CD Projekt RED, Polish developers of the renowned The Witcher series, have held to a strict anti-DRM stance for years. In a cruel twist of fate, this stance led to unprecedented piracy numbers for its 2011 sequel The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. After a letter-writing campaign incited its community of fans, CD Projekt RED vowed to step back and win over pirates with a less intrusive tactic: being awesome.
More specifically, CD Projekt RED has become known for long-term support of its games with free downloadable content, including last month's massive overhaul of The Witcher 2's combat system by a Witcher 3 gameplay designer. With the latter making its debut on next-gen consoles at a time when DRM concerns are at a fever pitch, I seized a post-E3 chance to ask game director Konrad Tomaszkiewicz if CD Projekt RED's fan-first mission will continue.
"We believe that pirates are just misunderstood customers," Tomaszkiewicz said. "That’s why we always try to approach gamers from various angles and see what makes them tick. . . . We decided to build our business on trust and a mutual understanding of sorts--you buy our games and we genuinely give a damn about your experience with them."
"You give us your money and we do our best to give you a product you’d like to pay for," he continued, "even if you managed to obtain it for free. Being honest pays off!"
Given SCEA President and CEO Jack Tretton's resounding declaration at E3 2013 that PlayStation 4 would not block used games or impose first-party DRM of any kind, I wondered how CD Projekt RED felt about the freedom to wield this generosity on console. "You can expect we will do everything on our end to extend this business model on Sony’s console," Konrad replied. "We always do everything we can to be as gamer-friendly as we can. We just don’t believe in DRM."
That's all well and good, but in recent years, the used game market has incited a surge of DRM-like management as publishers attempt to recuperate losses. Tomaszkiewicz isn't worried about used game sales: "We're making a game you just don’t want to sell."
"It may seem cheesy to say this," he continued, "but think of it this way--everyone has a favorite series of games, movies or books that he or she just wants to have on their shelves and pop in the drive or read from time to time. We’re working hard for The Witcher 3 to be such a game."
And it seems Konrad's team is well on its way. "The game’s very big (35 times bigger than The Witcher 2)," he said, "and will offer a lot of replayability--it’s almost impossible to see everything and witness every aspect of the game during the first playthrough. Not to mention the multiple (and I really mean multiple) endings and playable epilogues."
"We’re really hoping The Witcher 3 is a game you’d like to keep for yourself. If you want to resell it--it’s fine by us. It’s your game after all."