Of all the impressive demos on display at E3 2013, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt stood out as one of those rare titles that seamlessly transitions from a high quality PC staple, to an equally incredible console experience. The Witcher franchise is known for it’s engaging narrative and visceral combat (a buzz word, I know, but in this case it genuinely applies,) and the three-quel is finally making the jump to a place developer CD Projekt RED has wanted to go for a long time: Open-world. But enough on gameplay, for the moment, because today the focus of discussion has fallen to content policies. Speaking to Rock Paper Shotgun, CD Projekt leading man Marcin Iwinski explained the team’s views on DRM and DLC, and how they’re trying to coexist amongst the restrictive rules Microsoft has put into place with the Xbox One.
For those who don’t know, CD Projekt RED has always taken a strong anti-DRM stance, and traditionally release free patches and DLC for PC gamers as well. So, when asked about why they’re releasing The Witcher 3 on a console that requires DRM, Iwinski explains that, “A lot of people on forums are saying, ‘No, but you guys are anti-DRM.’ And we really are anti-DRM. But at the same time, there are people who’ll be fine with [Xbox One’s online-heavy DRM]. They’ll buy the console and just want to play. Why should we not give them this option?’
Continuing, Iwisnki reaffirms that, “that’s our approach, but at the same time, we don’t know what the final policies are. Things might be changing. There’s a lot of heat right now. From our perspective, we’ll always choose the most gamer-friendly solution. And on the platform where we have control – which is PC – we’ll release on GOG day one and DRM-free.”
On the subject of DLC, Iwinski offers a very candid response. “It’s too early to talk specifics, but definitely all the DLCs and updates will be free,” he explained, confirming their continued support of the PC platform. “Of course, we’ll see what the platform holders will allow – what we can do for free [on next-gen consoles]. I mean, there are different business models on consoles. From our standpoint, we’ll definitely do everything we can to deliver the same experience across all platforms.”
That’s not to say, that all extra content for The Witcher 3 will be free, however. Offering a reasonable explanation, Iwinski admitted that “Should we decide to do some big expansions or something, we’ll expect gamers to pay for it. But again, it’s all value for money. I think $15-$20 for new gameplay is a pretty honest and fair deal. But additional weapons and fixes, those of course come as part of the package.”
CPR has always believed that developers have to earn the money they make by putting out quality products, not the other way around. While some studios would rather push out half-baked content first and watch the money roll in before investing in a higher budget experience, the studio behind the Witcher series and the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 believes that profit is earned by creating a game fans will appreciate and enjoy spending their hard-earned cash on. On the subject of good will, and why CD Projekt RED is held in such high regard by both the gaming community and critics alike, Iwinski theorizes that, “I think it’s in a way our trademark. People buy our games on day one because they trust us. And if we screw that up, it’s the end of the story pretty much.”
I really wanted to just report this story straight, and I’m going to apologize in advance right now, but I have to go off on a bit of a tangent here. It’s no secret that CD Projekt RED is one of a small handful of studios I hold in the highest esteem. To put it mildly, I’m heavily biased in their favor; but it’s a bias that this team has unquestionably earned. I’ve spoken a lot about how studios dig themselves into holes with all of these big budget “AAA” spectacles and then have to lay off half the staff and burden consumers with ludicrously greedy tactics because their game couldn’t sell 10 million copies just to break even.
The conclusion I drew is that: If publishers want to make more money, they need to do a better job of incentivizing early adopters and day-one sales. Currently, early adopters are the ones who are punished most for taking a chance in purchasing new content. Things like Game of the Year Editions (or those of similar equivalency,) Pre-order bonuses, and Online Passes don’t make early adopters feel good about purchasing products at launch. In fact, these types of stunts take the most diehard and loyal fans any publisher could ask for, and make them feel taken advantage of and belittled. Yet, for all the cynicism this industry breeds, studios like CD Projekt RED are a beacon of light; proving that you can still run a successful business while looking out for the consumer and genuinely appreciating their fierce loyalty. I have no reservations about purchasing a CPR title at launch, because I know the team has my back.
Iwinski is 100% right when he says that’s just their trademark. Classic CPR, you might even say. If The Witcher 3 or Cyberpunk 2077 is totally broken at launch, I know the team will put out a patch ASAP, and they’ll do it for free. I know if a Game of the Year edition does come out a year after launch, packed with minor content updates and a bunch of new gear, I’m confident my status as a day-one adopter means I’ll get a free upgrade to that enhanced addition. And I know in my heart that if the Xbox One does have the gall to charge me for minor content updates, CD Projekt RED isn’t to blame; it’s all on Microsoft. I wouldn’t champion this studio if I didn’t believe they were genuine. But I know from personal experience, having invested in The Witcher series since initial launch, that no studio takes better care of their customers than CPR. These guys deserve all the praise that’s heaped on them, and then some. I only hope more folks start singing their praises if, for nothing else, just to let the bigger publishers who’ve lost sight of what their place in this world is know, that there is a better way. There is a way to make money without burdening the fans you should be rewarding.
Alright, that’s enough out of me. Do you folks hear what I’m saying? For those who know a bit about CD Projekt RED and The Witcher series up to this point, what has your experience been so far? Is what I’m saying true for you as well? I’d really like to see how everyone else feels about CPR, so seriously, leave a comment down below. I’ll read them all. And be sure to like IGXPro on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or give us the ‘ol +1 on Google+. If you can’t get enough of my shenanigans, (who could blame you?) you can check me out @GamingsNirvana, or add +VinnyParisi to your circles.