Last week, gaming deal site GOG released its Galaxy library app. PC users have had Steam for a long time, but GOG wants Galaxy to improve the status quo. Here's why it's worth adding to your repertoire.
GOG Fixes a Lot of Steam's Problems
GOG isn't being shy about distinguishing itself from Steam. In the past, when you bought a PC game, you had a copy on your local machine that you could install as many times as you wanted, on as many machines as you wanted, forever. As you might expect from service that used to be called Good Old Games, GOG aims to get back to that.
Any game you buy from GOG comes completely DRM-free. You can download it as often as you want from GOG's servers, but you can also download backup copies of the installer for a game. You'll never need to register with the service in order to install them. The games also work completely offline. While Steam's offline mode has improved over time, GOG doesn't bother with an online requirement at all.
All things considered, Steam has done a better job than most of finding a middle-ground between publishers who demand DRM and gamers who hate it. You can't please everyone, though, and nothing beats DRM-free. While publishers on Steam can forego DRM if they choose, when you're buying games through GOG, you know what you're getting.
GOG Lets You Play Games with Steam Users
Steam isn't just a game store. It's also the biggest community of PC gamers in the world. As console gamers can tell you, choosing who you play with based on where they bought their games sucks. It's the kind of conflict people go to war over. GOG hopes to avoid this type of conflict by allowing their users to play online with Steam players.
What this means is that if you use GOG to buy or download a game, and your friend uses Steam, you can play with each other online. GOG describes this feature as being available on "Crossplay-enabled" games, so it's unclear just how many titles will support the feature.
Even without crossplay, GOG already has its own system of in-game achievements, friends lists, online chat and game stats. That means buying from a non-Steam source doesn't mean complete isolation, or missing out on any of the extra features gamers usually enjoy. Perhaps most importantly, you can also turn all of these social features off entirely. With Steam, you can enter offline mode, but even if you mark your chat profile as offline, you'll probably notice you're back online again before too long.
You Can Occasionally Find Deals You Won't Get on Steam
It's no secret that Steam isn't the only source of deals online. In fact, we found that Amazon and GOG were among the best. However, GOG doesn't offer Steam keys, which means you would have to play the game without Steam's community and extra features.
Now, however, as we mentioned above, you can play those games online with Steam users, or get a comparable experience in GOG Galaxy. That means you have one more store with great sales you can buy from, while still getting a Steam-like experience.
Steam Finally Has Some Legitimate Competition
One of the biggest advantages console gamers have is that there is competition between Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. Each one spurs the other not just to make better games, but to make a better platform. Valve, on the other hand, has virtually no competition. If the company does something that users don't like, their only real recourse is protesting until they stop. If there's some feature you want that Valve isn't implementing, tough.
GOG is the closest we have right now to a complete Valve alternative. It's not there yet. There are still a lot of games missing, and there are features that still need to be built. However, if you want DRM-free games, backup copies you can download yourself, or the ability to turn off social features entirely, GOG can provide what you want.
The best part is, GOG is making headway. Just today, GOG announced that it would be adding several new big-name games including Darksiders I & II, Saints Row 2 & 3 and Metro: Last Light to its DRM-free library. It may not be to the level of Skyrim or Mass Effect, but publishers are noticing.
Over the long-term, GOG may be able to nudge Steam to improve its own experience and provide features that their customers have been wanting. Even if you're happy with Steam, or don't want games from GOG's library, having a second horse in this race can make the PC gaming industry better for everyone.