Good Old Games’ DRM revolution
What's your growth like? Is it steadily upward, or does it spike?
Obviously we have certain spikes sometimes – we try to have at least three or four major events per year. Every day passing by, there is growth. Steady and regular growth, with some spikes along the way.
Is GOG having a tangible effect on piracy of older games?
When we sign content for GOG, we contact abandonware websites and make them our affiliates. So they remove the illegal content, and instead they put a GOG banner and they direct sales and traffic to us. Step by step, we are cleaning up the market and we are making the back catalogue segment a visible, and viable, market for the industry.
And obviously we track what's happening on our website. The games are DRM-free, so people have the right to download them anywhere, anytime and as many times as they like. [Piracy] is really, really low and it's something we monitor constantly because, if suddenly we have 20 downloads for a product on average then, yeah, indeed, there is something very fishy here, and my profits are in danger. We are not a charity: we have a business to run.
Was The Witcher 2 experiment a one-off, or will you do it again in future?
Every day passing by is great for us because content is ageing, and we can add more games to GOG. However, let's be honest: after adding the few largest remaining publishers our back catalogue niche will be pretty much full, and we have to start thinking of ways to diversify.
Obviously, we are extremely satisfied with the results of The Witcher 2, and I had some discussions with some publishers and they are quite impressed. If we find the right partners, with the same philosophy, the same approach, then that's a path we might be considering for the years to come.
How easy has it been to build up GOG's catalogue?
Well, this has been a very, very long journey – when we started in 2008, we were talking to publishers everyone was looking at us with big, scary eyes. 'Are those guys crazy? No-one gives a damn about those old games, they are dusty, they can't generate profit. We don’t have time for this, we don't have resources, we don't want to dedicate teams internally.'
But somehow, this helped us, because we told them: 'Fair enough. Great. We don't want to use your time. We don't want to use your resources. We will handle the whole process for you, we will be an all-in-one solution.' We made them realise that from finding the original game masters, to remastering them, testing them, bundling them with goodies, giving technical support – we'd do everything.
You've generated nothing but goodwill from users; EA has done the opposite with Origin. Why do you think that is?
Everybody right now is talking about EA. They are capable, step by step, of moving into digital on a big scale. It's what they did with Playfish, for example, when they decided to make cash with social games. I think it's very easy to talk negatively about them, but publisher-wise they are one step beyond.
Some in the industry may be be jealous or bitter. If you think this is the way to go, give it a try. I think EA, regardless of the amount of negative comments it generates with their strategy to make Origin a visible platform, is a brave publisher for trying to make a change in the industry and that ambition deserves respect.
Obviously, GOG.com and Origin approach this digital future in very different ways. I would like to think that the industry as a whole looks at the options for digital distribution out there and chooses which one will work best for gamers and for publishers.
Now in its third year, the London Games Conference takes place on November 10 at One Wimpole Street, London W1, and other speakers include Iain Livingstone, Peter Molyneux, Iain Livingstone and Valve's Jason Holtman. Tickets cost £269 but are rapidly selling out; for more, visit www.londongamesconference.com.