales.

    Point is, all these sales made me *stop* buying games. Because, WTF? I’ll wait for another sale. Because, you know, there are ALWAYS sales. No point in being ripped-off for a normal price. In fact, *normal* price nowadays sounds quite less normal than sale-price.

    • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

      But you do get something out of buying a game when it’s new. As one of the poor, I’d love to be playing Borderlands 2, XCOM, or Dishonored, but instead I get to watch all my friends on Steam play it and frantically dodge spoilers for all three like landmines on RPS and elsewhere.

      Also, I bought Skyrim for $10 a couple weeks back. A boxed copy. From a real store, with walls and whatnot. Steam didn’t exactly invent evil sales that let proles play games.

      • Baines says:

        Yes, but how many people had already learned to wait for Game of the Year editions of games like Borderlands? Titles that looked to have multiple DLC/expansions in the works became expected targets for such eventual bundles. The industry didn’t even need Steam’s sales for that.

    • The Random One says:

      If you feel like a chump for having given an indie dev more money, then you haven’t internalized what you say you are doing.

      Right now I’m looking to buy The Sea Will Claim Everything. If GoG started offering the game at 75% off, I’d still buy it straight from the creators for the full price, because I want to give then $10.

      • Pryde says:

        Reasonable. But this “cheap-out” still saddens me. It feels off or something.

  5. Mr Bismarck says:

    With GOG doing new games now can we start calling it GONG?

    • Eddy9000 says:

      They should call it Good Old Unused Rereleased And New GAmes, so we can shout it and be happy.
      Om rama rama.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        I’m going to start up a new round of DRM-free, GOG-purchased Arcanum and name my character GOURANG.

    • Post-Internet Syndrome says:

      It should be called GG, naturally.

      • Vinraith says:

        That’s the standard abbreviation for Gamersgate, though, which would be confusing.

    • benkc says:

      That’s actually why they changed their name from “Good old games” to just “GOG”.

  6. Crosmando says:

    Well, for every 60$ Triple-A video game, I doubt the developers see even $10 of that, the rest being gobbled up by the publishers/retailers, so indie games themselves have an inherent advantage of being able to price themselves very cheap. In addition the proliferation of the term “indie” on the internet has meant many PC gamers are more understanding to (or at least accepting) the fact that indie games will have less high-resolution graphics and audio due to lower budgets and a small staff.

    The trade-off being indie games being more creative and unique than Triple-A games, not having a mainstream publisher behind their backs of the developer with a cheque-book and a pistol telling them to include this or cut that, or make the interface bigger so it works on tablets, or remove that inventory system because it doesn’t gel with gamepad control (cough X-COM).

    • Orija says:

      Don’t really think devs get revenue out of sales. They get salaries and capital to work on and then some royalties if they’re lucky.

      • Crosmando says:

        Right. I should have been more clear. But if a developer is good enough, they demand/get royalties from sales, as many have done.

  7. Hicks233 says:

    If EA drops it’s ridiculous drm then that would leave the main company pushing drm as Valve. Then again people will still blindly fawn over them. : /

    Best of luck gog!

    I’d second the use of the “GONG” name also :D

  8. Arathok says:

    I have to disagree. Please be informed that not only mainstream voters are on steam. when i see a new game i try look in to it if there are other sources for it (like towns) if they are only on steam-greenlight I am more of demotivated to vote for them. and also, new games don’t HAVE to promote on Greenlight ;)

  9. Matt_W says:

    Discount sales are the exact equivalent of supermarket branding at the grocery store. (Do they do that in the U.K.?) Specifically, supermarket brand items are deliberately packaged in drab, bland, or even unappetizing packaging so as to subtly divert away value-indifferent consumers to more expensive brands whilst still capturing the purchases of price conscious ones. Sometimes supermarket brands are exactly the same product as the more expensive choice, shipped from the same factory, just with different packaging. The idea is to avoid whole-market pricing and let individual consumers decide what they’re willing to pay, even in a fixed-price environment. And it works! People who don’t care about value purchase the more expensive brand, even when it’s sitting right next to the exact same item in blander packaging.

    Similarly, some consumers are still going to buy games on day one and pay full price, even if they know it will be discounted later. This actually should, in theory, lead to higher revenues for developers than if they had one fixed price.

    I suspect lower game prices are driven more by another phenomenon: there are simply more quality games released now than anyone can possibly play, which means that simple supply and demand come into play. When I have several high-quality and desirable options available, and (very) limited time to spend playing, price definitely becomes a factor in my purchasing decision. (I wonder if there is some internal tension at game developers between marketers, who want to trumpet a game’s ‘length’ and/or staying power as a way to sell the game, and executives, who see a short game as providing an opportunity to ‘churn’ gamers and generate an additional sale. A compromise would be a game that has lots of content, and which gamers initially like, but get bored with quickly. Perhaps that explains much…)

    • Sorth_31 says:

      “Discount sales are the exact equivalent of supermarket branding at the grocery store. (Do they do that in the U.K.?) Specifically, supermarket brand items are deliberately packaged in drab, bland, or even unappetizing packaging so as to subtly divert away value-indifferent consumers to more expensive brands whilst still capturing the purchases of price conscious ones.”

      Pretty much yes, this does happen. Virtually all “own brand” things I’ve seen are either in plain white or virtually monochrome packaging with basic fonts as the lettering. It’s a common theme throughout advertising actually, though it CAN backfire heavily on those that rely on flashy advertising that were intended to not be in direct competition. In a world where everything is advertised with explosions of colour the monochrome stands out all the more. So pretty much as you said, the price aware can tend to pick these things out in seconds. Personally I always look for own brand stuff because, frankly, 90% of the time I’m convinced it comes out of the same factory as anyone else’s and just gets put into more drab packages.

      “Similarly, some consumers are still going to buy games on day one and pay full price, even if they know it will be discounted later. This actually should, in theory, lead to higher revenues for developers than if they had one fixed price.”

      Debateable. Wish I had more to say about this paragraph but I don’t think anything solid has ever really been categorically found out about this. Much like in advertising and the returns from it there are a lot of nebulous numbers and suppositions.

      “I suspect lower game prices are driven more by another phenomenon: there are simply more quality games released now than anyone can possibly play, which means that simple supply and demand come into play.”

      Had to pull this out. No. There aren’t. There are a lot more high budget games for sure. But in general variety has dropped off, and even if you count the indie scene where many consider the variety may still be, there is a brevity in general in the games that I might consider good* that makes one (well it may just be me) wish for games more like those of the previous generations.

      Now variety might not equal quality to some, but when the “quality” equals three or four identical games, many of them sequels and sometimes sequels of themselves that doesn’t equal high quality to me, just high budget. There aren’t really any more high quality distinct games to be had than in any year, and frankly there probably aren’t any less. It’s just that finding the things you like has changed and often may involve delving into areas, like indie gaming, that many never have before.

      “When I have several high-quality and desirable options available, and (very) limited time to spend playing, price definitely becomes a factor in my purchasing decision. (I wonder if there is some internal tension at game developers between marketers, who want to trumpet a game’s ‘length’ and/or staying power as a way to sell the game, and executives, who see a short game as providing an opportunity to ‘churn’ gamers and generate an additional sale. A compromise would be a game that has lots of content, and which gamers initially like, but get bored with quickly. Perhaps that explains much…)”

      For point 1, I agree price is a major consideration in such a case and always has been regardless of entertainment media.
      For point/question 2, that would depend on too many things to really note. Some examples would be the maybe outdated RPG tenet to quote “X HUNDRED HOURS OF GAMEPLAY”. In that case more = better for original sales but maybe NOT for audience retention as once you’ve completed an epic game a lot of the time you won’t want to go back for a while just for a short bit of new content. Whereas in an FPS you nearly never hear boasts about length, rather gun variety or new mode types. In a lot of cases I could even see FPS developers decreasing campaign resources and/or length just to add content to the multiplayer since that seems to be the new FPS focus. In which case everything would be based around that, as can be seen with the map pack DLC problem.

      Basically though, different game types have different selling points and so require both different marketing and approaches towards rewarding and/or retaining the gamer. It’s a prickly subject that I don’t think anybody has, or ever will, perfect. After all it’s in the nature of these companies to try and please everyone, and as has been said multiple times that ends up pleasing no-one.

      *I am not a good barometer of “good”. I have in fact been told MANY times I’m a better barometer of “crap”.

  10. lizzardborn says:

    Can’t they be both right – a sale of 50% to be healthy for the industry and the game, and 90% to be a bit too much, starving the studios of revenues and capitals. I don’t want the studios to cut corners and race to the bottom on price only. Also the – I will wait till it is on sale mentality, although not reducing the total amount of money the developer gets and increasing the legs of the project, may mess brutally with the cash flow. If you don’t have full pipeline of projects and funding – the fact that you will get more money down the road does not help a lot when you have to pay salaries now.

    Of course the 50 and 90 are pulled totally out of thin air. And that is the great thing of the times we are living – in the PC scene we are free to evolve, adapt, invent and experiment both on the marketing models and the games. Which is the big advantage compared to consoles. Untill MS totally lock windows and we are left in the sad world where linux/android are the only open operating systems. The prision is also a walled garden.

  11. Suits says:

    GoG and EA rather hypocritcal toward Steam sales

  12. Pathetic Phallacy says:

    There are so many games on my computer that I would NEVER have bought if they had not gone on sale.

    Their speculation is as valid as the industries speculation on lost revenue through piracy.

  13. MentatYP says:

    Grim Fandango on GOG–make it so.

    • Pryde says:

      Why? It’s original developers are long gone minding their own buisness. What good will that addition make?

      • Hicks233 says:

        There are customers willing to buy a product that they would like. Someone will still hold the rights to it and would stand to make a profit on it.

        Are you saying that if the original creators are no longer around that a product shouldn’t be sold? Hope you haven’t got any plans to buy anything written by Ernest Hemingway.

      • Prokroustis says:

        Allow gamers to enjoy that classic on modern systems?

      • Matt_W says:

        You’ve got an errant apostrophe there. Oh, and your entire statement is a non-sequitor from the consumer’s perspective.

  14. fooga44 says:

    DRM is bad so steam has sales to get everyone using their platform at the cost of developers, since DRM reduces the values of games to nothing (i.e. you don’t own your game says game devs/pubs, so gamers say your game = nothing to us we wait for sale). Gabe is playing to win by making games cheap (thereby getting everyone on steam). It’s one of the reasons steam is the #1 Digital distributer and why indies want on it.

  15. fooga44 says:

    The problem with GOG is it’s run by morons who have no clue. DRM Free gaming would be good if you could get all the new releases DRM free. Instead all the new releases (darksiders 2, saints row the third, etc) all got steamed for PC release. If gog can’t convince AAA games to release DRM free then they have to go their own way and fund remakes/sequels to old IP’s buy buying up old IP and making new games DRM-Free and releasing exclusive to their store.

    Otherwise they are just using DRM free as cover for their idiocy and greed.

    • zhivik says:

      Well, this doesn’t really happen overnight. Even Steam wasn’t as popular at the beginning as it is right now. It certainly helps if GOG gains more customers and sales grow, though I suppose they are far from those at Steam. Still, the fact that Ubisoft is offering older AAA titles is encouraging. I see this as a test run, so who knows, one day we may see a new AAA title on GOG (though I suppose The Witcher 2 falls into that category). Unfortunately, this also means that people will have to get used to higher prices than the usual fare on GOG, but I guess this was the very reason to offer newer titles.

    • Damn Skippy says:

      Honestly, I have no idea what you’re trying to say with “they are just using DRM free as cover for their idiocy and greed.” If it was up to them, they would put every AAA game out DRM free, everything on their store is DRM free, and they release their own new game DRM free. Many new indie games are released DRM free on GOG and simultaneously on Steam with that DRM. The Activisions and Ubisofts of the world aren’t ready to do that, but how is that make GOG greedy (maybe idiotic for leaving that money on the table, i guess)? Wouldn’t it be greedier to dismiss the DRM-Free mantra to sell the latest man-shoots to whoever wants it?

      Seriously, I really have no idea what you’re trying to say with your rant, please clarify so i can see where you’re coming from.

      • dglenny says:

        That was a much nicer response than the one I was going to write, so I’ll just piggyback off you.

      • fooga44 says:

        What I’m saying is the mass market is dumb and doesn’t care, all they care about is if you have games they want. If you have a DRM free game nobody wants, it’s still a game nobody wants. If you can’t get new games DRM-free means nothing since IMPORTANT new games are online only (diablo 3 / starcraft 2). With all the whining gog has been doing about sales and the ‘devaluation of games’ they certainly don’t want to win bad enough. If I were in charge of gog I would turn it into a platform ALA steam minus DRM. i.e. you can have friends lists, integrated multiplayer across games but also be decoupled from the mothership (i.e. play your games offline without permission, etc. The thing steam has become is the added value of forums/reviews/matchmaking.

        Gog doesn’t seem to have a fucking clue though that’s what I mean they are run by morons. DRM free is great in principle but most gamers are tech illiterate morons and hence do the lazy/easy thing == steam. For GOG to complain about sales — sales was steams strategy to get people to use steam, they see cheap games they get it on steam. DRM devalues games (as gabe knows) so that means if you want people to buy your DRM/locked down game you have to sell it at a lower price.

        GOG people complaining about sales shows they are idiots who don’t understand the times have changed. Steam has become a platform and the masses don’t care (40 million people using steam is pretty huge success).

        • Humppakummitus says:

          If your message has a point, it’s being obscured by the stupiddumbmoronidiot thing you’ve got going there.

          • fooga44 says:

            I call people on their bullshit. Gog REALLY doesn’t understand how the market has changed, if you are a business and always complaining about your competitors instead of one-upping them you are suffering from serious brain damage.

            The problem GOG has is a reality check, the vast majority of gamers don’t buy games because of principle they buy games because they are addicts/want the game and many of them are illiterate kids and not very intelligent. Steam became successful by lowering barriers to entry and providing community for gamers at their site. GOG after years has no client or seen that the world has moved towards plaforms and ease of use. Steam despite it’s DRM ADDS VALUE the fact that GOG just sits there and complains about sales and steam is a huge problem that they are incapable of moving with the times.

        • zhivik says:

          Ok, I agree that people at GOG are hypocrits on the issue of discounts, after doing the same thing as Steam. Doesn’t that disprove your point on GOG not being smart about how to sell more games, however? I mean, they are doing what you call a smart strategy, even if being hypocritical about it.

          On the other issue, like friend lists, forums, etc. – yes, these features can certainly be improved. However, in order to make this work, you need functionality that essentially copies the one of Steam, with the only difference being that you get an offline mode by default. If GOG is just Steam with an offline mode for every game (and you can actually play games offline that are bought through Steam), why should people buy from them, and not from Steam? What sets apart one from the other?

          As my final point, there is also an issue with the GOG customers, most of them do not want any integration similar to Steam. In fact, some are unhappy even with the GOG downloader (I find it quite convenient myself) and call it a form of DRM. Therefore, the more you try to integrate GOG services, the more people that are currently customers will be put off by it.

          Oh, and one last thing – some games are important to some, and some to others. The whole Diablo franchise was never appealing to me, so I couldn’t care less for the aleays online issues with Diablo III, and the game’s absence from GOG doesn’t bother me at all. Meanwhile, you may not care that GOG offers The Witcher 2, if it is not your thing, but it doesn’t mean that GOG is much worse than Steam for offering one game and not the other.

  16. Archangel says:

    GOG discounts aren’t new; they’ve had 30%, 50% and 60% off specials pretty much since their inception. Tex Murphy 1&2 was free from them in 2009, and several 50% off sales from at least 2010. During Christmas 2011, the entire GOG store was 50% off. I don’t think I’ve purchased a full-price game from them yet, but I have bought something like 60+ games. Their strategy works.

  17. iniudan says:

    Did I read Microsoft back catalog ? Come on Age of Empire 2.

    • zhivik says:

      Yes, I’d really love that – AoE I as well, just for the sake of the time period, even though Age of Kings is where the series really shines. The best thing about it, however, was the easy-to-use yet powerful editor – I wish all strategy games had an editor like that.

  18. Caiman says:

    I have a certain amount of money to spend on games each month. If everything is $60 then I’ll probably buy one new game every 2-3 months. If everything is $6 I’ll probably buy ten new games in that same period. My net expenditure on games is the same, except I’m consuming a lot more games and spreading my gaming dollars around more widely. That’s hardly what I’d call devaluing the industry through sales. The only ones who would object would be those charging $60 for their games, all of which I refuse to buy because I’d like to play more than one game every 2-3 months. But it’s inevitable that you’re see cycling between price extremes for large volume sales like this: the ones that deviate from the mean will benefit, but eventually the mean will shift and you need to adapt with it to attract different consumers.

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