Players looking to get their fix of hard-to-find old-school games will have been thwarted if they tried going to the reliable resource of GOG.com this weekend. The digital download service launched two years ago, specializing in the Good Old Games that gave the site its title. It quickly became a vital hub for enthusiast of PC games past and recently acquired the rights to distribute old-school Atari games, too.
So it caused a bit of a shock when the following letter met users going to their homepage over the weekend:
Dear GOG users,
We have recently had to give serious thought to whether we could really keep GOG.com the way it is. We’ve debated on it for quite some time and, unfortunately, we’ve decided that GOG.com simply cannot remain in its current form.
We’re very grateful for all support we’ve received from all of you in the past two years. Working on GOG.com was a great adventure for all of us and an unforgettable journey to the past, through the long and wonderful history of PC gaming.
This doesn’t mean the idea behind GOG.com is gone forever. We’re closing down the service and putting this era behind us as new challenges await.
On a technical note, this week we’ll put in place a solution to allow everyone to re-download their games. Stay tuned to this page and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates.
All the best,
If GOG’s hiatus is truly permament, then the world of gaming could potentially lose a trove of difficult-to-access content. Much has been made of the challenges of game preservation and a website like GOG provided an invaluable service to anyone interested in what games played like more than a decade ago. GOG’s code workers did the difficult tasks of optimizing sometimes buggy programming to work on today’s modern software, archived box art and instruction booklets for bygone releases and most importantly, provided a place different generations of gamers to bond over games. Today’s gamers would have never experienced the quirky, influential work published by defunct entities like Interplay, JoWood or Rage Software.
The important caveat to that last point is that GOG provided a legal way to get these games, one that didn’t use controversial DRM methods that sometimes affect PC performance. It’s not too hard to scour the torrents and find ripped software and instructions on how to install emulation software. Of course, this rankles the rightholders of the collective backcatalog. But, they may not have the wherewithal or resources to maintain old-school releases. So, when a site like GOG disappears, the only way to get archived digital content is to hit the torrents.
The titles that GOG aggregated exist mostly as fond memories for people that played them and the site allowed players to revisit them and see if they were as good as they remembered. That may sound trivial, but it’s a lot easier to rent, stream or download “Mean Streets,” for example, than it would be to play “MDK2” or “Another World.” Both those games are classics in their own right, and it’s sad to see them fade away out of reach. There’s speculation that this shut-down is just a marketing ploy in advance of another announcement. And the wording of the goodbye letter certainly lends credence to that. Still, even if the disappearance of GOG is only temporar, it highlights one important idea. If the video games medium wants to win the argument that doubts whether they’re really an artform, then a better job needs to be done in terms of preserving its history.