GOG Galaxy is a Steam-like client for GOG's digital storefront that's really quite good and offers the added bonus of being completely optional: You can conduct all your GOG-related business through it, or you can ignore it completely and continue downloading your games directly from the site and running them through Windows Explorer—or a DOS prompt, if you're a truly dedicated retro-type.
Galaxy 2.0, announced today, sounds like a more ambitious undertaking, as it promises to combine all of your games, online friends, and other data in one place. The idea is that you'll connect the new client to your various online accounts and platforms, including consoles—a list hasn't been confirmed yet, but a rep said that the goal is "to have all major platforms officially integrated in the app"—at which point it will import your libraries and friends lists, essentially acting as a big-tent overlay for Steam, EGS, Origin, and so forth. It will also track all of your achievements and hours played across platforms, support cross-platform chat, and offer various sorting, filtering, and collection comparison options.
User data will be stored online to enable simple syncing between devices, but GOG made a point of emphasizing that privacy is paramount: It explicitly states on the Galaxy website that "we're not spying on data from your computer" and won't share it with third parties; you'll also be able to remove your imported data from Galaxy servers "with a single click."
Details are light at this point: On how you'll actually add games, for instance, an FAQ states, "In GOG Galaxy 2.0 you’re adding games through official and community created integrations. By connecting platforms, the data about the games you own is automatically imported to the application. On top of that you will also be able to manually add single games that are not connected to any platform."
And on those "community created integrations": "We want to offer integrations with all possible gaming platforms. This is a challenging and time-consuming process, not only because these are technically complex projects, but they also require negotiations and agreements with partners. We want all our official integrations to be supported by respective platform holders, so we make sure they’re in-line with partners’ policies and that they’re safe."
"While we’re hard at work on adding more official integrations, we’ve decided to give you—the community—an opportunity to work on your own open source platform integrations. We’re currently polishing the documentation that will be shared with you to help you build your own platform integrations for GOG Galaxy 2.0."
Galaxy 2.0 has also been "rebuilt from the ground up" to offer better performance than the current client, and like the original Galaxy the updated version will remain entirely optional: If you just want to be left alone to download your games and play them in quiet solitude as God and nature intended, that will continue to be totally cool. If you want to fully embrace the future, however, you'll need to keep the other clients installed on your PC.
"We’ve been in contact with several partners already, as we aim to have official integrations with all major platforms. We want all our official integrations to be supported by respective platform holders, so we make sure they’re in-line with partners’ policies and that they’re safe," a GOG rep said. For now, however, it's not saying who those partners are.
It's pretty clear that GOG is taking direct aim at growing frustration with the number of launchers that gamers have to deal with these days, as well as possibly more disingenuous concerns about data privacy driven by the rise of the Epic Games Store. That might be a little opportunistic, but even so the big idea behind it is still a good one. Whether it will satisfy its intended audience will depend largely on the success of its implementation, but if GOG can pull it off it could turn Galaxy from a niche client that most of us probably ignore into an essential gamer utility.
Signups for the "coming soon" Galaxy 2.0 beta test are now open at gogalaxy.com.