Digital distribution service Good Old Games (GOG) has announced that it is doing away with IP address checks to determine a user's location for purchases and downloads.
In a press release, GOG said it was relaxing its location controls to avoid inconvenience to users, but a far more likely explanation is the imminent release of The Witcher 2: Assassins Of Kings.
Developed by CD Projekt – the Polish firm which also runs Good Old Games – the PC RPG will not see release in Australia, the country's famously draconian ratings policy preventing the release of games it deems worthy of an adult age rating. By removing the IP address location check, Australian users will be able to download the game, DRM-free, from Good Old Games.
In a press release, GOG managing director Guillaume Rambourg said: "GOG.com has always been about trusting the user. We've come to the conclusion that there are a number of issues with using a customer's IP address to determine what offer they are being presented with from GOG.com. A good number of users can find themselves negatively impacted by a policy of using geo IP to set their region.
"For example, customers may be travelling when they want to purchase or download a game from GOG.com. In this case, automatic IP address capture might change the price or the content of the game they're ordering.
"Further, geo IP data collection is not always right," he continued. "IP addresses are not a perfect or unique identifier of location, and can report the incorrect region of users, particularly ones who are not using standard Internet connections. Finally, we're always very sensitive of our users' privacy. Effective privacy protections for our users means that any data that we don't need to collect, we shouldn't.
"We only need to know the country that you're making this purchase from, so although we originally planned to use geo-IP to determine users' location, we've decided to trust our users and let them inform us as to the correct region for their purchase."
The move means Australian residents can say they live elsewhere, and download The Witcher 2 without any issues. While on the one hand this is a commendable move, ensuring the game reaches as wide an audience as possible – and dropping location checks will positively impact gamers elsewhere – it does raise a troubling question about the continuing viability of local ratings classification in the age of digital distribution.
The Witcher 2: Assassins Of Kings will be released on May 17.