Geralt's hit the big time. He's got his own open world, a handsomely haggard beard, and a simultaneous launch across multiple "next-gen" platforms. It's the latter, however, that could spell his undoing - or at least make his witchy charms a lot less bewitching for a sizable portion of PC gamers. Console-makers, after all, aren't too terribly fond of free updates, but CD Projekt's modus operandi is handing them out like candy. Microsoft, meanwhile, has decided that draconian DRM is back in this season, and CDP's been fighting on the opposite side of that battle for ages. Who will survive? Well, probably everyone, because we're only talking about DLC for a videogame. But, if nothing else, PC gamers don't need to worry. CD Projekt head Marcin Iwinski assured me that it'll be business as usual for Witcher 3 updates on our platform of choice, even if consoles aren't so lucky.
“A lot of people on forums are saying, 'No, but you guys are anti-DRM,'" Iwinski admitted during an interview with RPS. "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?”
“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.”
Which is a tremendous relief, but only one piece of a much larger, increasingly complicated puzzle. CDP built a reputation on its admirable generosity with DLC and updates, but console-makers have been known to favor an approach that involves a bit more needless brutality toward piggy banks. Iwinski, however, plans to stay the course as best he can.
“It's too early to talk specifics, but definitely all the DLCs and updates will be free," he said. "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.”
“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.”
The question, then, is what exactly that will entail. And while CD Projekt's not quite ready to discuss specifics, Iwinski was adamant that his studio's shiny new scythe-armed baby Cyberpunk 2077 won't inherit all the support Witcher 3 would've gotten back in the day.
“We'll be supporting The Witcher 3 for years after it comes out," he said. "We're also building the Redkit, and we'll talk about modding Witcher 3 when the time comes. It's all about a long-term relationship with our gamers. It even works from a business perspective. Abandoning our baby that we've worked on for several years would be crazy. The fact that we have a second game in development just gives us a better way to reallocate resources – QA and whatnot. It's just a better way to manage the process internally. It's better for the people and the team.”
Gameplay producer Marek Ziemak added that the grand tradition of bell-whistle-and-kitchen-sink-loaded Enhanced Editions will continue if need be. Ultimately, though, the fans will decide whether or not that's necessary. If they think sweeping changes will vastly improve Geralt's exceedingly lengthy ride into the sunset, then CDP will hop to it. If not, the team will direct its energy elsewhere.
So then, it's mostly same-old, same-old from a company that would prefer to keep nickels and dimes in wallets and DRM six feet under. But we are talking about a studio that's grown into something of a role-playing empire - or at least a very large city-state. And it's arguable that even supporting Xbox One conflicts with one of CDP's core values, which might seem a bit out-of-character for the studio. Ultimately, though, making games is a business, and - despite what appearances might sometimes suggest - even Iwinski has to make concessions. He just tries his hardest to keep them to an absolute minimum.
“Having said all that, we of course have to count money," he said. "We have a whole production team and production procedures. But at the end of the day, the game [counts] – and not the money. Because the game will make the money if it's good. Some people think it's the other way around, and in the short run – business-wise – it makes sense. 'I will sell this small thing for three dollars. It will make me $300,000. It's good money. I will show more profit.' But at the end of the day, how many fans have you lost? And that's just a very simple mentality we try to avoid.”
“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."