GOG.com releasing a Steam-like launcher client, except it's entirely optional

GOG Galaxy

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If you play a lot of games on your PC, chances are you have one or more launcher clients installed—Steam, Uplay, Origin. Some are probably installed by choice. Others (raising two big middle fingers your way, Uplay) not so much.

Now GOG.com, best known for selling versions of classic games that can run on your modern OS, is entering the fray with GOG Galaxy. The difference? Like everything GOG does, your games will still run DRM-free—the client is an optional convenience, not a requirement.

Details are scarce so far. All we have is a single video that emerged from GOG’s Thursday event in Los Angeles.

“With GOG Galaxy, being online will always be optional. It’ll be up to you what features you use,” the video says. I will use... well, all of them. The client will rectify some of GOG’s failings as a platform. Namely, you’ll be able to chat with friends without resorting to a third-party client and your games will automatically update. That second feature is a modern convenience I’ve become entirely accustomed to with Steam, and I’m overjoyed to see GOG jump onboard. I have GOG purchases installed on my hard drive from two or three years ago that I’ve never bothered updating.

GOG Galaxy also introduces achievements to the platform. I don’t know to what extent—will someone add achievements to classic games? I kind of hope so, but it’s doubtful. Regardless, if you’re interested in achievement hunting on yet another platform, GOG is willing to accommodate.

And then there’s cross-play. “Regardless of which digital store you buy your games in, we don’t believe you should be locked into it,” says the video. “We strongly believe you should be able to play together with all your friends.” I have no idea what form this will take—whether we’ll, for instance, see some sort of Steam Friends List integration—but the goal is to have games play together across clients. To start, GOG and Steam will communicate and allow cross-platform multiplayer. More clients (Origin, perhaps?) are planned for the future.

Of course, all of this is optional. You don’t need to install the client to access your games, GOG is not suddenly turning into Steam, and DRM-free is still the platform’s MO. GOG and CD Projekt learned their DRM lesson with The Witcher 2, and they’ve since been a vocal critic of anything that gets between consumers and the game itself. With Watch Dogs burning customers for days after release with Uplay login issues (for a mostly single-player experience) this was a smart time for GOG to hammer on the DRM-free anvil again.

No word on a release date yet, though the splash page says we’ll learn more later this year.

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