GOG: DRM-Free Soldiers and Building a Digital Distribution Service

The DRM-Free Army: Growing the GOG Community

Bringing back classic games is just one half of GOG’s success formula. The other half lies in GOG’s community.

GOG’s growth in the last five years is due to a loyal community following that has sprung up around the distributor. Rather than using digital advertising, GOG’s marketing technique was the more organic, word-of-mouth approach, Rambourg said.

“Historically, we launched GOG in 2008, and from 2008 to quite recently, we had almost no marketing or PR budget,” he said. “It was all about exciting gamers through everything we do and if they are excited and passionate about GOG, then they champion GOG. They decide to voice GOG and promote GOG around them. This is how we have been doing PR marketing for four or five years.”

GOG only recently began experimenting with conventional advertising methods, Rambourg said, to little success.

“I think it was last year, we started giving regular advertising a try on some media web sites. Banners, Google Adwords, and everything. Actually, I’m not convinced this really pays off,” he said. “Gamers are very knowledgeable. If you go to any given media web site, everyday, you see lots of flashy banners offering you something for free. ‘Click now. Buy now.’ You get harassed as a gamer. You don’t want to see that. This is why they have AdBlock on their computers.”

Instead, Rambourg explained that growing a business was all about making emotional connections and putting a face to the business.

“You want to make gamers feel as a part of a family, not a part of platform or a faceless corporation,” he said.

Honesty, he said, was the best way to approach gamers and that meant owning up to mistakes.

“We are a young company and there are a lot of things we fail to do properly,” he said. “To be honest, we sucked.”

He noted GOG’s disastrous implementation of DLC: “I remember when we first launched DLC on GOG. We made it in a very, very poor way. It was not explained properly. It was not implemented properly. We apologized to gamers. We gave them free games.”

Treating customers properly means loyal and returning customers, ones that will pass along stories of their good experiences to others, he said. It’s a matter of “simply exciting gamers and creating a DRM-free army. Soldiers around the world, fighting for us. …We made them faithful to GOG.

“No banners, no classical marketing techniques can bring you that.”

GOG Now and Future Goals

Now five years old, GOG is the largest DRM-free digital distributor of PC and Mac games in the world, with more than 100 signed partners. Considering that the service’s catalogue only includes a little over 600 games, 500 classics and 100 modern games, it’s an impressive statistic.

However, GOG’s not going to get comfortable in its spot as top dog. In fact, Rambourg’s short-term goal is to continue growing GOG’s library of games and fill in the holes of key classics.

“We still have some famous titles we have missing in our library,” he said. “I’m thinking of the former LucasArts titles, for example. I wish this was something we could have signed and launched a long time ago … That’s the goal for the future: signing the missing games for GOG. We have quite a few.”

Big things are coming for GOG in the next year, Rambourg said, although he was loathe to go into the details, for fear of disappointing gamers with too much early hype.

“We have lots of ideas in mind, for example, we have some kind of voting system whereby–it’s a wishlist–gamers can request new features on their website or games on their website. This is something we have so we can tailor GOG to their needs.

“We don’t want to rush,” he said in regards to bringing changes to GOG. “You know, Steam is a few years ahead. They are older than us. We are behind them in some ways in terms of community features. On some other grounds such as the voting system and everything I mentioned, these are some things Steam is not doing. We are trying to match what they do. We have ideas to expand further. We have lots of plans for next year, 2014….”

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