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Interview: CD-Projekt A-'GOG' About Classic PC Game Download Site

The Witcher developer CD-Projekt has revealed GOG.com, an upcoming site offering DRM-free downloads of classic PC games, with games such as Fallout and MDK on board, and Gamasutra spoke with the company's Tom Ohle about the project.
GameTap has a new competitor in making classic PC gaming easily available. CD-Projekt, Polish publisher and developer of well-received RPG The Witcher, has announced GOG.com, a site that plans to offer low-priced, DRM-free digital downloads of vintage titles starting this September. GOG has already announced deals with publishers Interplay and Codemasters. Currently-highlighted titles on the site's front page include Black Isle's Fallout 2, Shiny's MDK and Sacrifice, Volition's Freespace 2, Bohemia Interactive's Operation Flashpoint, Planet Moon's Giants: Citizen Kabuto, and others. Intended price points are $5.99 and $9.99, and GOG plans to ensure compatibility with modern systems as well as offer technical support to customers. In some cases, content such as MP3 soundtracks, map editors, and walkthroughs will be included. The company is currently soliciting pitches from publishers interested in adding their back catalogues to GOG's lineup - although its site reminds prospective partners that "GOG.com stands for GOOD old games." Visitors are invited to sign up for a beta trial beginning in August. Gamasutra got in touch with CD-Projekt's Tom Ohle to discuss the idea behind the service, and the company's hopes for GOG. How and why did CD-Projekt decide to move into this space? Tom Ohle: Essentially, a few guys from the team were sitting around at GDC last year thinking about some of the games they really wanted to play again - don't ask me what could have possibly brought them to that discussion - and they came to the realization that it's pretty much impossible to find a lot of those games in stores. If you're lucky enough to find them, there's a good chance they won't work on a new PC. Thankfully we've got a few business contacts and a bit of experience in the publishing business - CDP is one of the largest publishers in Central Europe - so we've spent the last year or so gearing up for the impending launch. Why do you feel you don't need DRM? TO: I think it's relatively common knowledge that piracy is rampant; I don't know of many products that haven't been pirated or cracked in one way or another. So why treat paying customers like criminals if the criminals are going to find a way to get your product anyway? It's just really nice to buy a game at GOG, install it on your main gaming PC and still be able to put it on your laptop without worrying about online activation or whatever. Judging by the early reactions, I think that most gamers are ready to embrace the no-DRM concept. Has it been difficult to find support from publishers and developers? TO: I think that a lot of publishers are excited about the prospect of making money from their back catalogue games. A lot of the stuff we're trying to get is abandonware, so it seems natural that publishers would be interested in monetizing those titles. That being said, we've held off on approaching some major publishers because we're guessing that the lack of copy protection will be a point of concern. In those cases we're going to make sure we present a strong case for the site. We're expecting gamers will be really happy with GOG.com and we can then use strong sales to convince any reluctant publishers that they don't have to fear the lack of DRM or low prices. In the end, we want gamers to be able to play the games they want to play. How do you plan to ensure compatibility, and what are your potential plans for extra content? Compatibility with Vista and XP is one of our major selling points, so really, we're doing whatever we can to make sure the games work on newer PCs. Whenever possible, we take the masters and do some work to ensure compatibility, and we've got a test lab running to ensure we're not promising compatibility when we don't actually have it. We're also creating custom installers for each of the games that should help with compatibility; it's a tricky situation working with games that are 10 years old, but we're confident we'll pull it off. As for the additional content, the sky's the limit. For example, we're going to be working with prominent figures and guide writers in different game communities to bring professional-quality game guides for certain titles to the site, and we're also going to be releasing stuff like wallpapers and game soundtracks. We're really expecting the community at GOG.com to explode, and we'll give people the opportunity to submit all sorts of additional content, from videos and screenshots to mods and enhancements. If someone goes to a product page on the site, they should be able to find almost everything they need to get the most out of their game. Any target for how many publishers or games you're looking to ship with? TO: We're looking at having three or four publishers and between 70 and 100 titles at launch. We're hopeful that those numbers will go up, but business can occasionally move rather slowly; I don't want to over-promise and under-deliver. Even with the games we already have signed in the Interplay and Codemasters deals, we've got hundreds of hours of gameplay and lots of classic games; hopefully those will keep people busy while we're busting our butts to lock in more publishers.

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