Tuesday, 19 May 2015

CD Projekt Red - The Good Guys Of Game Development

It'll be no surprise to you that gaming is big business. In this current generation of gaming, development budgets are huge, marketing budgets are bigger and the incentive for financiers to recoup their investment has never been greater.

This has lead to an annoying disparity for gamers over the last few years. It started with DLC on the last console generation, downloadable chunks of a game that we were encouraged to pay over the odds for to slightly expand the time we spent with a game and allowed for publishers to milk a franchise further down the line.

Sometimes DLC worked well. The tremendous Artorias Of The Abyss for Dark Souls and Left Behind for The Last Of Us were two pieces of content that significantly fleshed out the experience of the main game with new areas, new story points and even new ways of playing. Most of the time, especially with single player DLC (map packs for the likes of Call Of Duty are par for the course), paying for extra story content either wasn't worth it or felt like a distinct rip off. For instance, the From Ashes DLC for Mass Effect 3 that was released on the same day as the game and was actually already on the game's disc received a huge backlash.

In this generation of gaming there has already been a lot of controversy about the value of downloadable content. Evolve has roughly £100 worth of content which most gamers see as largely irrelevant and Destiny's initial DLC The Dark Below cost £20 and was considered underwhelming.

But more than just DLC there is a new scourge on the wallets of gamers: pre-order bonuses. A relatively new phenomenon, different retailers are now securing exclusive bundles of content to encourage players to preorder with them. This can come down to special editions too, given that in the UK it was retailer GAME who had the exclusive rights to sell the Bloodborne Nightmare edition. Further from this, depending on who you preorder Batman: Arkham Knight from you can get up to 4 different digital add ons ranging from maps, to characters to a skin for the bloody Batmobile. It's getting insane as to a point this is removing the choice of the customer to buy a game where they want, depending on who is selling which version of the game.

However, in this day and age there is one developer who is bucking this trend: CD Projekt Red. Today, 19th of May, marks the release date of the much anticipated The Witcher III: Wild Hunt. The Polish developer has long been one of the last big independent developers and their ethos revolves around making the games they they themselves would want to play. To this end, The Witcher games have been huge, sprawling and challenging epics, full of fantasy wonderment, violence and sex.

CDPR have long stated that they were on the side of the gamers. This is why there is only two versions of The Witcher III up for sale, the standard edition and the collector's edition. No matter which edition you buy, you get the exact same game disc with the exact same content. The difference between the two is the huge statue you get with the collector's edition.

Even the standard edition dwarfs some special editions of games. In the box you get a manual (when was the last time you actually got a printed manual in a box?), a huge map of the game world, some stickers and even a soundtrack CD. Then there is the free DLC programme, which means everyone who buys the game, whether it's preorder, in store release, online, standard or collector's edition gets 16 pieces of DLC for free over a period of two months. SIXTEEN! FOR FREE! These range from extra missions, to cosmetic items to characters. Basically the kind of things most games of this generation have been offering as part of a season pass.

The Witcher III does have a season pass, however this is one of the few times I would say it's completely worth it. For your season pass you get two huge expansion packs released next year which add roughly 30 hours to the length of the game, all for the same price as the underwhelming Destiny expansion pass.

CDPR know how to look after their customers. They know exactly how to offer additional content and garner grace for their efforts. In a world where the likes of EA, Activision and Ubisoft can rampantly gouge players for everything they're worth, CDPR are a breath of fresh air. The big players could learn a lot from them.


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