Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice
Preserving Our Playable Past

Rob Zacny | 24 Feb 2009 13:21
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Perhaps unavoidably, Good Old Games is also a place of conspicuous absence. Developers like Origin Systems, Looking Glass Studios or LucasArts are not present on the service and, given how thoroughly many of those classics have disappeared, it seems unlikely that the rights holders are about to jump on the GOG bandwagon.

Kukawski explains that acquisition is one of the most complicated aspects of GOG. "First of all, it's not so easy to find the rights holders for some of the games, especially the really old ones, so it's a long road from the very beginning," he says. "When we finally make contact with the right person from the right company, our business development team just inquires about the availability of back-catalog titles because, in the end, most of these titles are games that are essentially abandonware - games you just can't buy in stores anymore. It's a matter of, on a publisher-by-publisher basis, trying to figure out who's receptive to the idea of monetizing their back catalogs - seeing what's available. If they're interested in it, then we just go through the process of getting them an agreement, and getting master copies of the games, which might be tricky sometimes."

Getting a hold of the rights is only part of the battle. GOG faces the recurring challenge of hitting a moving target as it tries to ensure that its games work properly in spite of an always changing technological landscape.

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"This is hard because there are millions of different hardware configurations and we want our games to run on all of them smoothly and without any problems," Kukawski says. "Then new OSs will appear, like Windows 7, that we'd love to support, too; it seems like some of the games run on the beta version, but this all needs to be tested. The compatibility with modern operating systems is as important for us as the lack of DRM in our games."

I asked whether Good Old Games has been successful at reviving old games for a new generation, or if it's mostly selling to nostalgic gamers looking to recapture the glory days. "Lots of people who are regular GOG.com users are nostalgic gamers who just want to spend time playing their favorite games of days gone by," Kukawski admits. "But there are also lots of young gamers who just didn't get the chance to play games like Fallout, Freespace 2, MDK or Simon the Sorcerer. They heard about those great games, but just couldn't find them anywhere or couldn't run them on their computers. We have a pretty good mix of both types of customers on the site."

There is one detail on GOG.com that I particularly appreciate, however. When I go to my collection, I see my games laid out on a bookshelf not unlike the IKEA units that have popped up around my apartment like mushrooms after a rainstorm. I scroll over the box art and a pop-out menu unfurls a list of the items "inside." Game manuals (which really were better back then), soundtracks, art and wallpapers, and of course the games themselves.

It's a reassuring and even promising sign to see these old games staring at me from a shelf once again, as they did so long ago, in a room such as this.

Rob Zacny is a freelance writer. When not focused on gaming, he pursues his interests in Classics, the World Wars, cooking and film. He can be reached at zacnyr[at]gmail[dot]com.

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