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'Monks' Confirm Good Old Games PR Stunt, Site Relaunch
'Monks' Confirm Good Old Games PR Stunt, Site Relaunch
September 22, 2010 | By Kris Graft

September 22, 2010 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC

In an unusual marketing stunt, management for the digital distribution website Good Old Games confirmed that the site's supposed closure last weekend was a hoax.

In an online press conference Wednedsay, co-founder Marcin Iwinski and managing director Guillaume Rambourg, dressed as monks, bowed their heads and repeatedly said they had "sinned."

Iwinski said that the industry takes itself too seriously, and GOG wanted to try something new from a marketing standpoint. "We are gamers, so we really have to say that we decided to play a game with our media and their users," he said. Over 900 people were in attendance during the webcast.

He claimed that the company left plenty of hints to imply that the site would return. Most speculated that the site would return in some form, as the original announcement said, "This doesn't mean the idea behind is gone forever. We're closing down the service and putting this era behind us as new challenges await."

"We are here today to beg your pardon and ask for redemption. Yes, we have sinned, we have sinned," said Rambourg.

"We are here today to express our humble apologies to all the users that got surprised with the closure of Good Old Games, and who had not been made aware that they could not access the games they purchased."

He said that aside from any marketing ploy, the "closure of the website was needed from a technical perspective," as GOG programmers had to rewrite "98 percent of the code" for the site in order to add new community and search features, among other optimizations.

GOG launched in 2008 from Polish The Witcher publisher CD Projekt, and is home to a library of classic, low-priced, DRM-free PC games. Games on the digital storefront are priced for $5.99 and $9.99, including titles such as the original Fallout games, MDK 2 and Giants: Citizen Kabuto. The relaunch of the site, slated for 1 p.m. GMT Thursday, marks the end of GOG's two-year-long beta.

The "monks" confirmed that, counter to speculation, the new website will still host DRM-free games and require no download client, two of the main selling points of GOG. Management also confirmed that GOG was not acquired. "Our monastery is pretty well-funded these days," said Iwinski. "We are back and we believe we are stronger and healthier than ever."

The revamped GOG will feature a simplified login and registration system more inviting to new users, a more "eye-catching" interface, a new recommendation system, improved browsing and search features and faster performance, management said. One of the main new features is GOGmix, which the site describes as a "User-created list of games around one theme."

Along with the announcement of the new site, the pair of brothers confirmed speculation that 1998's classic role-playing game Baldur's Gate and its expansion will be available together for $10 at GOG's relaunch. Rambourg said that GOG's goal is to become "the number one alternative to Steam. We want to be different."

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Hayden Dawson
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Me thinks these monks need new parts for their head. Mayhaps business and customers react a little different in Europe, but with as badly mangled their 'marketing ploy' came across as, they needed to be far quicker on the uptick and not use a "gee aint we still cool" approach like this.

Sorry guys, for many of your customers, this is an epic fail, and many of them won't be coming back.

Sebastien Marchal
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The "monks" are not funny, or clever, or impressing anyone with their misguided theatrics. What happened -- did the programmers accidentally enclose the entire gog website in "douchebag" tags when they rewrote those 98%?

Sad looking monks, take note: there is a difference between "being a gamer" and "gaming your customer base". So long, Good Old Games.

Christer Kaitila
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Judging from the fact that it generated massive buzz, millions of tweets, thousands of blog posts and got people all around the world talking about GoG (and how much they loved it) I'd say this PR stunt was a gigantic resounding success.

I hadn't revisited the site in over a year, but when the fake news of the closure hit, there I was, like everyone else, bemoaning the loss of a beloved supplier of good old games.

E Zachary Knight
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This reminds me of the movie "The Truman Show" when they put up the off air placeholder, the producer was talking about how that single image had higher ratings than the show ever produced.

E Zachary Knight
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At all those who are mad at GOG: Would you rather them have closed their doors completely?

Yes the marketing stunt was ill conceived and even more greatly ill received, but it was just a marketing stunt. It isn't even the worst marketing stunt I have seen in a while.

I think it was pretty clever to play the DRM controversy on everyone. That is one of the greatest fears of the consumer is that publishers will force DRM on GOG. It is one of the greatest fears of publishers that releasing DRM free games will breed wide spread piracy. By playing on that fear, GOG was able to drum up quite a bit of publicity.

Will they lose customers because of this? Guaranteed. Will they gain customers because of the press and redesigned site? Guaranteed. The only thing that is not guaranteed is whether the new customers will offset the lost customers.

But in the end I have to ask those who leave, "Where, other than piracy, will you find cheap DRM free classic PC games?"

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I liked it lol. Thought it was pretty clever.

Aaron Truehitt
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So funny I forgot to laugh.

Steven Andrews
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I am very curious to see how this plays out.

It's too early to call this one either smart or moronic. Sacrificing a substantial amount of goodwill on the altar of the marketing gods for a massive publicity hit is a huge gamble. So regardless of whether this stunt is a boon or bane for them, I do think it is a very gutsy play.

Assuming this was carefully conceived and not simply group-think run amok, you have to wonder how good this new site/service is going to be for them to risk alienating so many customers.

Anne Andres
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@ Everyone who posted a negative comment;

"Iwinski said that the industry takes itself too seriously, and GOG wanted to try something new from a marketing standpoint." /endquote

Methinks you people are taking yourself a little too seriously.

Hayden Dawson
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But we aren't talking the 'industry' or media here, we are talking customers -- who deserve far better treatment than to be the butt of GOGs joke.

Those most frustrated are likely those most involved; those who had been good customers for GOG. Those who had the most to lose, but at the same time had the most invested in an existant relationship with the company. Throwing the bird in the hand out, in hopes that the two birds in the bush will jump in to replace the first one rarely succeeds.

Ron Alpert
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I never even heard of GOG before this. As someone who spends a ridiculous amount of time scratching my head about marketing, I have to give them some credit for getting a lotta bang for something that would otherwise have cost them who knows how much $$$. So long as they can still provide a service that makes people happy (who are satisfied with the terms), then it is worth it in the long run at the risk of alienating a few folks. Well, better than having to ACTUALLY CLOSE DOWN for real, anyway.

Adam Bishop
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As someone who has purchased several games from GOG in the past, I have to say that regardless of the amount of free marketing this got the site, from my standpoint it was a horrible failure in customer service. They decided, unannounced, to take away access to game libraries from people who have paid good money to be able to play those games. That's just a dumb way to treat your customers, and I think that treating your current customers poorly in order to try and drum up business from potential future customers is foolish.

I think this is even more important because GOG is a service that has succeeded in large part because of its strong customer service and the loyalty that has bred in the community. Many of the games they sell can be easily downloaded elsewhere, and since they're mostly games that are long out of print people don't generally give a second thought to pirating them. So to take their most valuable asset - the goodwill they've built up through their fair treatment of customers - and trash that seemingly arbitrarily, to me that's a really bad way to run your business. Only time will tell how good a decision it turned out to be for them.

David Brady
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A little unusual, but I approve. I had never heard of them before this, and when I found out what they were offering as a product, I am officially sold on their site. Besides, this is way better than an obnoxious flash ad.

Todd Boyd
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If they'd killed a baby as a publicity stunt, they would have had even greater numbers. I wonder why they didn't go the extra mile?

Mark Venturelli
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@ Todd Boyd.

Thank you for that. I love you.

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That just made my day :)

Glenn Sturgeon
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I will say i was indeed bummed out when i thought maybe they had gone under.

I had nothing more than thier services to lose as i do back up the titles i buy there, since they are indeed my games. Along with the fact it saves time if you want to reinstall a title & doesn't waste GOGs bandwith.

But now reading they are reopenning & "Management also confirmed that GOG was not acquired. "Our monastery is pretty well-funded these days," (said Iwinski) i am greatly happy things are going well for the site.

Granted the stunt may not be in the best of taste but you have to give them credit for thinking out side the box from the beginning & doing what they do, selling good old games at great prices.

I feel if any customers leave then thats thier decision, but also thier loss.

I hope for any one customer they lose they gain at least 10.

More customers equals more sales & that will bring in more publishers & developers meaning more titles for gog.

@Adam Bishop

They decided, unannounced, to take away access to game libraries from people who have paid good money to be able to play those games.

Yes but people had the chance to DL & back up every title bought, so if they depend on gog as an online storage medium that is thier risk. The very risk that turns me against DD from other sites.

Most titles on the site fit on a cd & dvd/cd burners are like $20 on newegg so its like never backing up your HDD.

1. a personal decision that can have catastrophic results.

2. a situation that can cheaply be resolved if you lack the hardware or medium to do so.

I felt bad people had the judgement to not have all thier titles at least installed on thier system or better yet backed up.

As not backing a title up is losing the advantage you get by buying at gog when compaired to other DD sites.

Thanks Kris Graft & all at Gamasutra for the details of the online press conference. I read it here first.)

Dan Kyles
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I know it's not entirely accurate, but according to alexa web stats, I'd say they did pretty well out of it all. :)

Mark Raymond
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Yes, they gained massive coverage out of this, but they also behaved like jerks to their existing customers. Goodwill is hard to come by, and to just throw it away like that is an incredible waste.

Ian Uniacke
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I personally think it's a genius marketing move. And people complain all the time, I doubt this will lead to lots of people leaving. If people are going to leave they just leave they don't complain.

Quite frankly, customers would have probably been equally annoyed at a standard shut down as at this. What's more it would have affected them about the same (that is almost not at all). Honestly, do you sit there constantly downloading the games you have bought and don't play them, that you couldn't live without it for 3 days?

David Campbell
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I've got to play devil's advocate here: How many whining GoG customers ACTUALLY needed to or had any of intention of redownloading something they bought in this short period they were down? How many would have even had a passing thought regarding their GoG account had the stunt not happened? I'm guessing less than 1%.

Don't really agree with how they handled it, but for me it just reinforced their DRM-free stance and scared me away from any non-Steam DRM'd competitor. Because my reaction to them closing was, "it's a good thing my installers are DRM free!". Totally validated their business model, they showed they are the only service that could go under and one not have to fear about being able to play the games you payed for.

I bet some All Points Bulletin customers wish there was a 'Just Kidding!' waiting for them...

profile image's marketing was brilliant.

The money customers paid was for the executable for the software. We are not, and have never been, paying continuously for a "Service". Same as Steam. Sure, it was abrupt. Sure, it left doubt for those that paid for and never downloaded (or backed up) their software (duh?!). That being said, it was NEVER mentioned ANYWHERE that any customer had permanently lost access to their games, moreover, it was quickly (immediately?) stated that you would soon have access to your library again, when the site was back up.

So, where, EXACTLY, were you as a non-subscription-paying-customer, so horribly aggrieved that should be crucified for their marketing stunt?

Disagree or not with the tactics, they were successful in the end, and every public bash about the perceived injustice done by the guys at just smacks of an entitlement-mentality from which there is really no saving you.

Honestly, people, wake up. GoG's customer-base is ENTIRELY aimed at the crowd that should be starting off their posts as "Back when WE bought games, they came in 14 plastic floppy disks and a crumbly map with a copyright question in Mandarin, and it was that way for installs AND uninstalls and we LIKED IT!" Note the lack of entitlement?

Damn kids.

Trent Oster
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I'm not a fan:

Gabe McGrath
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Could we please, please, please drop this "Any PR is good PR" rubbish.

Mel Gibson

Gary Glitter

BP Oil wells

Toyota braking systems you feel positively about those people/things?

There were other ways for GoG to promote this site upgrade *without* being dicks.

And still get lots of traffic.

Nicolas Godement-Berline
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It's all about balance in how controversial a PR stunt can be.

I didn't know the website, and now I do. And I may buy games from them, which I obviously wouldn't had they "killed a baby".

I think that was a reasonably well balanced marketing stunt.