GOG.com (or Good Old Games) is a digital download service that specialises in classic PC titles. With today's announcement that mega publisher Ubisoft has come onboard and that the 100th title to hit the service will hit any day now, we caught up with Tom Ohle VP, PR & Marketing and Lukasz Kukawski, PR&Marketing at GOG.com to find out what lies ahead.
VideoGamer.com: So today you announced that Ubisoft games will be arriving on GOG. Can you clear up which games we'll be getting and when they'll be available to buy?
Tom Ohle: We’ve started off with tjree games released today: Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, Beyond Good and Evil and Magic and IL-2 Sturmovik: 1946. We’ve added Ghost Recon, Far Cry and Rainbow Six to the Coming Soon section, and we’re holding a few others close to our chest for a bit.
VideoGamer.com: How much will you be charging for these and will all Ubisoft games carry the same price tag?
TO: All of the games from Ubisoft are priced at $9.99.
VideoGamer.com: What kind of extra content will gamers be able to get hold of for these Ubisoft games?
Lukasz Kukawski: The bonus stuff for games is something we're really going after, digging up the archives, the internet and some abandoned warehouses ;). In many cases the publishers don't have any additional materials for the old games archived, and our product team really needs to work hard to somehow get cool stuff for you to download. For Ubisoft titles we have managed to find some soundtracks, desktop themes, screensavers, wallpapers, manuals and more. We really try our best to offer gamers collector's edition-like games at a really great price!
VideoGamer.com: GOG.com launched towards the end of 2008. Were you happy with the content you had available at launch and looking back would you have done anything differently?
LK: We had a really strong line-up when we launched with classics from Interplay, Codemasters and Strategy First that included the Fallout series, MDK, Freespace, TOCA Race Driver 3, Jagged Alliance series and more. The reception from gamers and media was great and it exceeded our expectations. There probably were some things that could be done in a different way, but I wouldn't change a thing.
VideoGamer.com: What feedback have you been getting from the gaming community? What would you say people like most about the GOG service?
LK: The feedback from our users is really great. We've received a lot of kind words for setting up the service and bringing back some of the best games from PC's gaming history. It is a great feeling when you know that your everyday work is making so many people happy and excited about what we'll announce next. We have also received a lot of suggestions about which games should appear in our games catalogue and which improvements we should add to the service. That’s all very useful information and we gather it and discuss how to make the service even better.
I think the thing people like the most about GOG.com is that they can finally get legal copies of their favourite classics and they are DRM-free. Most of the older games are really hard to find in retail or on on-line auctions. Sometimes the only way to get them is via p2p sites. The DRM-free approach is also something our users cherish. We've mentioned many times that we think gamers are honest people and they would rather buy original games than pirate them, they just have to have a good reason to do it. In our opinion selling good games at reasonable price and with bonus stuff is a great reason to buy an all-time classic.
VideoGamer.com: Conversely, is there something that users aren't so keen on that you're looking to sort out in the near future?
TO: I’d say the biggest gripe is that the catalogue isn’t as big as some people would like it to be. But we're working on it – our business development guys are working non-stop to sign new deals, and thanks to their hard work we’ve managed to keep up on releasing at least two games every week. I think that’s pretty good, and we’ve got some other deals in the works that could bring some really great games to the site. We’ve got a really rich history of gaming available to us, and we’re doing our best to bring it all to GOG.
VideoGamer.com: GOG is almost at the 100 game milestone. Is that game going to be something special?
LK: Yes, the 100 game milestone is just around the corner and we have something special planned for it. Can't say what it is – I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but I'm sure everyone will be happy about it. And I really mean EVERYONE :)
TO: Hmm… now you’ve got me excited. I’ll ask you what we’re doing offline.
VideoGamer.com: Looking at the publishers who support GOG there are some big names (Ubisoft, Codemasters, Epic, Interplay), but a lot of big players are missing. Are you working with the likes of EA and other big publishers to bring their titles to the service? Games like Dungeon Keeper and Little Big Adventure would be great to see on GOG.
TO: We’ve always wanted to be the place to go for any classic game you could ever want… and we still want that to happen. I can’t talk specifically about any real or imaginary discussions we’ve had with EA, but we’d love to bring their games to the site. I think that the Ubi deal will help a bit in terms of showing that even a major publisher is willing to trust in gamers by going DRM-free with classic titles. Hopefully that will make more companies look at GOG.com as a great way to sell their back-catalogue games.
VideoGamer.com: What about perhaps the Holy Grail of old games, The LucasArts adventure games? Will be ever see Monkey Island or Day of the Tentacle on GOG?
LK: Only time will tell.
TO: And time will hopefully say, “yeah, here you go,” and I’ll laugh maniacally as I play Full Throttle again.
VideoGamer.com: Your website has a wish list section that reads like a "Best PC games of the last 15 years" list. For GOG users who add those games, do you actively go after the titles most wanted?
LK: Although the wishlist isn't perfect in it's functionality it is a very useful tool for our business development team. Before we even launched the site we prepared a long list of titles that we would want to see on a site like ours, but the wishlist is like an encyclopedia of PC games. I don't think there's a game that hasn't been added to our wishlist :).
We certainly do use the wishlist to search for games that our users would like to play once again. That's the first step in the process of signing a publisher.
VideoGamer.com: What's stopping everyone from supporting GOG? Is it pricing, DRM concerns or something else entirely?
TO: I think it’s safe to say that the DRM issue is the biggest barrier for some companies. We still love our DRM-free policy… the reaction we’ve had from our users has been really positive about that, and we think that ultimately digital distribution, as a whole, will go that direction. We completely understand the desire to protect one’s intellectual property, but these games still get pirated. Keeping prices low and adding value to the games with bonus content encourages people to pay for the game – hell, it’s probably more work to re-download, re-install and get a pirated game working than it is to log back in to GOG and do it there. That convenience is worth my $5.99 or $9.99. :D
VideoGamer.com: How have publishers reacted to your no DRM policy?
LK: It really depends on the publisher. Some of them are aware that their back catalogue games are easily available on different p2p sites without any copy protection and agree with our approach. But some publishers, when they hear that we sell games without DRM, are like: "You're doing what?!" Luckily we can inform them that until now we haven't seen GOG.com versions of games on torrent sites. Our community is really supporting us and respecting our work and effort. We're really proud of them!
VideoGamer.com: At the moment you're focussed entirely on old PC games, but old/retro console gaming is gaining popularity. Have you considered a Virtual Console-alike service for use on PCs?
LK: That's something we could think of in the future, but right now we concentrate to build a huge catalogue of PC classics. There are thousands of games that need to be dusted off and revived. You've seen our wishlist so you know what we are talking about. XBL, PSN and Virtual Console are doing a pretty good job of bringing back retro console games, but there is no similar service for PC games except GOG.com.
VideoGamer.com: Finally, what exciting things can GOG users look forward to in 2009?
LK: More great games and more publishers, obviously :). Our Design & Development Team is working on "Update 2" that will bring a lot of new features to the service, but lets' not spoil everything :).
VideoGamer.com: Thanks for your time guys.
GOG.com currently offers almost 100 classic PC games to buy and download, completely DRM free.