GOG is the PC game platform you might know and love for its anti-DRM stance. It’s a consumer-friendly policy that’s the exception to the rule, and while it may also eat into GOG’s marketability as a distribution platform in the eyes of AAA publishers, it sends a clear and positive message to consumers.
GOG’s goodwill towards its customers got its foot in the door, but the pressures of competition from the likes of the Epic Store and Steam are no doubt hurdles to overcome. The trick to getting over these obstacles and ensuring growth for GOG may lie in the upcoming launch of Galaxy 2.0, which doesn’t merely overhaul the look of the platform’s desktop client but expands its functionality in a bid to offer even more services and conveniences to users.
In a recent meeting with GOG’s managing director Piotr Karwowski, and SVP of business development Oleg Klapovskiy, I got the first taste of their vision for Galaxy 2.0: “All your friends and games in one place.” What this means is a few things, including collating all of your digital PC games, across all platforms and services, and making them easy to launch and install directly from Galaxy.
Though you obviously can’t launch PS4 or Xbox One games from the app, you can add your PS4 and Xbox One games to your index to use Galaxy as a general purpose library management tool–which includes the auto-population of cover art and basic meta info for each game you add.
These are handy additions with arguably modest benefits that have been offered by other apps in the past, but what really makes the pitch for Galaxy 2.0 attractive is that GOG aims to connect you and all of your friends, across all consoles and PC platforms, to create an all-encompassing gaming portal. Their ambitious approach goes beyond collections, accounting for gameplay data, achievements, and direct messaging. Galaxy 2.0 can even find friends on one service, and if they are also a Galaxy user, help you connect on services where the friendship hasn’t yet been established.
Throughout my demo, Galaxy 2.0 looked both orderly and attractive. The inviting user interface made looking at arrays of data and comparison points a relatively painless process, and it was surprising how many useful modules could fit on a single screen. Users will also be able to get into the weeds and alter the look and feel of their interface by configuring existing pages and menus, as well as create new menus with custom logic and layouts to suit their organizational and analytic needs.
Piotr and Oleg aren’t shying away from the challenges in front of them. It’s one thing to create an elaborate tool for PC games, and it’s an entirely different beast to bring the traditional walled gardens of consoles into the mix. GOG has access to Microsoft’s API already and is currently trying hard to convince Sony and Nintendo to play ball. That being said, part of my live demo included a look at Piotr’s entry for the PlayStation 4 exclusive God of War. This included a detailed record of trophies, both locked and unlocked, and their logos and descriptions. These unofficial integrations and plugins are possible due to Galaxy 2.0’s open-ended nature, which allows for user-made extensions.
All of the data that goes into your Galaxy 2.0 library and profile will live on GOG’s servers, which means that you get the convenience of portability, but also that GOG will potentially know a lot about you and your gaming habits. Piotr was very adamant that GOG is not in the business of selling data. He also stressed that users can both deactivate their profiles and strip their info from servers whenever they so choose. Where there would normally be ground for heavy skepticism against other companies, GOG’s promise feels genuine in light of its consumer-friendly reputation.
When asked to explain how Galaxy 2.0 makes business sense for GOG, Oleg and Piotr simply stated that their hope is that users who use the app will also take advantage of the built-in store. Though I’m sure there’s more thought put into the design and integration of features in order to drive sales of games on GOG, you can’t argue with the fact that much of what Galaxy 2.0 offers to consumers bears no connection to sales nor advertising. It’s not a work of charity, to be certain, but as GOG has proven in the past, showing customers that your platform is built to make their hobby a markedly better experience can be reason enough for loyalty to set in, and sales to follow.
GOG’s promises seem to come from the right place, and more importantly, most of them are proven to be achievable today. Anyone who wants to give the Galaxy 2.0 a shot can volunteer for the upcoming closed beta launching soon, over at http://www.gogalaxy.com/.