GOG offering Steam customers DRM-free versions of their game libraries
Modern computer software often comes packed with something called Digital Rights Management, or DRM -- a deliberately obfuscating term for what is essentially a way to control how users are able to install software, how many times, on what devices, and in conjunction with other products. In theory, it's used to quash piracy, but it can also be used to monopolize customers by forcing them to use a particular service or client in order to access something they've paid for. For instance, many Steam games won't run, or will block off features, if you try to load them without running them through the Steam client.
We saw recently how Oculus introduced new DRM in order to prevent players from running its Oculus Store-exclusive games on rival virtual reality headset the HTC Vive, and how spectacularly it backfired. But like as not, DRM is the norm for most commercial software these days. It's part of the whole 'games as service' model the industry is presently embracing: you don't really own your games, you buy the right to use them for a time, and companies are free to revoke that right down the line.
Enter Good Only Games, or GOG. It's best known as an digital storefront specializing in older PC games, but increasingly serves as host to many newer titles as well. GOG's versions of games don't include DRM -- you can copy the files, install them on as many computers as you want, mod the crap out of them, whatever. Many of GOG's games are also accessible on Steam, so to distinguish them, GOG has introduced a new feature that allows Steam customers to download GOG's DRM-free versions of games already in their libraries.
To take advantage of the service -- called GOG Connect -- players have to link their Steam accounts with GOG's website. Once they do that, they'll be able to download from a selection of titles, for free, provided the games are already marked as purchased on Steam. The one major drawback is that GOG Connect depends on permission from publishers, and so far not many have given the OK to let Steam customers download a DRM-free copy of their games. Here's the current complete list:
- The Witness
- FTL: Faster Than Light
- The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing: Final Cut
- Galactic Civilizations 3
- Trine Enchanted Edition
- Saints Row 2
- Shadowrun Returns
- The Witcher: Enhanced Edition
- Bit.Trip Runner
- Breach & Clear
- Breach & Clear: Deadline
- Broken Sword: Director’s Cut
- Mount & Blade
- Project Zomboid
- Sherlock Holmes: Secret of the Silver Earring
- To The Moon
- Two Worlds
- Unreal Gold
- Unreal Tournament GOTY
There are some pretty great games on here, to be sure! Shadowrun Returns or FTL in particular strike me as the kind of titles you might want to take with you when you're away from your main computer (and Steam's library sharing is not an option). But here's hoping this list looks a lot longer as time goes by and more publishers get on board.