Opinion: More publishers need to emulate CD Projekt Red’s bravery

When CD Projekt Red’s upcoming dark fantasy RPG The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is released in May 2015, I can say with near-complete certainty that it will come with significantly fewer bugs and glitches than some of the games which have been released this holiday season. Now, obviously I don’t know this for certain and it bears mentioning that the reason for this highly-polished state is because Wild Hunt has received not one but two lengthy delays which pushed its launch window all the way from late 2014 into May 2015. Still, it also bears mentioning that in an age of rushed releases, post-launch patches, and an overall lack of publisher confidence, CD Projekt Red is willfully going against the grain. Wild Hunt’s numerous delays have no doubt disappointed and even upset Witcher fans but CD Projekt Red is willing to weather that storm of fan ire in order to ensure it delivers a quality product.

I really wish more publishers were willing to show that kind of bravery.

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I don’t mean to point fingers but I’m willing to bet that the pressure Microsoft put on 343 Industries to get Halo: The Master Chief Collection out the door in time for the holidays is one of the main reasons why the game still isn’t in a completely stable state nearly a month after its debut. The same is likely the case for the equally disastrous launches of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Unity, Evolution Studios’ DriveClub, Sumo Digital’s LittleBigPlanet 3, and even older titles such as DICE’s Battlefield 4. The number one priority for Publishers is to maximize profits but lately that need to chase the almighty dollar has led to a serious erosion in consumer confidence and trust. It’s because of this that CD Projekt Red’s stance towards game development is such a refreshing change of pace.

I’m sure the folks over at CD Projekt Red aren’t stupid. They know that delaying Wild Hunt multiple times and for such lengthy periods will eat into the potential profits they could have made if they just shipped the game in late 2014 as was originally intended. Wild Hunt might not sell as well initially as if it had been released during its original launch window but I’d bet good money that, in the long run, it will soon become one of the best-selling games of 2015. Not only will it be a fun, immersive conclusion to the popular Witcher narrative, but fans will be able to buy it knowing full well that their odds of encountering a glitch or game-breaking bug will be much lower than if they were to purchase the latest Assassin’s Creed game.

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And that’s not even the only way in which CD Projekt Red is trying to put the consumer first with Wild Hunt. Last month, CD Projekt Red CEO and co-founder Marcin Iwiński confirmed there will be a total of 16 different DLC packs for Wild Hunt and they will all be absolutely free. This decision was made in response to what Iwiński sees as an abusive trend with DLC in which publishers try to nickel and dime players with various DLC purchases on top of the $60 game they just bought. While DLC is technically an optional portion of a given game, trying to charge players additional (and often times exorbitant) fees for it once again shows a lack of confidence in the game itself, something which players definitely notice (and aren’t happy with). By making all of Wild Hunt’s DLC free, CD Projekt Red is once again choosing player trust over profits and, in so doing, helping to foster a more conducive relationship between publishers and players.

Now, obviously I realize that adopting CD Projekt Red’s stance towards DLC and release schedules wouldn’t be a simple undertaking for big publishers like Electronic Arts and Ubisoft. These companies employ thousands of people and they need to make a lot of money in order to both pay their staff members and turn a profit. However, at the very least, these companies should be paying attention to what CD Projekt Red is doing since the current system of rushing broken games out the door and fixing them later clearly isn’t working. Sure these games are selling well initially thanks to pre-orders and whatnot but how long do these big publishers think they can keep this practice up before consumers decide they’ve had enough? If CD Projekt Red can delay Wild Hunt multiple times, make all of its DLC free, and still turn a profit, I’m sure other publishers can figure out a similar strategy as well.

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CD Projekt Red is taking some big risks that will hopefully pay off once May 2015 rolls around. The studio clearly has a strong vision for what it wants The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt to be and it isn’t letting the chase for profits or the pressures of releasing during the holiday season deter it from maintaining that vision. If other publishers want to start stabilizing the shaken faith of consumers, they have to be willing to try some new (and risky) tactics as well. A majority of the gamer community clearly prefers waiting longer for a quality game rather than getting a broken game sooner. If publishers want to find a compromise that makes both their shareholders and their customers happy, they need to be willing to delay their games if necessary and to not nickel and dime consumers. In short, they need to be more like CD Projekt Red.

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