A couple of days ago, CD Projekt’s wonderful retro-PC-game service Good Old Games looked to be gone forever. A mysterious message replaced its normal web page, stating that it couldn’t stay open in its current form and would be closing down. It also indicated that it would provide a way for people to recover any games they bought prior to the asummed "shut down." Gamers and industry folk alike responded with great sympathy and regret, mourning the service as a bastion of nostalgia and noting its ability to court publishers who generally want ironclad DRM on everything. It was truly a loss for PC gamers.
And then they were mysteriously back again.
Rumblings on NeoGAF shortly after the closure announcement suggested that something more was going on. Someone dug up a post on Polish financial forum Bankier warning shareholders to ignore the forthcoming closure message. This led many to believe that Good Old Games was simply exiting its beta phase and launching its finalized service. Simply put, CD Project intended the whole thing to be a publicity stunt. Many bristled at the thought of such a deception, with some doubting that anyone would try something so ill-advised and misleading.
Then, the site changed again, with a countdown clock and promises of a better-than-ever service featuring new classic games such as Baldur’s Gate and faster loading. A statement to PC Gamer from the team explained the situation:
First of all we’d like to apologize to everyone who felt deceived or harmed in any way by the closedown of GOG.com. As a small company we don’t have a huge marketing budget and this why we could not miss a chance to generate some buzz around an event as big as launching a brand new version of our website.
The “closedown” was indeed nothing more than a way to get free publicity for their relaunch. Mission accomplished, CD Project, but at what cost? The increased attention has only served to damage goodwill toward the site, thanks to the fact that they were messing with their loyal customers. And all the attention in the world won’t do anything if people don't trust you with their money. Their claim that they’re too small to properly market themselves rings hollow. They got a ton of positive buzz (free marketing) when the service first started.
At the end of the day, the fact that Good Old Games still exists is a victory for retro gamers. The fact that they’re pledging to remain DRM-free and delivering most-wanted titles like Baldur’s Gate is also a positive sign. But they would do well to learn that jerking around a product's income source is never smart.