Doing It Right

witcher-fallout

I have to hand it to CD Projekt Red. These guys really know how to tickle my fancy, and hit all the right consumer targets.

A few weeks ago, they released the third installment in their Witcher series. The Wild Hunt was greeted with enthusiasm by fans and critics alike, garnering richly-deserved acclaim and all but devouring Mike’s spare time. This by itself would be enough to heap burning coals on the heads of games like Arkham Knight or Assassin’s Creed: Unity, but CD Projekt Red wasn’t finished yet. Oh, no. They were just getting started.

For a follow up, the Polish developers announced they would be releasing 16 pieces of DLC for free.

I want you to let that sink in for a few moments. Particularly the “for free” part.

Done? Okay. Cool.

So maybe it’s just me, but when I hear a company is putting out free DLC, it almost makes me feel suspicious. The first question I have is, “Why?” It seems antithetical in an industry driven by nickel-and-diming publishers to come across a company that wants to give content away. This is usually the sign of something being wrong. In the case of Assassin’s Creed: Unity, the entire game was wrong, and the DLC (which Ubisoft wound up giving away for free as an apology) was also complete shite.

CD Projekt Red CEO Marcin Iwiński, answers the question of “Why?” with a question of his own: “Haven’t we just paid a lot of cash for a brand new game?”

This is the sign of someone who not only works for a game company, but also (surprisingly enough) plays games. He understands the trend in Triple-A circles is to tax the hell out of the consumer with little pieces of content at an outrageous markup. Iwiński has said these DLC packs are his way of thanking consumers for purchasing the game. He’s trying to show the gaming industry there is a different way to approach after-market content. There’s a different way to approach the consumer, and the community at large.

Now, this isn’t to say all of The Witcher 3’s DLC will be free. In fact, the developers are planning two paid expansions – one for later this year, and another in 2016. And yes, a lot of the free DLC falls into the “cosmetic” category (e.g. new hairstyles and NPC outfits). But all in all, this is a company that’s doing it right. They’ve released a few little extra quests and things here and there, but as evidenced by the recent 1.07 patch, they’re still putting tons of work into fixing issues with the game itself. They’re saving the bigger DLC for later, when the few remaining bugs with the actual game have been sorted out. This is the right way to do things. Get your game nice and polished first, then release the DLC later.

Are you listening, WB? Remember when you released Arkham Origins and it was buggy as hell but you couldn’t be arsed to fix it anymore because you were too busy working on DLC?

To be fair, it should be said games are products we pay for, and companies don’t actually owe us anything post-sale. But it is nice to be appreciated once in a while. It’s nice when a company does something to say, “Thanks for choosing to spend your money here. We know disposable income isn’t easy to come by. So, thanks a lot.”

In my opinion, this is one of the better ways to make that friendly gesture.

While I’m handing out gold stars, I’d like to commend Bethesda as well. It turns out they’re rewarding faith in their company by giving product away. To wit, if you pre-order Fallout 4, (which I still don’t recommend, just on principle) you will be given a copy of Fallout 3 absolutely free.

Now, it’s true. This game is several years old, and it suffers from the same problems as Oblivion (given it’s the same engine), but it is still a solid game. Mike and I lost many, many hours to it during college, and so I consider this to be a good show of faith on behalf of the company.

Is it enough to get me to pre-order? No. But it’s still a far sight better than offering me DLC for a game I may have no interest in playing due to glitches and other problems… Now who does that remind me of? Oh right, WB. Apparently they didn’t learn anything after all. The same scenario we saw before is being played out again with Arkham Knight and the Harley Quinn DLC.

All in all, execs should take a page from CD Projekt Red. They need to remember we’re people, not just ATMs. A little appreciation will almost always get me to open my wallet.

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Doing It Right

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