We briefly mentioned Good Old Games yesterday, but if you've not heard of it then... well, suffice to say, if you're the kind of fellow who reads this site regularly, then GoG's mooted catalogue of classic game downloads is going to make you a very excited wee PCophile.
The retrocentric digi-store, offering DRM-free, cheapie downloads of the likes of Fallout, Sacrifice and Operation Flashpoint, isn't starting up until September, but we thought we'd better chuck a few questions about the site's origins and intentions at the folks behind it - CD Projekt, who you're probably most familiar with for last year's divisive RPG The Witcher. Now, they're potential saviours of olden games...
AO is Adam Oldakowski, GoG's Managing Director, and TO is Tom Ohle, VP of PR & Marketing. The bits in bold are me. Of course I don't actually speak in bold, but I sure wish I did.
To what extent will games be re-coded to work with XP and Vista? Or will you just not carry a game if it requires a lot of work on that front? I can't help but think of Terror From The Deep on Steam, where the official line is that the time and cost and making it play nice with Vista was deemed not worth it....
AO: We don't have access to the games' source code, so we can't really re-code them. We work hard to make sure all the games run on Windows XP and Vista – that’s both 32-bit and 64-bit systems – and we try to optimize them at the installation stage so that the game install works for each user configuration. If we happen on a game that doesn't work, we'll see what we can do; I hope that we never have to make that decision. All of the games we have right now work on our test systems.
So you're launching in September with some Fallout games, the month before Fallout 3 is released. Coincidence or canniness?
AO: Purely coincidence, but such a nice coincidence isn't it?
TO: I’d love to claim it was all a stroke of marketing genius… but I’d be lying, and that’s not something marketing people do. I think it should be good timing for us – lots of people will be looking to get into the series, and we’re perfectly happy to stand up and give them that opportunity.
Is the appearance of Interplay games on GoG related to Interplay's recent announcement that they're planning on a comeback?
TO: You’d have to ask Interplay about that; I think it’s really just indicative of an increase in activity for the company. We’re thrilled to have those games, though – I can’t think of many other publishers we’d rather have onboard for the site launch. Fallout, Freespace, MDK… lots of great stuff there.
Tell us more about the no-DRM thing. Are the games really, truly 100% DRM free, or will they still rely on a login?
AO: The games will be 100% DRM-free. No internet connection required to authorize the games to make them work. You will, of course, need a login on our website to buy the game and then download it, but that's it. Isn't that what we've always wanted as gamers – some trust, more freedom? We’re confident that people will support us and help us bring more and more DRM-free games to GOG.
Has the no-DRM route hampered what games you've been able to get at all?
AO: Yes, it's certainly not made it any easier, but as we're going for the older games it's been easier to discuss the options. Now that the announcement has gone out and we can show publishers the fantastic reaction we've received so far, it should help us open doors to more content.
Do you have a sense of the size of the audience for this breed of game? That front-page image you've got, with Sacrifice, Fallout, Giants, Freespace etc is a powerful one indeed for a certain type of PC gamer – but are there enough of those around to make GoG a huge success?
AO: They're great games and you don't have to be a hardcore old-school gamer to really appreciate them,; further, they're low priced, cheaper than some casual games with a lot of great gameplay.
We’ve been creating a sort of stereotype for our “target audience” but you have to remember that these games were really good at the time they were launched, and there’s a whole new generation of gamers that haven’t had a chance to experience these games. Now with the onset of all the casual games and the various spin-offs, there's still a feeling that gamers want more, something that they can only describe by recalling one of those good old games.
Similarly, seems you're really playing up the Old thing, in terms of both the games and the gamers. Are you fairly convinced younger gamers just won't be interested?
TO: Eh, it’s just a nice easy marketing message to work with, saying that we old people (please note: I’m not that old) can’t play these new strange console whatnots. As Adam mentioned, I think there’s still a sizeable audience that hasn’t experienced Freespace 2 or Sacrifice – or even some of the newer games like Operation Flashpoint – and the opportunity to revisit these classics without paying a ton of money is a great incentive for those people. Personally, I just immediately latched on to the site as a great way for long-time PC gamers to scratch that nostalgic itch; but the truth is that there are a lot of different reasons people might want to play these games – not just to revisit their childhood (or college years, or whatever, depending on how old you really are).
Are you confident you could compete with Steam and Gametap if they suddenly upped their retro content?
AO: I'm not sure if it's just about increasing the amount of retro content on a site; with both of those services, you have to use a launcher to play the games. Our games are DRM-free, need no launcher, don't need an internet connection and are dirt cheap.
TO: Right. We really aren’t trying to compete with those guys, or really any other digital distribution service. We have our unique offering, and they have various things that set them apart, as well; I still have Steam and GameTap on my gaming PC, and will continue to use them even when GOG.com has launched.
Have you looked at rescuing games caught in a limbo state by the closure of their publisher/developer at all? And what about stuff like System Shock 2, where publishers are jealously refusing budget releases?
AO: System Shock 2 would be a great title to add to GOG.com and I hope that one day we’ll have it. Rescuing games, I think, is a costly business; we hope to go after these types of games soon but for now we're trying to concentrate on launching a great site with great DRM-free games that work on all the supported systems. We’re talking to a number of publishers right now, and hopefully everything will snowball a bit – more publishers signed on means more interest from gamers, which in turn should generate more interest from publishers.