Opus Magnum launches on GOG, after initial rejection

The DRM-free digital game store GOG have reversed a baffling curation decision and started selling Opus Magnum, the wonderful machine-building puzzler from the studio behind Spacechem and Shenzhen I/O. GOG had initially declined to stock the game and gave developers Zachtronics a mysterious explanation that it “did not pass our internal curation system”. Given that Opus Magnum is one of the best PC games of 2017 and that GOG already stocked several similar Zachtronics games, y’know, it was weird. With digital stores drawing different lines in the virtuasand over which games they will and won’t stock, this stuck out as an unexpected casualty of curation.

Earlier this year, when Zachtronics asked for an explanation to publicly share with people who didn’t understand why Opus Magnum wasn’t on GOG, the store’s statement wasn’t entirely illuminating. He tweeted it.

“We rarely ever want to share any details of the actual system and how it looks and what it means, because it’s just too individual; we take into consideration many other factors than just the game itself – the reviews we provide for example do not review the entire game in general; so like an objective game review like on PC Gamer or what not – but we do it from the angle of our entire user-base.”

[Note: the ‘PC Gamer’ GOG refer to is a cheery RPS fanzine -ed.]

The workings of GOG’s curation are baffling considering the store does sell a large number of games that I will generously say are not as good as Opus Magnum. GOG does have a particular slant, mind. For years, it focused on vintage games that are very traditional PC gaming: lots of strategy games, first-person shooters, RPGs, and adventure games that are best viewed through a haze of nostalgia. This built the foundations for the store’s audience and, while GOG have widened their focus and started selling new games too, it does still have that air.

Opus Magnum is great, yeah, but I can sorta see why GOG might skip it while accepting the rubbo 3D Realms game Bombshell.

The hitch is that the vision GOG are curating for isn’t clear from looking at the store, so the decision seemed arbitrary – and incorrect. To be honest, I’m not sure this curated vision is clear within GOG either, but I can get a vague feel for it by looking at what they do and don’t stock. To me GOG’s vision is often a little boring but hey, it seems to mostly work for them. And evidently they are willing to refresh this curatorial eye.

“The game’s outstanding quality and community demand speak loudly and clearly – we’re human, we’re not infallible, but we’re also not immovable,” GOG tweeted about this reversal in a reply yesterday. “It’s great that we get to listen, reevaluate, and bring Opus Magnum’s to our catalog in the end – it’s every bit worth it.”

GOG do have a community wishlist tracking games people would like to see on the store, and a fair few had voted for Opus Magnum, though obviously that’s more gauging interest than dictating plans.

Opus Magnum is now available on GOG. It’s also on Steam, and the Humble Store offers a DRM-free version as well as a Steam key.

27 Comments

  1. bramble says:

    What a bizarre little episode, especially with the lack of any evidence a personal grudge was at play. I’ve read GOG’s initial “reason” for denying the game a few times now and I cannot for the life of me parse any meaning from it.

    • Landiss says:

      It means: “one of our employees/volunteers played the game for a few minutes and they thought it’s bad. Every designer whose game is rejected reacts like you do, so we are not going to actually recheck the game and can’t be even bothered to notice you had several successful games published by us in the past already and that the new game has stellar reviews and sells very well on Steam.”

      • mouton says:

        Still better curation than Valve, LOL

        • gabrielonuris says:

          What curation? Valve doesn’t have one to begin with!

          • mouton says:

            “What curation? Valve doesn’t have one to begin with!”

            Exactly.

        • Catterbatter says:

          Valve’s bar for entry is “Give us money.” Which is at least consistent.

          I think it makes sense that GOG would shy away from spelling out their curation policy, especially if it’s not well-defined. But they definitely made the wrong call on Opus Magnum.

        • UncleLou says:

          Can’t understand why people want stores on the PC to be curated. If you want a third party to decide what you can or cannot play based on an arbitrary judgement by God knows who, there’s always consoles.

          • TillEulenspiegel says:

            Nobody ever credibly explains why they’re so bothered by a bunch of crapware sitting passively in a store. Literally the only negative effect it’s likely to have on your life is cluttering up the search results a bit. Which seems like not a huge deal.

    • fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

      It’s particularly weird when the author already has some titles with them. One would think that, however cursory reviews of totally new things are, people you have dealt with in the past would be a default-allow “any reasons to disqualify?” thing rather than a “any reasons to allow?” exercise.

  2. MacTheGeek says:

    I’m glad to see that Good Opus Games figured out its mistake.

  3. Jokerme says:

    A game I worked on was rejected by GOG and as far as I can tell they are just making one person look at the screenshots and/or videos of the game and decide if it’d sell or not.

    The reason for rejection I got was “it wouldn’t fit” and it was too “niche”. The game was a traditional point and click adventure game (not Big Fish kind of game, more like Myst). Go figure.

  4. The Sombrero Kid says:

    I’ll take the odd erroneous rejecting over the shitware landslide any day tbh.

    • MasterPrudent says:

      Why? Do you refuse to read reviews and pay attention to buzz and instead choose which games to buy by idly clicking through the storefront and buying any old crap you see?

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      MajorLag says:

      I feel exactly the opposite. Give me a giant pile of everything ever made and let me decide for myself. I have innumerable resources at my disposal to find the diamonds in the rough, but my diamonds aren’t necessarily the same as yours.

  5. KRVeale says:

    GOG also famously turned down “Thomas Was Alone” without much of an explanation either. My understanding is Mike Bithell found them so opaque to deal with then that he gave up ever trying to sell his games through the GoG store.

  6. vanmeeterj says:

    Yeah, sounds like an honest mistake. Unfortunately, I would have bought the GOG drm free version over the Steam version any day. Oh well, here’s hoping Steam drm doesn’t bite people in the ass too much down the line.

    • KRVeale says:

      Humble also has a DRM free version? Doesn’t necessarily help immediately, but raises the chances of future sales and/or bundles.

      Although GoG does that thing periodically where you get free GoG versions of stuff you’ve bought on Steam? I’m guessing we won’t see this one there for a while because it’s new, but stuff like Darkwood has already featured so who knows.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      Does it have DRM, or is it one of those that’d cheerfully run if you copied the exe onto an unrelated machine?

      • Premium User Badge

        phuzz says:

        I’ll check later, but I own plenty of games on Steam that have no DRM.

        • vanmeeterj says:

          I don’t think it’s possible to publish on steam with out the steamworks DRM added. It may not be invasive, game breaking DRM, but it’s still DRM. Steam DRM doesn’t seem too bad, at the moment, but you never know what could happen later. I just don’t like that a marketplace has the ability to decide at anytime that they could restrict my enjoyment of a product I have purchased, not rented.

    • vanmeeterj says:

      Let me know if I’m wrong by the way. As a hopeful future game dev, I’d like to know. I really hate the whole anti-piracy through DRM. I bought hl2 the day it came out and I had bad dialup internet in the country and I have felt how this crap can ruin an experience. Not everyone in the world has a good internet infrastructure and can have a really bad experience with DRM.

  7. ross-g says:

    Has nobody considered that the reason the game was not allowed on GOG is because it includes an editor for user created puzzles which is tied into the Steam Workshop? Given that GOG has no such equivalent feature, the editor etc would probably have to be removed for the GOG version of the game (whereas leaderboards etc shouldn’t be an issue).
    I think they could legitimately take issue with being asked to sell a version of the game that contains less features than the Steam version.

    Though I’m glad they have reversed their stance here!

    • MasterPrudent says:

      If that was the case it would have been nice for them to say as much.

    • bill says:

      GOG sell lots of games that contain less features than the steam version, or that are older versions than the one on steam. That doesn’t seem to bother them.
      (Spelunky is an example (no daily challenge on GOG), but there is a long list on gog somewhere).

      I’m not sure if they sell games with steamworks, or if it’d have to be removed… but that’d be down to the developer (and extra work for them for not that much reward given the relative smallness of GOG).

      I suspect it’s a simple case of getting 1000s of submissions and giving each one a quick glance and judging it by its cover.
      It’d explain Thomas Was Alone getting rejected, as at first glance that looks like an amateur flash game attempt.

  8. Premium User Badge

    MajorLag says:

    The way GOG decides what is and isn’t in their stores bothers me. It doesn’t appear to be based on any specific, or even general, criteria. They’re free to run their storefront the way they want, of course, but I’m equally free to not patronize them because I don’t like the way they run their store.

    • bill says:

      It’s hardly worth a boycott, is it.
      It’s not like they have some controversial criteria such as “no games with cats in”.

      I’d imagine they decide in the same way most stores decide if they want to stock a product… they look at it and decide if it looks good or not.

      I wouldn’t get bothered by the way Sainsburys decides which products to stock or not… although I doubt they have a publicly defined policy.

  9. Dust and Cobwebs says:

    Word on the GOG forums was it was rejected because “it looks too much like a mobile game.” I wasn’t sure whether to believe, but GOG has sort of obliquely acknowledged it in the new release thread. (I think? It’s hard to tell since they’re communicating exclusively via emoticon.) “Baffling” really is the only word for it.

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