Zachtronics, the developer behind the elegant puzzle game Opus Magnum, recently stated on Twitter that the reason it wasn't available to buy on Good Old Games (GOG) was because the digital distribution service had rejected it during the review process.
Owned by CD Projekt, the publisher behind the Witcher video game series, GOG is a competitor to Steam that sells games DRM-free. The site also differs from Steam in the level of curation. While Valve's storefront gets more full each year with all kinds of different games, from AAA blockbusters to niche indie games as well as a fair bit of asset-flipped clones, GOG has kept its offering smaller and more focused.
And as a result of that philosophy, it's clearly missed out on some great games like Opus Magnum.
Zachtronics's game uses the logic of programming to let players solve complex alchemy problems. The collision of fantasy and maths is surprisingly good and won over a number of people at Kotaku, including Mike Fahey who called it "delightfully esoteric" and full of endless potential. It's a game that lets you play with recipes and mechanical systems of varying efficiency, and then see them play out visually. For that reason Twitter is full of people sharing their ingenious creations.
Apparently GOG disagreed, however. Or at least it didn't think one or more parts of the game fit in with the rest of its library. In response to people asking him when the game would finally arrive on the distribution platform, Zachtronics shared the official response GOG gave him:
I've had a bunch of people ask me if Opus Magnum will ever be available on GOG. Here is the response I got from them when I asked for a reason I could share publicly for why they didn't want to carry it. We would still like to be on GOG if they change their mind! pic.twitter.com/Nwb7JzLVI1
— Zachtronics (@zachtronics) January 5, 2018
It's vague and doesn't really make it clear what exactly the problem with Opus Magnum was. I especially like the "we take into consideration many other factors than just the actual game itself" part where GOG gestures in the direction of other criteria predicated on their user-base without then explaining what those are.
As a developer, Zachtronics started out making freeware games but has more recently moved to polished, priced releases including not only Opus Magnum but also some others you might recognise like SpaceChem, Ironclad Tactics and Infinifactory. All of those have been on GOG for some time, making it even more of a head-scratcher why Opus Magnum wasn't allowed to join them.
People often pine for a more curated version of Steam, including me. Quality control is important and it's nice to be able to simply browse a selection of games without worrying about whether some of them are unfinished or simply knockoffs. There was a point during last summer when you could hop onto the Nintendo Switch's eShop, for instance and have a small but completely solid library games to pickup.
Compared to how overcrowded some online game shops have become, it felt like a breath of fresh air. And while I wouldn't encourage places like Steam or even the PlaySation Store go that far, I think a certain level of curation definitely leads to a better user experience.
But GOG's rejection of Opus Magnum is a perfect reminder of why we should all be cautious of that approach. In this case we're fortunate to know what we're missing since the game's available other places.
In effect, Steam's relaxed standards allow other platforms to be more choosy since there'll always be someplace else to go if GOG decides to not play ball. If more platforms adopted that approach, however, we'd no doubt lose visibility on a number of games just as good as Opus Magnum.