After a long weekend of wondering what the hell happened, fans and stakeholders of classic PC game retailer GOG.com (short for “Good Old Games”) learned today that the site is in fact very much alive, and the supposed death of the site was in fact a ruse designed to generate buzz surrounding its “rebirth” out of beta after two years. The sites developers, dressed in monks’ robes, apologized during an online conference (and later in a taped statement on Youtube) for the deception and outlined some of the new features coming to the online store, including the re-release of Baldur’s Gate, a highly requested title prior to the site’s alleged demise. The representatives also re-affirmed that the site is not going to require a separate download client (à la Steam) or add Digital Rights Management software to the released packages.
The hoax, which played out over the past weekend, resulted in a lot of negative emotions, owing to the abruptness of the announcement and the apparent slapdash nature of the site’s closing. Prior to the appearance of what seemed to be a “thank you and goodbye” message in lieu of their usual website, the only other hints that something was afoot was an cryptic Twitter post thanking its users and hoping “everything turns out for the best.” The news caused panic amongst customers, fearing that their purchases had been lost, while in the absence of an unambiguous announcement about what was going to happen, rumors began to fly about DRM being added to the service or that the company had been bought out. Some even alleged that GOG was going to be integrated into Steam’s catalog, prompting further concerns about DRM being added.
What remains to be seen is how forgiving those who were deceived by this stunt will be. Following the comments on social sites like Facebook, reactions to the hoax and subsequent confirmation that it was, in fact, a hoax, have prompted everything from rage to relief, with more than a few people feeling very conflicted about the whole thing. Some have vowed never to do business with GOG again, wary of the way they discontinued service abruptly prior to this announcement and expressing outrage for being manipulated. Others have demanded some form of reparations in order to be won back. Still others are merely glad to not have lost an appreciated resource for older games, many of which are not sold elsewhere or bundled with DRM if they are.
The whole incident certainly raises questions about digital content providers in general, specifically about what could happen if one goes under and the actions that a service might take in order to ensure that its customers aren’t left holding the bag. In retrospect, it seems clear that the proper actions toward that end weren’t taken because it wasn’t actually going to happen, but the concern remains nonetheless. A lesson that one might take away from this episode is the importance of demanding greater control over one’s purchased content, an idea that could conceivably affect other distributors if it takes hold.