Ever since GOG.com rebranded itself away from its original "Good Old Games" moniker, it's been attempting to reposition itself as a great place for indie developers to hawk their wares -- and for fans of games a little off the well-worn path to find a variety of brilliant games.
It's been working, too -- a number of independent developers have launched their games on GOG and enjoyed the benefits of the portal's strong marketing and DRM-free nature, and fans of quirky, non triple-A experiences have been able to discover a variety of new titles they might not have come across otherwise.
"GOG understands their audience," says Calvin French, developer of The Real Texas, speaking in a promotional video put out by the portal. "I think they want to provide their audience with games that give them maybe a little more in-depth experiences. If you develop a game that you think can connect with the sort of gamer that is willing to commit a little more time in order to reap the rewards, then I think GOG is a perfect fit." French's blocky Ultima-meets-Zelda-style RPG has enjoyed some success on GOG, with a healthy number of 5-star reviews from satisfied customers.
"They've always been very prompt and easy to reach out to," agrees Kan Gao, creator of To The Moon. "And the community over there is actually fantastic. The sales are up there as well. Besides, it's just fantastic to be on the same virtual shelf as games like Heroes of Might & Magic 3." Gao notes that he has worked with a number of portals besides GOG on distributing his tearjerking adventure -- "some good, some bad" -- but has nothing but good things to say about GOG.
"You get old really quickly," adds Lars Doucet, developer of Defender's Quest. "The kind of games I'm making right now are going to be old before I even know it, and I feel really confident that people like GOG are going to be around to help us preserve these things." Doucet notes he is particularly heartened by GOG's ongoing efforts to not only release new games, but also to preserve ageing PC titles and ensure they will run -- and run well -- on modern machines.
As a next step in its campaign to become a great destination for both indie developers and fans of the experiences they create, GOG has simplified its submission process to a straightforward form in an attempt to encourage indies to reach out. The company is also offering two generous royalty packages -- either a 70/30 split in favor of the developer or, perhaps more notably, an advance on royalties with a subsequent 60/40 split until the advance is recouped. The team is also keen to stress that while not all games will be accepted, it'll reach a decision in each case within two business weeks, and no developer will be left without feedback, regardless of whether the game will end up on the portal or not.
All this could, in many ways, be seen as a direct attack on Steam Greenlight. Greenlight has drawn criticism from developers for a variety of reasons -- its registration fee; its sometimes-questionable community of commenters and voters; Valve's seemingly inconsistent application of policies -- and so it's unsurprising to see alternatives such as GOG springing up to offer a way that is, theoretically at least, "better."
What does this mean for gamers, though? Mostly, it's going to mean a healthy number of new independent games will be coming to GOG in preference to battling their way through the Greenlight process. While this doesn't mean that GOG will "kill" other distribution services -- or indeed indies choosing to self-publish and sell games through their own sites -- it does mean that the site will become even more of an exciting destination for this more creative end of the market than it is already. It will also encourage some competition -- while the amount of influence Steam holds over the PC gaming population is largely justified, it certainly doesn't hurt to have some alternative outlets for developers to hawk their wares, particularly with GOG's strong anti-DRM stance being a key distinguishing factor.
It remains to be seen what impact -- if any -- GOG's new initiative will have on indie developers and the games they create. But if you're a fan of this type of game and don't already have GOG in your bookmark bar, it may be worth rectifying that and keeping an eye on the site in the coming weeks and months.
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