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How piracy led to GOG encouraging DRM-free releases

July 23, 2018 | By Emma Kidwell

"I'd say the biggest competitor for CD Projekt was the piracy. That was like the biggest thing in Poland. I mean compared to today, back then it was really bad. Rarely anyone bought games."

- Managing director of GOG Piotr Karwowski speaking to Noclip about piracy in Poland. 

Back when the media market in communist Poland was dominated by piracy, it was nearly impossible for developers to publish games without the fear of having their work copied and packaged in a CD case at a criminally low price in open air markets. 

After the fall of communism in Poland came the rise of capitalism, ushering in a new generation of consumers brought up to believe piracy was the norm and official releases were special editions. That knowledge of this consumer behavior, however, would eventually lead to the conception of GOG.

In a recent video interview with Noclip, the founders of digital distribution platform GOG discuss the inception of the company, their business model, and their thoughts about beating piracy not with DRM, but by making the cost of video games "worth" the extra money.  

Managing director of GOG Piotr Karwowski discusses the early days of piracy in Poland, noting that the general public often assumed the illegal copies were legal while the official copies were special edition. 

"The games were expensive, and typically folks would just say why would you spend so much money on a game if you can go the the stadium?"

He refers to the open-air stadiums that, back in the day, were used for selling all sorts of illegal media-- especially video games. It was a hotspot for piracy. 

"We didn't know that was actually a pirated thing," echoes SVP of business development and operations at GOG Oleg Klapovsky. "We were going to the flea markets, buying the CD-ROMS in the jewel cases thinking that we were buying it straight from the developer or publisher."

"There's no way to fight piracy with DRMs," Karwowski explains. "I don't think there was any title which was not pirated. At that point I think this kind of anti-DRM, anti-copy protection kind of thing was already part of the DNA of the company."

They were speaking as part of a longer interview around the history of GOG, so be sure to watch the entire video over at Noclip. 

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