Preserving games is something that’s getting more and more complicated as companies shift to digital-only models, but good old games (GOG) tries to keep as much as it can secure by offering users only DRM-free content. DRM (Digital Rights Management) is, in the simplest terms, a verification system that many developers and publishers use to ensure that game piracy is reduced as much as possible. However, as digital storefronts close or licenses change hands over time, games using DRM may become inaccessible even if gamers have already paid for it.
From the start, GOG offered classic games without any DRM, allowing gamers to upload all game files to external locations to store and save them however they wanted. As GOG grew, so did its library, and while the focus on retro titles never really went away, GOG is now home to AAA experiences like Witcher 3Cyberpunk 2077, A Plague Tale: Requiem, and many more – as long as they remain DRM-free.
Recently, Screen Rant sat down with Maciej Gołębiewski, VP, Publishing and Monetization at GOG, to discuss why staying DRM-free is important to the company, why game preservation matters, and what game preservation might look like. future of digital distribution.
Screen Rant: What is behind GOG’s decision to use a DRM-free model?
Maciej Gołębiewski: When GOG was first launched, the game market was very different from what it is today: retail was the main place to buy games, and digital distribution was not. was only in its infancy. DRM, the copy protection software created to protect licenses against unauthorized disc copying, was a huge annoyance to gamers, often limiting how they can access their content. From the start, part of GOG’s mission was to provide players with an easy way to access and play games without having to fiddle with files or deal with DRM. Today, as game preservation becomes an industry-wide topic and many companies see the value in keeping their legacy alive for future gamers, we see how GOG’s approach in digital content distribution lines up – making games available to play offline, allowing you to store backup copies and restoring compatibility with modern operating systems.
In your opinion, why are so many other companies determined to use DRM?
Maciej Gołębiewski: The anti-piracy context here is obvious, and we know it firsthand thanks to some partners. DRM, for many, is the way to prevent their games from being illegally copied and distributed, although we all know that most titles are pirated on release day or within the first few weeks.
What would you say to other publishers or developers to convince them to consider a DRM-free system?
Maciej Gołębiewski: I think our strongest argument is the story of GOG itself: it shows how a site dedicated to reviving “good old games” evolved into a platform that serves millions of users on a monthly basis and offers thousands of titles without any sign of DRM. Throughout our 14-year history, we have many examples of how releasing DRM-free games can bring financial success and gamer satisfaction. Take, for example, The Witcher 3 from CD PROJEKT RED. The game was released DRM-free on all platforms and became one of the best-selling video games of all time, with 40 million copies sold to date. And there are plenty of other titles released on GOG that are widely considered a classic and an icon for their genre. This proves that it is more about releasing high quality games that can grab players’ attention and let them sink into the game than showing them distrust by applying DRM schemes that won’t protect players anyway. piracy publishers.
How does having DRM-free games help long-term game preservation?
Maciej Gołębiewski: Because it implies that there is always a functional standalone version of a game, independent of any third-party service, software or infrastructure. This also means that the contents of this release will not be forcibly changed by the current game rights owner, and we have all seen instances where the aforementioned changes did not serve players. It also gives players a convenient way to store/backup their copies however they want.
Also, from a purely technical point of view, DRM-free versions are much easier to keep compatible with modern operating systems. At GOG, classics compatibility is maintained by our in-house technical teams, and many of the most problematic titles included those that had intrusive DRMs implemented. Hopefully the work we’re doing with today’s DRM-free releases makes them easier to compatibility for years to come.
Does having DRM-free games lead to more video game piracy?
Maciej Gołębiewski: No, I don’t think so. Releasing a DRM-protected game will not prevent it from being pirated. We have to realize that in many cases, if not most of them, people who pirate games will never buy a legitimate copy. Many companies have realized that instead of investing time, money, and effort into implementing DRM, they can spend those resources on additional testing and improving the game. They understand that the best way to prevent piracy is to provide an excellent game. That’s why we believe that we must give our customers the best possible experience of using digital products, and intrusive DRM techniques are the opposite of this approach.
What are the benefits of GOG’s model when it comes to players with poor or intermittent internet connection?
Maciej Gołębiewski: In many cases, DRMs require a stable internet connection and staying “always online” even if the game is single-player. This can be problematic for those who have a data cap limit on their internet or don’t have a reliable connection, which is not an uncommon situation. We got it, and that’s why on GOG, you only need an internet connection to log into your account and download the game, then the single player mode is always available offline. We shouldn’t expect players to be online all the time, and they should have the right to enjoy the games they’ve purchased anytime and anywhere.
GOG has been running for a long time. Do you see more publishers and developers using DRM-free models in 2022 and beyond, or less?
Maciej Gołębiewski: The DRM-free model is what we chose to pursue from the start, knowing that it will come with its own set of challenges, but we remain committed and continue to evangelize developers and publishers around the world that going DRM-free and trusting gamers is not a risk but an opportunity. Over the past few years, we’ve welcomed many amazing developers and publishers to GOG who have historically been opposed to being DRM-free, and we’re glad to see that trend continuing. We can’t guarantee that every publisher will join GOG in the years to come, and you bet we’ll never stop trying!
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