Wired.co.uk: What was the story behind setting up the GOG.com website?
Rambourg: It all began in the mid-90s, when friends Marcin Iwinski and Michal Kicinski started their business as retail distributors in Poland. Back then, Poland was a very highly pirated market, with most gamers using outdated hardware and not having too much money to spend on games. That's a tough market to break into: one where people aren't used to paying for games.
To convert pirates to paying customers, the founders of CD Projekt introduced a budget series of classic PC games which quickly became one of the company's best sellers. The reasons for the budget titles' success was both kind of simple and also kind of complex. The budget line was made of carefully picked top quality games with tons of goodies (manuals, posters, world maps, and whatnot) made available at an attractive price.
It's since been proven in many arenas that pirates are willing to pay for computer games if they feel that the price is equivalent to the game's value, but this was new and crazy thinking at the time. From there, Michal and Marcin dreamed bigger: if it worked in Poland, why shouldn't it work worldwide? Going DRM-free was a natural consequence of this train of thought: if you trusted your customers to pay for reasonably priced games, why would you want to use copy protection and treat gamers like potential thieves?
Wired.co.uk: Did the situation in Poland regarding piracy mean you considered DRM in a different way from other digital distribution sites, or is it a universal problem that you were hoping to find an alternative solution for?
Rambourg: Trust and respect for your customer is quite a universal set of values, I think. It's not always been a very popular value in the computer gaming industry, sadly. Our founders' Polish market experience was important, because it proved that you could build a successful business model on trust, even in a difficult market. DRM is an ineffectual tool (games are still being pirated at launch—if not earlier!—even with state-of-the-art DRM systems) and it antagonizes paying customers, because effectively the pirate is getting a less constricted gaming experience. This is crazy. Our belief in trusting and respecting our gamers who are part of GOG.com remains at the core of how we approach our customers.
Wired.co.uk: Do you feel that DRM policies are getting better or getting worse overall?
Rambourg: I wouldn't necessarily like to differentiate between those policies. Sure, some are more annoying than others, like the always-online requirement, which practically stops you from playing your game if you don't have an Internet connection available at all times, but all in all, DRM is just terrible as a concept. With no real progress in its efficacy, big publishers and developers are trying new, more aggravating ways of copy-protection. Thankfully, the resistance from gamers is stronger than ever before. Wins, like the recent Xbox DRM policy reversal, caused entirely by gamers' strong reaction, prove that tolerance for DRM is dropping.