technology

The Dream Of DRM-Free Steam PC Games Is Fading Away

An open laptop shows the Steam storefront, with various games like The Witcher 3 listed for sale.

Good Old Games, or GOG, the digital-rights-management-free PC gaming marketplace and platform from CD Projekt, has officially ended a service that already didn’t feel terribly long for this world. What once seemed like a promising way to slowly import portions of your Steam library to GOG, where they could exist in an infinitely archivable format, has now finally evaporated.

GOG launched in 2008 as an alternative to other digital gaming storefronts on PC, focusing on making older, hard-to-find games purchasable. The cherry on ball? All of these games would be available without any digital rights management software to restrict what you do with your .exe copies. Unlike Steam, GOG games are much easier to back up and re-install on multiple computers, all without ever needing to get tangled up in any sort of online account authorization. In 2012, the service expanded from older PC-gaming gems to modern titles, keeping the DRM-free policy in place.

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In 2016, GOG announced “Connect,” a service that let you connect your Steam library to redeem select titles you already owned as DRM-free copies on GOG, with said games only eligible for redemption in a limited window of time. Those who’ve checked GOG.com/Connect in recent years, however, have found nothing but digital tumbleweeds. And now, in January of 2023, said link and service now just directs to GOG’s homepage, officially signaling the end of this once very promising program.

GOG.com/Connect always had an air of “this is too good to be true.” A service that gives you an extra copy of a game you already own, with no restrictions as to how you can backup, install, re-install, sell, or share it? How even?

But while the service was active, it wasn’t just a great way to migrate to a new platform, but rather a handy way to archive your Steam library. Though Steam is a pretty accessible and reliable platform that often gives you access to games you’ve purchased but have since been pulled off the storefront (2007’s Prey is one such example), DRM is still widely used on the Valve storefront and trying to use the service without a reliable internet connection can easily render a game unplayable, as many a traveling Steam Deck user has discovered. GOG Connect was once a promising solution to this issue. But, the idea of ​​being able to some day move a substantial amount of your library into something archivable, without spending a dime, was just too good to be true.

Like many, I used this service a fair bit when it launched. I’d keep the link bookmarked to visit once a week. But as available games began to dry up, it drifted from memory. I still play the game of “should I get this on Steam or GOG?” every time something I want comes up on both services. The promise of GOG Connect once made that question irrelevant.

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