GOG becomes a bit more Ubiquitous, talks about how they landed the deal

by: Chuck -
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GOG announced today that they have partnered with Ubisoft to bring some of their old PC titles to their DRM free service.  We got a chance to sit down with GOG PR mastermind Tom Ohle to talk about some of the details of the deal:

So you've managed to land Ubisoft, can you talk a little about the negotiation process and why Ubisoft finally decided to use picked GoG to distribute some of their older games?
Ubi first expressed an interest in bringing some games to Good Old Games a few months ago, and since then our business team has been working diligently to make it happen. How it usually works is that once we’ve realized that a company wants to work with us, we provide a list of games we’d like from their catalogue. Sometimes that list makes it, or it gets edited to add or remove titles. Then it all goes into the wonderful world of “business” and can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to finalize. I think that’s one of the most frustrating things to me, as an unabashed promotion junkie :) -- I just want to get the games out there for our fans, but it can take a long time for deals to get signed.

As for why Ubi decided they wanted to bring their games to GOG… well, that’s probably a better question for them, but I imagine they had the same motivation as other companies that we work with: they realize that there’s a sizeable audience for classic games out there. They have games that are being pirated, that are easily available on torrent sites, from which they’re not earning any money. So why not provide an affordable “alternative” to piracy and actually make some money from that back catalogue?

Can you talk about which Ubi games are we going to see at launch and what games are coming in the near term?
Obviously we’re pretty much thrilled to bring Ubi’s games to the site, as there are a lot of great titles in there. As soon as we announced the deal we released Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, IL-2 Sturmovik: 1946 and Beyond Good and Evil, and we’ve got other classics like Heroes of Might and Magic, Far Cry, Splinter Cell and more coming soon.

What led up to you pursuing Ubisoft for GoG? What are the must-have titles in your mind?
We really want to build up a huge library of classic games, and that means that we’re probably pursuing every publisher in one way or another :). But naturally there are some games in Ubi’s catalogue that we were dying to get. Heroes of Might and Magic was a really influential strategy game, Beyond Good and Evil was criminally overlooked, Rainbow Six defined a new genre (and made me throw a few mice out the window in teenage tantrums because of the difficulty and complexity)… I think that most of the games we’re getting from Ubisoft can easily be called classics.

What's your process for taking an old PC game and bringing it to GoG? What's the average time it takes to bring one game to the service?
It really varies from one game to the next; some take a lot of work and others are easily made compatible with Vista and XP. We have a team of programmers that take the game master and use it to create our custom installer, and then our testers go through the game diligently to make sure it works well. We also have to do a fair bit of work on the web side, as we create custom pages and artwork for each title. That whole process can take as little as a week or much longer.

Bigger sticking point, which games to release or the concept of DRM free games?
Our DRM-free approach is definitely the biggest issue for publishers that haven’t yet signed on with GOG. The industry is shifting a bit, though, and the Ubisoft signing is hopefully going to signal more wide-spread acceptance of our stance on DRM. I think that companies are finally realizing that gamers are willing to pay for classic games if you do them right – I don’t think we would have gotten such a warm welcome from fans if we’d forced a GOG application/client on them or if we’d used some kind of serial-number authentication. It’s the ease of use and freedom to do what you want with our games that people are embracing, and it’s great to see a company like Ubisoft treating its fans with respect.

Do you think Ubi will be a tipping point to get other developers on the GoG bandwagon? When can we expect the next big announcement?
As I mentioned earlier, we’re probably talking to pretty much every publisher out there. The issue is that things take a while; we have to convince them that releasing DRM-free games isn’t akin to giving their games away for free, and once we’ve done that it can still take a good amount of time for a deal to be finalized. I don’t want to jinx any upcoming announcements, but I’d say we should have another big one within a couple of months. There are a number of deals in the pipe at various stages of negotiation.

Anything we missed?
That probably covers it. I just urge anyone who hasn’t checked out GOG.com yet to do so… grab Beneath a Steel Sky or Lure of the Temptress for free on the site to get an idea of how it all works, and to see how nice it is to have totally DRM-free games. Maybe then you’ll be ready to graduate to the extremely expensive games we’re selling… $5.99 or $9.99 for lots of great old games.
Ubisoft® Brings the Hits to GOG.com

Beyond Good and Evil®, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six® and Far Cry® among Titles Coming to Good Old Games

Warsaw, Poland – March 26, 2009. Today, Ubisoft®, one of the world’s largest video game publishers, and GOG.com (http://www.gog.com), the games-on-demand platform dedicated to DRM-free classic PC games that’s just too cool for school, announced an agreement to deliver Ubisoft's best back-catalogue games via GOG.com.

The agreement brings classic Ubisoft titles like Beyond Good and Evil®, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six®, Far Cry®, Heroes of Might and Magic® and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell® to gamers around the world via GOG.com’s DRM-free games catalogue. As with all GOG.com releases, the titles are affordable and accompanied by mounds of extras, including soundtracks, wallpapers, forum avatars and much more.

“We’re incredibly happy to welcome Ubisoft and their much-loved games to GOG.com,” said Adam Oldakowski, managing director of GOG.com. “Ubisoft has long been breaking new ground with innovative and award-winning games, and is strongly reinforcing that trailblazing image by bringing its titles to GOG.com. The warm welcome of GOG.com by gamers convinced us that there is huge demand for classic games at a low price and packed with bonus materials. With more titles from leading companies like Ubisoft we will be able to achieve our goal of becoming the ultimate destination for fans of classic PC games.”

Ubisoft’s classic games have already started to hit GOG.com's catalogue, with Beyond Good and Evil® (http://www.gog.com/en/gamecard/beyond_good_and_evil), Prince of Persia: Sands of Time™ (http://www.gog.com/en/gamecard/prince_of_persia_the_sands_of_time) and IL-2 Sturmovik™: 1946 (http://www.gog.com/en/gamecard/il_2_sturmovik_1946) now available for $9.99 each. Other titles will be added in the coming weeks.
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