By Marty Mulrooney
As many of AMO’s readers will no doubt be aware, I am a huge fan of old PC games. Recently, I have been getting my fix via the wonderful website GOG.com, created by a group of passionate gamers who specialise in Good Old Games. Last week, I was lucky enough to be able to pick the mind of their PR man Lukasz Kukawski, to ask him more about the site and old games in general. Here is what he had to say!
Hey! Thank you for your time, can you tell us a little bit about yourself please?
Hi everyone. First of all thanks for having me here on AMO. My name is Lukasz Kukawski and I’m responsible for PR and marketing at GOG.com. I’ve also been a gamer for more than 20 years, so I’ve played games during my early youth on ZX Spectrum, C64 and cult Amiga.
What is GOG.com all about?
GOG, Good Old Games in short, is a digital distribution service with classic PC games. But it’s not just any ordinary download service. Aside from having a unique offer, we’re also have unique features. What other digital distribution platform sells completely DRM-free games, where you can download the game any time, any place and play it without being online? Or where for the price of only $5.99 or $9.99 you’ll get a classic like Fallout, Duke Nukem, Syberia or Heroes of Might and Magic with great bonus materials including mp3 soundtracks, wallpapers, artworks and more? Basically GOG.com is the best place on the web for classic games fans.
What is your role at GOG.com?
My role at GOG is to spread the word about the service wherever there are people interested in games – this includes giving interviews to chaps like you!
Who founded the website?
GOG Ltd. is a part of CD Projekt group of companies which consists of CD Projekt – a game distributor owning offices in Poland, Czech and Hungary, CD Projekt RED – a games development studio, the creators of acclaimed PC RPG “The Witcher”, Porting House – a localization centre and GOG Ltd. The idea for a digital distribution service came from the management guys from CD Projekt. They had a discussion about old games, how fun they were and suddenly they realised that it’s almost impossible to replay those games – because of compatibility issues with modern operating systems and because in most cases the games are just not available in retail. That’s in short how the idea of a website offering classic PC games was born.
How many people are on the team now?
Right now there are 20 people on the team including business development, programmers, web developers, testers and marketing. So it’s a relatively small team but we have everything covered. 🙂
Where are you all based?
Our office is based in Warsaw, Poland, but the company is registered in Cyprus because of business decisions.
How easy has it been to secure the rights to all of these old games?
It hasn’t been! Acquiring the rights to old games is the hardest and the most time consuming work. Of course with some publishers we had less problems, as we knew them before we started the work on GOG, but with some it took us a lot of work and time. Just imagine if a game we’d like to release was released in the mid 90’s by a developer who isn’t around anymore and the rights for the game were sold to another company (or maybe even to a couple of companies).
Now our job is to find out who really owns the IP and if the IP is or isn’t spread across different companies. If we finally make it, then we have to find the right person who we can talk to about selling the game on GOG and convince them to offer the game via our service. The whole process can last a couple of months and maybe even a year. So the 30+ publishers and developers we have on GOG by now is really a huge success for us.
Are publishers usually accommodating when you approach them about re-releasing their back catalogue? Any refusals?
In most cases publishers are very positive about our service and the whole idea of reviving old brands. The most difficult part is to convince a publisher that making their games DRM-free won’t affect the sales, won’t spread it on torrents, etc. There’s still a strong believe among publishers that DRM is the best way to fight piracy, which in our opinion is wrong. DRM isn’t stopping pirates at all, they hack games and play them without any protection schemes. So if you own a legitimate copy of the game you have to deal with all those draconian DRMs, but if you download the same game from torrent you’ll have a DRM-free copy.
In our opinion adding cool stuff with the game, selling it at a reasonable price and providing support are the things that will convince gamers to buy the original game rather than pirate it.
The pricing seems very low, and stays the same worldwide! Is this an important aspect of selling older games digitally? How does GOG.com offer value for money?
The prices are low because the games are old. No one would pay $20 or $30 for a 10+ year old game. The two price points we’ve chosen were a compromise between what publishers would like to earn from their old games, what gamers would pay for them and what we need to earn to make the business profitable. At the moment we’re considering adding more price points, maybe a smaller one for the very old titles and maybe a higher one for newer titles, but it’s still being discussed internally, nothing official just yet.
As for keeping the same prices worldwide, it’s really important for us. For many years Poland as a gaming market was treated like… actually, it wasn’t treated at all! If a game or gaming system was available in Poland, it was twice as expensive as in other European countries; Poles earn less money too. We believe if something is available worldwide it should be the same for everyone, so no matter if you live in USA, UK, Kambodia or Marocco you pay the same price for a GOG game.
How difficult is it to get these older games running on modern systems?
That differs from title to title. Some of the games run smoothly from the very beginning and we don’t have to do much tweaking. But some titles are really hard to get running on modern machines. I can’t say what our programmers are doing to make those games play properly not because I don’t want to, I just don’t know. 🙂 It has to be some sort of black magic!
Are there any games that simply cannot be made to run on modern systems?
I think we had two or three titles which we weren’t able to optimize in a way we were satisfied.
Are the people behind GOG.com all gamers too?
Yes, we’re all gamers here. The old slogan used by Interplay “By gamers for gamers” fits our team perfectly. Every new deal we manage to sign starts a big discussion between all of us – we’re recalling the times when we were playing the signed titles for the first time, what was so great about those games then, etc. Sometimes I feel we’re like kids during Christmas, playing with their newly received presents. 🙂
How important are the forum areas/community aspect of GOG.com?
The community section is really important for us. Of course we have to remember that first and foremost GOG is a digital outlet, but not the usual one. We feel like the community is something that makes us a bit different from others. Our goal with the community section was to create a place for all fans of classic PC games, where they can meet and talk about their passion for classics. Every game on GOG has its own forum, so if you’re interested in a specific game or series you can find other gamers in the game’s forum. We know there are a lot of things to improve concerning the community and we’re working on them – remember we’re still in beta. 😉
All the games on GOG.com are DRM free. What was the reasoning behind this?
That’s easy – do you like being treated like a potential criminal? I guess you’re not and we’re not either. Like I said before we don’t believe DRM is a good way to fight piracy, so doing a DRM-free digital distribution service was the only way to do it for us. It’s a bit easier because the games are older, so convincing publishers to sell games without DRM is a bit easier, but it’s still hard work.
What are your favourite games on the site so far? What games that you would recommend to modern day players?
As for my favourites I’d go with the adventure games, especially the point-and-click ones as I’m a big fan. So games like Gabriel Knight, Simon the Sorcerer, Gobliins, Space Quest, King’s Quest, Tex Murphy, but also some action games like Interstate ’76, Cannon Fodder, MDK, Another World… I think our whole catalogue is great. 🙂 For modern players I would recommend games with good story, which I think is somehow put aside in favour of graphics in today’s games. Such titles like Fallout, Gabriel Knight, Outcast, Sanitarium, Myst or Arcanum can really get you involved for weeks. Everyone will find something to suit their needs, so I definitely recommend checking out our catalogue and even try out the service with the free games: Beneath a Steel Sky, Lure of the Temptress and Teenagent.
Is a good game good regardless of age?
Definitely yes. I know some games don’t stand the test of time, but in most cases it’s just because we’ve been spoiled with HD graphics nowadays and we’re a bit sceptical if we see a game that doesn’t have them. But if you manage to get into the game beyond graphics, you see that ‘looks’ is just one of the factors and the older games have their own charm with complex and intriguing storylines, great gameplay and the specific feel which many games lack today. Titles like Fallout, the Might and Magic series, Master of Orion or Heroes of Might and Magic are games that you can enjoy always no matter how old they are. If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself and don’t blame me for not having time to play the newest blockbusters! 😉
What does the future hold in store for GOG.com?
More publishers to get signed, more great old games and… I’m afraid I can’t reveal anything yet. But with the beginning of the year revealing announcements of titles from Activision and Atari, you can definitely expect we won’t be slowing down. Stay tuned for more from GOG!
Thank you for your time!
GOG.com – or Good Old Games – is the ultimate destination for classic PC games. The site offers gamers some of the greatest PC games of all time for a low price and free from copy protection. GOG.com is much more than just another digital distribution site, featuring an extensive community component that allows players to rate, review and discuss their favourite PC games, as well as insightful articles from respected games journalists. Visit www.gog.com and start your journey to the past!