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GOG Denies Policy Changes Were Made To Increase Australian  Witcher 2  Sales
GOG Denies Policy Changes Were Made To Increase Australian Witcher 2 Sales
May 13, 2011 | By Saul Alexander




­Digital game retailer Good Old Games has denied that changes in its privacy policy have any link to the recent Australian censorship of The Witcher 2, the forthcoming game from sister company CD Projekt RED.

As we reported recently, there has been speculation that a move by the company to cease tracking its customers’ regions based on IP addresses (instead allowing them to specify their own location) was specifically designed to allow Australians to purchase the uncensored edition of the game.

Trevor Longino, the head of PR and marketing at Good Old Games, denied the allegations, telling Gamasutra that the policy change "has nothing specific to do with Australia in particular. Our new policy simply reflects the way we think global digital distribution should be."

"We're not stupid, of course and realize that some users may abuse this to obtain a version of a game that is not approved by their local Certification Board," he said.

"GOG.com has always been about giving our users the power of choice; if they willingly choose to violate their local censorship laws, we can't condone that," he explained.

"Given how easy it is to circumvent the protections that most retailers use (like geo-IP location), no one can control it, and we don't think our approach is inherently more open to exploitation than any other. We trust our users not to pirate our games, and we trust that they won't abuse this new feature either," he added.

The explanation doesn’t hold much weight with commentators like Tim Colwill, who runs the lobby site R 18+ Games.

"I think it's a great move by Good Old Games...everyone knows what it's really about, but as long as GOG continues to deny it, they can't really call them on it," he told Gamasutra. "It's very politically charged at the moment for GOG's PR people, I imagine.”

Colin Jacobs, of Electronic Frontiers Australia, says that the move by GOG "highlights the absurdity of the current system," which refused to classify the game because it fell outside of the maximum MA 15+ rating. He says that, legally speaking, GOG and its Australian customers have nothing to fear.

"There's still a difference between buying a box overseas -- or getting something by mail order -- and downloading it," he said. "The former is importation, which is covered by laws dating back to time immemorial. This includes censorship laws. Downloading, on the other hand, is not covered. You can still face penalties for owning illegal content (such as child pornography), but not for downloading unrated content."

Australian customers need not fear that fibbing about their location will lead to any repercussions from GOG: the company has no way of verifying a customer's location anymore.

"We don't make money by spying on our users," said Longino. "As part of this, we're no longer keeping their IP addresses geo-IP information on record. We don't need the info, so why keep it?"

Less publicized has been the other side effect of GOG’s policy change –- the ability for any customer to choose the region with the lowest prices. This again appears to be a win for Australians, but also for Europeans, as games are frequently sold in both regions at much higher prices than in the US and UK.

The Witcher 2 is currently the only game offered for sale by GOG where the price varies according to the region it is purchased from. The company says that the higher prices in Australia and Europe are the result of "legal obligations with distributors," and they already offer what they call a "Fair Price Package," which compensates Australian and European customers with store credit.

"By releasing The Witcher 2 DRM-free on GOG.com, by offering our Fair Price Package, and by respecting and trusting our users, we're making a solid test case for treating PC Gamers the way they would like to be treated," said Longino. "This has performed very well for us so far, and it looks like it's going to continue to make waves in the community as we keep growing."

Given this philosophy, it’s not hard to envisage the scrapping of regions as the next logical step, a public pretense kept up only for the sake of those retail distribution contracts. Whatever the case, no-one seems to be complaining.


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Comments


Andrew Grapsas
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It's pretty cool that they're doing this from a customer stand point. Awesome. I really enjoyed The Witcher and am definitely going to throw my dollars at The Witcher 2. I'm excited to see how they've iterated on it :)

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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"if they willingly choose to violate their local censorship laws, we can't condone that,"



Why not? Idiotic laws should be violated. There is nothing that scares me more than a society that thinks that because some old farts wrote something on paper we should have to obey it. As if our lawmakers are someone perfect ethical beings beyond personal bias? Oh well, I understand if you don't want to condone illegal (yet not unethical) activities for PR reasons. So I'll condone it a little bit more today for you :).

Morgan Ramsay
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PR reasons? Soliciting the commission of any illegal act is an inchoate offense in virtually every civilized nation, including Poland.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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Perhaps, but solicit != condone.

David Campbell
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I just feel this belongs here...particularly the conclusions at the end...



http://www.ted.com/talks/larry_lessig_says_the_law_is_strangling_
creativity.html

David Campbell
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Beware of spaces.



http://tinyurl.com/LessigOnCopyright

A W
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Sigh... I guess some of us don't plan on being "old farts" someday. :roll:

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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"Sigh... I guess some of us don't plan on being "old farts" someday. :roll:"



I know I don't, I'm going to die in my forties from my bad diet and stress. Hell, probably 30s, I've had open heart surgery already :)



But no seriously, if I age to understand future technology and common ethics (not letting adults buy violent games is unnecessary censorship and an abuse of power, therefore it is unethical) as poorly as modern government figures, then I will deserve derision as well. Which is why I intend to avoid it to the best of my knowledge.

Chris Moeller
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I'm very excited to play the Witcher 2 - and think everyone should have an opportunity to play it as the developers originally intended.



Yeah, conservative views suck - "Don't change it because it's been around for a long time" - that way no one has to try anything new to see if it works better ;)



I know having higher maturity ratings can make a game harder to sell (some retailers won't carry them), but online downloadable content should at least let the user select what kind of game they want to play.



Heck, any game with killing should be on the same (or way worse) level as nudity- funny that in the first one they had to censor topless girls, but not needing to change the bad guys into "monsters" or "flowers", for less realistic violence.



They did a great job with the first one, so I'm really excited to see the second one!

William Cromwell
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I respect the steps CD Projekt Red and GOG have taken to distribute fairly. I hope that this kind of thinking spreads to other distributors as this is a #winning idea.



I'm also excited that The Witcher 2 DLC will be 100% free, which only strengthens the respect that I have for these guys.



Furthermore, who is the government or distributors to tell me what version or content to play and at what price? Every game should have one price per distributor and none of this "agree to match prices" nonsense. Digital products should be much cheaper because of a lack of physical items.



Lastly, censorship on games meant for adults so that minors won't be "traumatized" because there is no accepted "recommended rating" is just silly.

A W
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I would suspect they changed their policy do to money. People who could not buy the first game because of a ban ended up ripping it off on a torrent site anyway, circumventing any ban that was placed on the region. I suspect most people that used torrents mostly, do it to get their hands on content that was banned or illegal in their respective nation anyway. I guess they figure that if the release the restriction, that they could see more sales of their game across the board and let the governments figure out the laws rather than them carrying it out themselves and making nothing on people playing it in a country that banned its sale. Trying to figure out what game was downloaded from where to enforce the law for a sovereign country must be a daunting and time consuming task on the part of one small business. Why not let a bigger entity (like the government) try and figure out the ip mess that can be hidden by mutiple proxy servers.


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