When you buy a game from GOG, the (mostly) retro download shop, you download a standalone installer and install it. That's it.
Compare that to Steam: you install the Steam client through which you buy, install and launch the game. You can play in Offline Mode but you still need to activate the game online at least once. Steam is inherently DRM, however super duper you perceive it to be.
That was the difference - that and the game clientele - between the two platforms. But when GOG announced a client of its own - GOG Galaxy - earlier this month, that fundamental difference was brought into question.
Rest assured, however, those values GOG was founded on are still as important as ever.
"DRM is only impacting the good-hearted passionate gamers out there," Guillaume Rambourg, vice president GOG North America, told Eurogamer Germany in an interview translated for me. "The very same gamers who are ready to spend $50 or more to own their favourite triple-A title and support our industry.
"Going through some cumbersome online activation procedure? Sometimes even having to connect to the Internet to activate the single-player mode of your favourite title? Or even worse, being obliged to remain online to play that single-player mode? That's not really the best way to reward those faithful gamers who just spent quite a chunk of their monthly income to buy your (expensive) game.
"Our industry should be cherishing and treating all gamers with respect, those people who pay our wages, servers, development projects and what not. Instead, we just make it frustrating for them to buy games. How schizophrenic is that?
"DRM is not protecting any product," he added. "It is harming your fans and your brands in the long run."
He used The Witcher 2 - a game made under the CD Projekt umbrella, which GOG operates under - as an example. It was released DRM-free on GOG in 2011.
"Many people in the industry were worried that the first version to be leaked illegally on torrent websites would be ours. Guess what? The version that got uploaded first, a few days before the game release, was the cracked retail version, which shipped with DRM!"
The average amount of downloads per title across the whole GOG platform of 750+ games is 1.8, he said (if they were being pirated a lot that number would obviously be a lot higher).
"If being a DRM-free platform was such a threat, then how come GOG.com welcomes 2 million gamers a month, distributes 755 games as of today, has been profitable from the day one; and is more 'alive and kicking' than ever, five-and-a-half years after we launched?"
Bullish talk, but what does it all mean for Galaxy? "We totally believe that distributing games without DRM is a good thing for our industry," he said. "Let's make it easy and rewarding for gamers to buy games. They are not criminals and they do not need DRM."
GOG Galaxy will be DRM-free, then - in case it wasn't abundantly apparent by now - and using the Galaxy client will be optional. You don't have to use it as a kind of glue sticking your GOG experience together, facilitating online play and community, and keeping all your games patched and up to date. Oh, and Achievements, don't forget about those.
You can stick to using the GOG website to download separate installers for the games if you prefer. And if you want to play offline you can still launch your game that way, too.
GOG Galaxy won't force itself on you in the interests of becoming your PC everything, your sole destination. In fact you'll be able to interact with the Steam community through a cross-play idea.
You can buy a Galaxy-enabled game, such as The Witcher Adventure Game (a digital board game), using Steam, and play against people using Galaxy. You don't need to faff with a separate Galaxy log-in, you just play.
"As for involving other client providers, such as uPlay or Origin: we haven't started any discussions yet, but if we could someday sign a great game, available on GOG.com and those platforms as well, and convince Ubisoft and EA to have their gamers play with GOG.com users... This could be really great - we'd love that," said Piotr Karwowski, vice president of online tech at GOG.
Today GOG is the "number-one alternative to Steam", Rambourg boasted, with close to 200 publishers and developers on board. "I humbly believe we have gained a certain legitimacy and expertise, which we are always glad to share within the industry.
"We have never lost any partner who decided to give DRM-free digital distribution a try with us, which is something we are proud of. We want to make the world of gaming 100 per cent DRM-free, just like the music industry successfully did.
"It is just a matter of time until some remaining irrational fears vanish and we would be glad to speed up this process."
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