Good Old Games’ DRM revolution

Good Old Games' DRM revolution

Digital distribution of PC games is an increasingly crowded space, but Good Old Games has grown apace since its launch in September 2008, users drawn by its ever-growing catalogue of games that are at least three years old and charmed by its aversion to DRM. Its business model – it remasters, markets and provides technical support for the games it sells – sets it apart from other download services, too, and an experiment with The Witcher 2, released DRM-free on the service thanks to its relationship with developer CD Projekt, reaped further dividends.

At next week's London Games Conference, managing director Guillaume Rambourg will share three reasons why DRM-free content is the future. We caught up with him to discuss how the company's experiment in selling old games could help sell new ones, and why the opprobrium towards EA Origin is misplaced.

How much of your stance on DRM comes from you being a relatively new company?
I don't want people to perceive my arguments as biased because GOG is a niche company for a niche market, that somehow my views are only applicable for old games.

I will be talking at the London Games Conference about sales for The Witcher 2, which we distributed on GOG because our sister company CD Projekt Red developed it. We wanted to use it as a kind of test case for the industry to see what could be done by distributing it without any DRM on day one, by providing full customer support, by bundling a vast selection of free goodies with the product to make it a digital collectors edition.

I will be sharing the sales numbers on GOG compared to the competition. I think the numbers will speak for themselves, what DRM-free sales of even a triple-A title can achieve. Our values are universal and they don't only apply to older content. They apply to triple-A, day-one releases.

GOG managing director Guillaume Rambourg

And is it also an easier policy to have because of your business model? Publishers are afraid of their new games being pirated, not their old ones.
Yes and no. The games we have on GOG are available on many platforms. Most of them are available on Steam. They were free to make those games DRM-free if they wanted to. They were free to bundle them with goodies, they were free to provide full customer support for such old games.

Obviously they didn't do it because, let's be honest, our games are priced at six to ten dollars, while they can sell tonnes of games at 40 or 50 bucks. Do they want to bother with cheap old games? Not really, but we did it. If The Witcher 2 was so successful on GOG it's because we established a new standard, a new way of distributing games.

What was the conversion rate from those who came for The Witcher 2 to ongoing customers?
We have sold more than one classic PC game for each user who joined and bought The Witcher 2. I think this pretty well illustrates the fact that GOG can retain new audiences and get them interested in PC classics.