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GOG’s Customer Friendly Façade is Failing

View Nelson Schneider's Profile

By Nelson Schneider - 05/21/23 at 03:32 PM CT

While nowadays I consider myself to be among Steam’s biggest fans, a little over a decade ago, I had heard of the service but never tried it. In fact, my first experience with “modern”-style PC gaming (i.e., PC gaming that actually works) was with GOG, back when they were officially known as Good Old Games.

Over the years I’ve spent blogging about the Games Industry and its countless terrible trends, GOG has always tried to buck the new normal. The company started life as an emphatically DRM-free store that would allow PC Gaming Neckbeards to purchase clean, functional copies of OLD games that would work without fuss on modern operating systems, either through GOG’s official modding of the game files or via pre-packaged emulation in DOSbox. This seemed like a strong basis on which to build a business, but, unfortunately, GOG has largely alienated most game publishers with its DRM-free stance.

Small, independent game developers, however, don’t seem bothered by GOG’s DRM-free requirements, and have been flooding into the store in ever-increasing numbers. While GOG may have more than just OLD games now, the store’s library still pales in comparison to Steam, especially now that both Electronic Arts and Ubisoft have come crawling back to Valve’s store after attempting to sell their PC games exclusively on their own DRM-riddled storefronts. Steam, however, does not have a DRM-free policy, allowing any publisher to apply extra levels of DRM on top of the light-weight and customer-friendly Steamworks DRM, which frequently sees big publishers selling Dagwood Sandwiches of DRM, with Steamworks, Denuvo, anti-cheat, and a proprietary launcher altogether. Unsurprisingly, these same publishers either don’t sell their games on GOG at all, or, if they do, limit their GOG offerings to ancient titles from many decades ago.

GOG has attempted several customer-friendly endeavors to build support among their customer base. These have included the GOG Connect program, via which gamers could link their Steam and GOG accounts in order to receive complementary DRM-free backup copies of ‘select’ games in their Steam libraries on GOG. Then there was the FCK-DRM initiative, which was intended to proselytize the evils of DRM and make GOG look heroic for standing up against the trends. Then there was GOG Galaxy, the all-in-one game launcher that was supposed to make it quick and easy to keep track of all of our digital games from all of the disparate storefronts that sell them.

Yet none of these have panned out. GOG Connect was quietly discontinued in early 2023 after not receiving any updates for several years. FCK-DRM quietly evaporated into the ether. Both web addresses now simply redirect to the GOG homepage.

Galaxy was supposed to be the be-all, end-all of game launchers, yet has continued to suffer from bad coding and a ludicrous number of bugs. To make matters worse, GOG themselves don’t even maintain the code for most of the plug-ins for other storefronts, leaving that up to open-source coding communities within the GOG fanbase. Early in 2023, Steam changed some small facet of how the backend works, which broke the fan-made ‘official’ Steam plugin for GOG Galaxy… but the community of unpaid fans who had been maintaining the plugin has mysteriously vanished and stopped working on it, leaving the biggest digital game store in the world currently incompatible with GOG Galaxy.

Then there are the smaller things. GOG always professed to embrace gamer culture and values, such as anti-censorship, yet they have bent the knee to the Chinese Communist Party on at least one occasion, and have likewise started adopting Woke language in their official statements.

So, really, what does GOG have left? It’s a second-rate storefront, with second-rate discounts. It’s much vaunted ability to keep old games running on new operating systems without fuss has been, in my personal experience, hit-and-miss. All of their pro-consumer initiatives simply evaporate with little to show for them, while they quietly adopt all of the worst stances of Global Corporatism. GOG is no longer the rebel, the radical, or the rogue who will bring positive change to the Industry. They’re just another cog in the hamburger grinder.

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