Boy, the folks over at CD Projekt RED have sure been riding the old press wagon pretty hard the past week. Not only have they spoken at length about their upcoming Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, but now studio head Adam Badowski has gone on record to discuss the development studio’s policy on creating games. In an incredibly insightful interview with GamesIndustry International, Badowski talks about the high premium CD Projekt RED places on creative vision above business and financial strategies.
When questioned about the high-risk approach the studio takes by developing highly ambitious niche products, and the success that has so far followed the team, Badowski responded saying that, “Growing was hard, but this has always been our studio’s policy and our team’s policy. We have always aimed for ambitious projects.”
“I believe that if you want to succeed, creative vision has to inform business policy and not the other way around – that’s crucial for us,” he said. “Sometimes business will decide a company’s creative policy, that’s very bad for a studio.”
“Financial and business concerns shouldn’t decide which path we take or the creative aims of the company,” he continued. “For example right now we are not dealing in the free-to-play market and this is why – the market is far from perfect yet, I think there’s something strange and awkward in this business model. So we’re not getting involved in it, even if everyone is excited by how much money can be made using this model. Maybe we’ll change our minds in that regard, but not yet.”
“To succeed you have to believe in your project first and then do your job 100 per cent. So the creative side and your heart comes first. Business should be based around your vision.”
In the past, CD Projekt RED has developed games for PC first, with console iterations later being ported over. This was due to the ease with which the studio could develop and integrate the necessary tools to create their ambitious projects. Yet, in the wake of the PS4 announcement and Sony’s promise that developing for their next-gen console will be “simple” and “elegant”, it’s worth wondering whether or not the studio will be shifting their focus to developing for consoles first. “We know a lot about the next gen platforms that we can’t comment on yet, but our strategy is that we’re always trying to maximize the quality for the platform, to use its particular strengths and advantages,” Badowski commented in response. “Usually the weakest platform dictates the quality for all platforms, but high-quality visuals are our trademark so we need to approach each platform as individually as possible.”
“Of course, large scale technical decisions in our engine, such as opting for 64-but architecture, Direct X11, are made globally, but we do try to treat platforms individually,” he said. “PC allows for more at the moment, but new platforms are stepping up. In the future, it should be much easier to unify the requirements. Some things, like control schemes, will still need to be tailored to the platforms but the new platforms will unify requirements.”
Badowski admits that, “PC was the lead platform for Witcher 2 because it was the most powerful, but that might change in the future.”
CD Projekt RED’s homegrown digital distribution platform, Good Old Games (known as GoG) has become a tremendous success with upstarting and indie developers recently. When asked about the service, and how the studio plans to evolve their strategy for it going forward, Badowski stated that, “GoG is the second biggest independent digital platform after Steam. Of course, the gap is great, but we are second. Origin is bigger too, because it sells games exclusively, but for independent platforms, we’re the second biggest.”
He believes the recent for GoG’s success is due to the fact that, “Game development is changing – we’re starting to see new ideas and ways of financing projects, changes in distribution structure and the influence of digital – that’s awesome for us.”
“Retail is costly, it’s very static and heavy, inflexible,” he admits. “We think, no we know, it will continue to decline. But that’s great for us because digital distribution gives us direct contact with consumers and gamers, let’s us control the price and make instant decisions about price drops and special offers.”
The rest of the interview goes into detail about the developer’s upcoming projects, Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk 2077. Additionally, Badowski discusses potential plans for developing new, unique IPs once Geralt’s trilogy comes to a close. If you’re interested in hearing more, check out the full interview.
It’s no secret I’m a big fan of CD Projekt RED. From their policies on DLC and firm stance against DRM, to their extraordinarily high-quality products, both visually and narratively, they are one of the best development studios around right now. To that end, I’m incredibly interested to see how the studio tackles the coming generation and the industry’s growing interest in switching to digital distribution, social integration, and painfully profit-minded approach to IPs. While CD Projekt RED may be adapting an old pen-and-paper RPG with Cyberpunk 2077, they’re at least introducing fresh IP into the video game market, which is more than can be said for most companies who would rather milk tired franchises instead of taking a chance on something original; and for that I will be forever grateful to the team.
What are your thoughts on Badowski’s policies? Do you agree that creativity should be the most important factor in game development? Or do you align yourself with the traditional business model of banking on certainties, putting aside originality to maximize profits? Share your thoughts in the comments below.