GOG Starts Selling Early Access Games

In his final Premature Evaluation column on Monday, Marsh said of Steam Early Access: “Developers don’t know what they’re selling, customers don’t know what they’re buying, and I often don’t know what I’m reviewing – each week I play two or three games in the hope of finding one which is recognisable, even loosely, as a product against which even the vaguest expectations might be tentatively measured.”

Today, GOG have started selling early access games. They insist they’ll be “carefully evaluating” games before selling them, and will be kind with refunds. But who will we turn to now Marsh has evaluated himself dry?

The starting GOG early access lineup is Stardock’s mega-battle RTS Ashes of the Singularity (Alec gave it a go last year), explorative craft ’em up Starbound (Craig was playing back in ooh 2013), crafty vehicular explore ’em up TerraTech, crafty survive ’em up Project Zomboid (a veteran from before even Steam got in on alphafunding/early access), and explorative survive ’em up The Curious Expedition (Adam played it in 2014). They’re all on sale to celebrate the launch.

“We want all gamers on GOG.com to have access to what these titles have to offer, but we want to get it right…” said a GOG marketingman in a press release. GOG have been planning this for a while.

I do wonder how strict their curation will be. The problem of Steam’s leniency isn’t so much that it sells duffers–though that is unfortunate for folks who buy ’em–but that having a load of them in once place puts many more people off the whole idea of early access. Oh it’s a big prickly mess and I’ll still warn people about paying for something unfinished, but early access has produced some fine games that might not have happened otherwise. GOG’s non-early access selection has plenty of duffers, but I’m maybe glad they’re being a little cautious here.

Anyway! If you do buy an early access game on GOG and dislike it, they’re offering a no-questions-asked 14-day refund period. Their 30-day refund policy for normal games is explicitly for games which don’t work on the buyer’s system, but folks can get a refund on early access for any reason.

I do also like that GOG have a solution to the problem of folks buying an early access game only for future updates to change it into something quite different. If folks are using the optional GOG Galaxy client, they’ll be able to roll games back to any earlier version.

46 Comments

  1. Kefren says:

    My main issue with time-related refunds anywhere is that they assume you buy a game and play it then. The truth is, I have games in my GOG and Steam lists that I bought up to 5 years ago. I will play them eventually. Some of them may not work at all. It would be nice if it was from the time you downloaded the game (which is easily trackable). Game sites want you to buy buy buy – understandably – and reinforce this with regular sales, but don’t want to recognise that it means most gamers won’t even look at a game they’ve bought until a long time later.

    • golochuk says:

      I don’t think you can generalize your problem to “most gamers”.

      • pepperfez says:

        Certainly quite a few of them, though. It’s still hard to put too much of the blame on the storefront.

      • Kefren says:

        Whenever there’s a post about a big sale, the comments seem to fill up with people bemoaning how many unplayed games they have to get through…

        • Butts says:

          Don’t take the fact that a half dozen people agree with each other in a comment thread to mean that something is widespread.

        • Ergates_Antius says:

          It’s not that rare, but it isn’t reasonable to expect a company to build a business model around people who buy something then want a refund 5 years later when they eventually get around to using it.

  2. tomimt says:

    That 14-days no questions asked refund does sound like a good policy.

    • apm says:

      it sounds good sure, but EA games might change for the worst later in development or will never be finished.
      so what happens if a game turns downhill or will be never finished months after you bought it?
      shouldnt you be able to refund it?

      • pepperfez says:

        In terms of changes for the worse, they let you roll back to previous versions. And the general rule of early access is still don’t buy unless you’re happy with the game as-is.

      • Mokinokaro says:

        I’m still annoyed by Starbound (oh look it’s the title pic for this article.) I’ve never seen a good premise completely ruined by poor management.

        Though I’m also annoyed how Konami broke my copy of Ground Zeroes through a patch and I can’t get a refund there either.

        • Chaoslord AJ says:

          Played Starbound ages ago. So it never took off then? Such a shame, I’d wanted a Terraria in space.
          The devs just kept releasing animations and random content and stuff and never managed to nail down the basics. The developers never looked like they know where they were heading except listening to the community.
          Well they don’t know how to make games only to play them. The idea of the game must be there already.

          • Mokinokaro says:

            Yes, the problem is that it’s very apparent the developers of Starbound do not have a proper central design.

            Instead they keep adding new complexity because it “sounds cool” without any thought to how it affects the rest of the game. It’s the only time I’ve seen an early access beta get WORSE as development moved on.

            Some of the highlights of the “progress:”
            -hunger replaced by an optional buff system
            -combat revamp (made enemies far more deadly, healing items rarer and harder to craft)
            -plants need to be manually watered to grow (cannot craft sprinklers, no plans to add them)
            -progression converted to a far more linear system of mandatory quests (including being unable to leave starter planet until you take half an hour or more to dig down to its core for items)
            -recently, hunger reintroduced but farming changes make it an extremely annoying mechanic without any gain

        • LionsPhil says:

          Starbound being on that list pretty much sunk the notion that their curation was worthwhile for me right from the start.

          • Emeraude says:

            I didn’t want to phrase it that harsh, but yeah, there’s something dubious from inception.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        That’s the risk you take tbh, if you don’t like it, the simple alternative is, don’t buy early access. If someone has been playing a game for months they have no right to a refund imo. They got their moneys worth and it’s very entitled to take the attitude of “I don’t like the way this game I played for 20 hours went in the end, money back please”.

  3. NephilimNexus says:

    So GOG wants people to hate their guts for letting crappy, never-to-be-finished shovelware onto their once respected site, too?

    Tell GOG to drug test their marketing director and then fire him.

    • Yachmenev says:

      If people are hating a retailers guts, for selling something that they don’t have to buy, with a “no questions ask” refund policy, that they wouldn’t introduce if there wasn’t a demand for it, then those people have some issues they should deal with it.

      • Frank says:

        Yes. This.

        I don’t want “curation” to block unpopular games from sale, and if that means “shovelware” is also sold, so what? Folks can use their own damn’d eyes to judge a game, or look to their preferred curators for advice.

      • Press X to Gary Busey says:

        Curation is a huge part of a good quality service.

        Just letting in any bum thrash software from the street and you have [Generic App Store #n+1] filled with shovelcrap hobos and the restrooms occupied by scamware junkies.

        Or let your community “curate” and you get a catastrophic failure disaster like Steam Greenlight.

    • Bernardo says:

      I’m guessing the reason for this is that Steam, through Early Access, has taken sales away from GOG, because this way, games come out much earlier on Steam. I’ve, for example, bought Darkest Dungeon in Early Access, having read good things about the state of the game, but would now prefer to own it on GOG.

      The more GOG relies on new games instead the titular “good old” ones, the more it is under pressure to offer a similar service to Steam, and in the same timeframe.

      • Abndn says:

        This would be the case if GOG was meant to be a retailer like Steam rather than a provider of good old games in a working condition. I realize they’ve been expanding and intend to go beyond the intended purpose, but they certainly didn’t have to.

        There’s something a little bit odd about a store called “Good Old Games” selling new, unfinished products.

        • baozi says:

          I think they haven’t called themselves Good Old Games for a while. You won’t find the word “old” on their What is GOG.com? site, anyway.

          As long as GOG keeps the games they’re selling DRM-free (for their single-player games at least) and updated so they run on current systems, I’m happy.

        • Premium User Badge

          DelrueOfDetroit says:

          GOG exists to help fund CD Projekt Red’s game development projects.

        • Kyzrati says:

          Technically they rebranded themselves three years ago–they’re no longer “Good Old Games,” just “GOG.com,” but the change perhaps didn’t go far enough for those who know their origins.

          link to rockpapershotgun.com

  4. Jp1138 says:

    Amazed Project Zomboid is still an early access title :O I bought it ages ago but have had no time to play it for more than some minutes.

    As for GOG selling unfinished games, well, it´s a way to tie you to their store. The lack of support for this kind if games made many people go to steam in case they wanted to support the developer. Now they will have a chance to choose.

    • Unsheep says:

      GOG’s Early Access a good way of encouraging these developers to offer their games DRM-free, as the vast majority of Indie games today are only available on Steam.

      So in this respect, as a tool for encouraging a DRM-free version, having Early Access on GOG is a positive thing. Its why *I* have decided to support it.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Celestial says:

    I will be okie with this as long as GOG.com clearly delineates Early Access games from the rest of their catalogue. That’s my main problem with Steam. It’s impossible to tell from the store listings which games are Early Access and which are actual full releases.

    • Sian says:

      I’ve good news and bad news for you.

      Bad: In the main store window, the big tiles they use to push games doesn’t clearly say they’re in development, though the percentage they take away for a sale is yellowish instead of their usual grey-blue colour, so maybe that’s the delienation.

      Good: Lower down on the same page there’s a list, sortable by popular, new etc. There, those games have a clear “in dev” sign right next to the title. And on the games’ pages themselves, there’s a yellowish notice right above the buy button.

      I can’t check GOG Galaxy, as I’m at work right now.

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      Try Enhanced Steam. One of the features is putting this on Early Access tagged games’ image banners: link to i.imgur.com

  6. Turkey says:

    Oh no! My PC master race safe haven!

    • pepperfez says:

      Early access is the most PC-gaming phenomenon. I’m upset that GOG has stopped pretending to be Nintendo.

      • Emeraude says:

        Wait, when did GOG strong-arm market price of their games for resellers?

      • Unsheep says:

        Steam defines PC gaming, in fact I am willing to bet 90% of all PC gamers are using it. So Early Access is very much part of what defines PC gaming today, what it entails. Since the whole Masterrace ideology is about idolizing what makes PC gaming unique, these childish people have nothing to complain about.

    • Unsheep says:

      Well it’s not preventing you from buying a GOG game you actually want now does it ?!

  7. Crafter says:

    As long as the games are curated I think it is a good thing.

    Some games like Minecraft, RimWorld or Prison Architect just work very well with an Early Access formula.

  8. Mud says:

    Go away GOG, you’re drunk.

  9. JFS says:

    GOG’s current interface is unsuited to EA games with their frequent updates. I love GOG as a Steam competitor and their website is serviceable, but updates are a problem. Still, I wouldn’t want Galaxy, and I’m unsure about how many GOG user do want a steam-alike.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      Yes, this is definitely a concern.

      One reason Steam is a good platform for games in beta/alpha is that it’s an easy to use distribution system for updates. GOG doesn’t really have that functionality by design.

      Also, Galaxy is sadly pretty garbage still. It’s got a long way to go before I consider it a decent client.

    • Unsheep says:

      Its really not that difficult; when you log into your GOG account you’ll see whether there’s an update for a game in your library or not. Then you simply downloaded it and run it, it only takes 5 minutes or so.

      However they should email you whenever there’s an update available, as updates are hard to miss if you don’t log in on a regular basis.

    • Unsheep says:

      In media GOG is revered for its ideology, but its not a contender against Steam. The success of Witcher 3 on GOG’s own platform is the exception rather than the rule, and has more to do with service and support, as GOG is owned by CDPR.

      The fact is the vast majority of PC gamers don’t care whether a game is DRM-free or not. Some of them like to complain about Steam not being DRM-free, since complaining about something is always trendy, but as soon as the next Steam sale comes along they will have forgotten all about it. So much for having principles.

  10. pistachio says:

    Obviously they need a name change now now that Good Old Games makes no sense anymore.

    I suggest Bad Unfinished Games : BUG.com

    • Immobile Piper says:

      As posted elsewhere in this comment section, they did. Four years ago: link to rockpapershotgun.com

      They still have their DRM free System Shocks and Fallout’s available so all’s good, right?

  11. rexx.sabotage says:

    Ya know, if you just only permitted yourself to buy into the content already available instead of subscribing to promises you wouldn’t have to project all this self loathing upon the poor, innocent internets.

  12. Unsheep says:

    The problem with Early Access is that some games are in development for a very, very long time. Sometimes unnecessarily so, as I think Starbound could have been released a long time ago, we don’t really need a trillion planets to explore. You might be paying $20 today for a game you’ll only play as a complete product 3+ years from now.

    The GOG community is complex; half of them want everything that Steam offers, both in terms of games and in terms of services,…but DRM-free obviously, the other half wants nothing at all to do with anything Steam related.

    • Immobile Piper says:

      Re: GOG community

      Good thing it doesn’t have to be an either or. I don’t like steam client and I don’t like early access. I haven’t tried GOG Galaxy and I’m not in a hurry to peruse GOG’s EA offerings. System works.