Last Sunday, Good Old Games (GoG from now on, it’s a DRM-free digital game download service) announced it was abruptly closing. This was alarming to me, as I had enjoyed several of GoG’s packages (bought Master of Magic off them), but given the financial climate and rumors of acquisition I figured it had something to do losing licenses to older games or some sort of business disruption. They announced “On a technical note, this week we’ll put in place a solution to allow everyone to re-download their games.” but tons of other internet gaming companies have announced the same thing before abruptly closing, never to be seen again. People mentioned it may have been a weird hoax but that didn’t make any sense to me.
Imagine my surprise this morning when I see this was all a stupid PR trick for a relaunch of the site. Well I say surprise but what I really mean is irritation. First of all, why does launching a new version of a site take 5 days of downtime? During this downtime all of GoG’s customers were completely unable to access the games they already bought and paid for unless they happened to have them installed. Another big failure is in the original announcement. Looking back at the original announcement I can see what they were going for, but the language in it is 100% identical to what you would see when a company actually closes. It may have read as humorous to them but it read as deadly serious to everyone else. Also, the way they apologized did not come across as particularly sincere: dressed in monk robes in a weird YouTube video.
There are a few things that don’t make for very funny corporate hoaxes, and death is one of them. The whole idea of a service like GoG is that it needs to be reliable, because you are purchasing theoretically lifetime access to games as well as becoming emotionally attached to the service as an entity. GoG has spent years building up positive word of mouth and emotional connection, and they severed those connections the same way as if a friend sent you a serious-sounding suicide note, wouldn’t answer his phone for 6 days and showed up in a clown suit saying “Just kidding! Check out my new suit.” It’s a bit amusing, but it doesn’t really make you inclined to lend him $100 the next time he says he needs help. In the back of your mind there’s always a bit of doubt about them: Was that the only way they knew how to get your attention? Can I really trust them with my personal information? Are they lying to me right now?
When a company builds a personal relationship with their customers (which GoG definitely did, by trading on nostalgia and using social media effectively), it’s up to them to realize the gravity and importance of that relationship. Screwing with the emotions of a friend just because you want attention is a good way to lose friends. I’d be very reluctant to buy anything off of GoG until they prove their trust to me again, and based on twitter and message boards 90% of their core audience feels the same way.