So apparently Gog is now charging 5.99 for Ultima 1, 2, and 3 in a collective pack. Ultima is a great game. I will most definitely give it that. I started playing through the first Ultima game again a couple months ago and you know what? I had a really good time with it for a couple of hours. We are talking about games that helped shape the future of game design. So now here they are in the Gog catalog for everyone to purchase.
Let’s take a step back here. Imagine it is 1998. Remember those days on the internet? That was back when it was still cool to have AOL, and everyone was still using dial up. At that time, what was the best way to get ahold of a copy of a game like Police Quest 1 or Wing Commander or Ultima? There was no Gog that’s for sure. At that time some of those games were still being sold as part of collections. Ultima for example came in a collection which had all the classic Ultima games for 20 bucks. The price actually hasn’t changed that much considering if you buy all the Ultima games today off of gog, you’re going to pay 17.97. But the greater reality at that time was that classic PC games as a whole were not commercially available. The only ways to get them if they weren’t lucky enough to be part of a collection was to take a risk and eBay the old diskettes.
Abandonware was the answer to that problem. The data still existed. No one was selling it. Consumers still wanted it. So the answer was to give it away. Abandonware was never legal. It was always piracy, but copyright holders looked the other way. There were always exceptions to this rule though. Some game companies felt that newer games wouldn’t sell as well if they had to compete with their own product from twenty years ago. But these companies were few and abandonware sites which omitted their products could stay open for years and years. Some sites still are. Those sites were serving a purpose to preserve that piece of history. Most sites came complete with their own flower mission statement about humanity and the spirit of the early computer game designer.
Enter Gog.com. They sell old games! The Good Old Games catalog looks a lot like the shelves of a game stop back in 1998. They most recently added a game called Nox to their catalog which I remember seeing on the shelves of a game stop for 5 bucks. I wanted it bad, but my pockets were empty. This was well before game stop became the hated commercial monster they are today.
The part I have a hard time with is when a game like Ultima 1 which has been freely distributed for over a decade enters the Gog catalog and is removed from free public consumption. Someone made Ultima and thus owns the rights to it. Gog most certainly acquired the right to distribute Ultima in a legal fashion. But is what they are doing good for the preservation of “good old games”? Maybe it is. Who knows. There are things they do that give me hope that they aren’t monsters. The fact that all of their games are DRM free gives me hope. The fact that I can save the setup file and actually OWN the games I buy gives me hope. The fact that they have brought to light games that the abandonware crowd could NOT like Nox gives me hope. So I would like to close this by talking to Gog directly.
Dear Gog.com. I wish you all the best of luck. Do great things. Make great profits. Finally, fuck you. I’m not paying 6 bucks for Ultima.