GOG is a digital game platform owned by CD Projekt. It is known to most gamers as the premier DRM-free platform, but it is a lot more than that. In today’s article I will explain why I personally prefer the GOG platform and showcase some of its less often discussed advantages over other storefronts.
GoG games do not have DRM!
DRM stands for Digital Rights Management and is a technology that aims stop any attempts by pirates to make illegal copies of the original material. It is there to make sure that only paying customers get to experience the piece of media, and is in theory supposed to be something good for developers, publisher, and gamers long term. However, sometimes theory and reality clash hard and the truth is – DRM just does not work with video games, especially once the first 3-4 weeks of sales are over. I will explain why there are many practical benefits to having no DRM – it is not just an ideological stance!
Having no DRM ensures that games are not tied to any launchers or other third-party software. What may end up happening is that people who use Steam or Epic have to launch their game while opening Uplay or Origin or the Rockstar Social club – it is not only a waste of time and computing cycles – it goes against the Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS) principle. On GOG, almost all games can be launched from their .exe, without needing GOG Galaxy. Hell, one can install them without installing the GOG Galaxy launcher.
DRM often impacts game loading times, making the very act of opening and playing one’s favourite game a bit of a chore. Its effect depends on the implementation, but modern-day ones like Denuvo can have a notable load time effect. To add even more insult to injury – since DRM methods do require some processing power, they do impact game performance, even if slightly. Frame times go up and CPU utilization for the actual game code goes down – while people with very powerful multi-core beasts like the Intel 10900K or Ryzen 5900X would likely not feel this at all, people with far slower machines with older or less powerful processors and no or slow and old SSDs are definitely affected. This is to me unacceptable – why should paying customers be affected like this? Especially the ones with weaker hardware. Why are we wasting processing power, energy, and heat, for an objectively worse user experience?
The methodology needs some work but it is solid enough to showcase that there is a difference.
Sometimes, DRM can get in the way of modding. Mods that involve altering DLLs or executable files tend to be troubled by most DRM solutions – I am a major fan of modding. It is truly one of the best and brightest things about PC Gaming, so anything that limits it is definitely not good in my book.
Another good thing about having no DRM is that one can easily have multiple installations of a game
One of my favorite things about not having DRM is that one can easily have multiple installations of a game on the same computer. Why is this good one may ask? In case you are using multiple total conversion mods in a lot of games – this makes it a lot easier. I have multiple S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat mods on my computer right now and this is a Godsent!
These reasons should showcase that DRM is not really in a user’s best interest, at least not long term. While a few of these points above only affect enthusiast, users like myself – the performance and loading time one affects everyone, especially people with weaker machines. I like that games on GOG just do not come with this bloatware.
With that said, for clarity, I have nothing against DRM that is in games temporarily to guard the first month of a game’s release. Usually, modern DRM methods can achieve that much at least, even if they always get defeated eventually. Developers like id Tech or 4A Games release patches that remove DRM from their games later on – that is a good way to handle the situation. Too bad they are the exception…
GOG Lets You Explicitly Disable Game Updates
You can disable auto-updates for games on GOG, but you can’t do this on Steam or any other digital platform I know of, even though Steam used to allow it. Why is this useful, you ask? The first and foremost reason is once again game modifications. If a mod replaces the game executable, Steam may detect it and forcibly change it back to the original and it is almost impossible to prevent this. Also, in case a patch happens to come for your game that you have been modding – it may forcibly break it.
You can only get around this with games on Steam that happen to not have DRM. Games like The Witcher 3 for example – but most do have DRM. Using different beta branches on Steam may be a workaround, but it isn’t foolproof and is not nearly as good as just disabling auto-updates. The last thing a user needs is for the digital platform to break their favourite game – an extremely annoying occurrence.
GOG is closer to full ownership
With Steam, Origin, Epic Games Store, uPlay, Microsoft Store/Game Pass, you can only install games through their service which of course requires internet connectivity. The installation media of the game is never accessible to you, unfortunately.
This is a sharp contrast from GOG which, after you buy a game, lets you download the actual DRM-free installation media for every game. It is yours to do with as you please. If you’re constantly installing/uninstalling games due to storage limitations and live somewhere with rather unreliable internet, then being able to download and keep the installation media is a life saver for you. I do not have to deal with these problems, but many people do – and keeping one’s favourite titles on a separate hard drive or SSD is definitely something that can give you a peace of mind.
Preinstalled Community Patches
One nice touch with GOG is that for older games that need community patches, they often include them by default. The Thief games come with NewDark, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines comes with the Unofficial Patch. Alas, an older version, it takes time for GOG to update their installer, but it’s still a massive improvement for most players.
It is nice of GOG to include community patches, but they need to do it more often and curate their selection better. To make sure it is up to date and keep the vanilla-like mods over the ones that may change too much.
This is a minor factor but it is still quite nice. GOG games often come with wallpapers, avatars, some artwork, manuals, guides, and soundtrack with your purchase. This is largely dependent on the game publisher of course, but for lots of older games made by now defunct studios, you will get these things with your purchase.
In fact, GOG actively encourage gamers who possess such goodies for old games to send it to the team so that they may add them to the GOG package. It is good for conservation as well as having a more complete experience with our games.
Downsides to GOG?
There are downsides even to the mighty GOG. The big one is that it doesn’t get every game, a downside shared by every platform ultimately. GOG does have a generous refund policy, which is dangerous for them considering the lack of DRM. However, it is a pro-consumer move.
Another downside to GOG but this one affects publishers and developers – the 30% GOG cut is not optimal. Even Steam has a somewhat more flexible system here, and while a low cut like 12% would hurt the site it should still be lowered at least a tad.
GOG Galaxy 2.0 doesn’t have as many “community” or social features as Steam like status feeds, clans, screenshot sharing, streaming integration and others. I personally feel those are insignificant advantages in the age of reddit, Youtube, Twitch, Nexus Mods, Moddb, and many other forums or resource sites. The only thing it really lacks from my admittedly enthusiast point of view is VR integration but again, the launcher/client program is optional anyway. I really wish for better native Linux support too; it will help its ease of use for our Linux brethren.
At SapphireNation we love all storefronts on the PC platform. I personally have games on every major site and do use all of them to play my games. However, I do hope that more people notice GOG’s good sides since they are fairly unique and are also things I wish would become the standard for the good of gaming long term.
The articles content, opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed in SAPPHIRE NATION are the authors’ own and do not necessarily represent official policy or position of SAPPHIRE Technology.