If you need an example of a game developer doing something (well, a lot of things) right, look no further than CD Projekt Red and their latest multi-platform role-playing game, Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. The developers are aggressively breaking all of the usual obnoxious video game industry norms: they’re releasing most of the title’s downloadable content (DLC) for free (two each week), they’ve avoided annoying pre-order exclusives, they’re receptive to fan feedback, and perhaps most importantly to many gamers, they’ve taken a repeated, strong and vocal position against DRM.
They’re effectively the anti-EA and Ubisoft, and fans are rewarding them for it. Witcher 3 is a gamer darling over at Reddit, reviews have been nothing short of incredible, and the company is breaking sales records with the title without using any of the above-listed annoying tricks of the industry trade:
“Sales of the third part will be many times higher than with our earlier games. Preorders indicate this,” CD Projekt’s chief executive Adam Kicinski said in an interview. “We broke into the mainstream. It is such a moment in our firm’s history that after some years people will look differently at CD Projekt before and after this release.” DM BO Brokerage analyst Tomasz Rodak said he saw the new Witcher’s yearly sales at 7 million copies, which could bring a record net profit of 369 million zlotys ($97.5 million) in 2015.
And again, they’ve done it without resorting to the obnoxious, nickel and dime tactics so many game companies have an unholy addiction to. Not to mention the game itself is really, really good. I was one of the few avid RPG fans that found the first two titles to enjoyable but relatively clunky affairs. I’m a sucker for open-world games however, and with the shift of the series to a truly open world, I’ve been absolutely blown away not only by the sheer size of the game world, but by how fleshed out the storytelling is for a lot of the side quests. It’s a fully inhabitable fantasy-nerd paradise. While the writing still stumbles around the usual stale fantasy gender tropes (which scantily-clad sorceress shall I seduce next?), overall it’s an incredible accomplishment.
The company’s also showing it has a sense of humor. Long critical of DRM, CD Projekt Red’s not only not using DRM for the title, it has found marginally-entertaining ways to mock DRM in game. From a grimoire on “Defensive Regulatory Magicon” found by one user while they were busy exploring:The game does have an atrocious, headache-inducing font problem the company’s planning to patch, so here’s the text:
“The Defensive Regulatory Magicon (or DRM for short) belongs to the above-mentioned group of the longest-lasting, most effective and hardest to break defensive mechanisms. In order to recognize the individual administering it, it makes use of a portal mounted at the entrance of the area it is to defend. This portal passes streams of magical energy through the body of the person entering and can, in the blink of an eye, determine if this person has the corporeal signature (eyeball structure included) of the entitled administrator. As a result, the only unauthorized individuals that can possibly hope to enter are mimics.
DRM thus makes for an extremely effective and near-unbreakable security measure – but you are in luck, for you hold in your hands the key to bypassing it, namely the present tome, Gottfried’s Omni-opening Grimore, or GOG for short. In the pages to follow you will find innumerable methods for deactivating DRM, or, even better, bypassing it altogether (…)”
A Bill Hicks level joke it ain’t (GOG is also short for DRM-free games outlet Good Old Games), but the full quest is notably more amusing, with said “DRM” trapping the owner of the magic technology in a tower after it failed to recognize him. Not only is CD Projekt Red doing everything right in regards to DLC and DRM, it’s doing it with a little flair. Offer a great product, treat your customers well, don’t try to aggressively nickel and dime people, and customers respond positively. Who the hell knew?