The head of CD Projekt Red today is taking a public stance against what he believes is an abusive use of paid downloadable content, and he's putting The Witcher 3's DLC where his mouth is.
Anyone who buys The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on any platform will also receive 16 free bits of downloadable content after the game is out, developer CD Projekt Red announced today.
Marcin Iwinski, co-founder and joint CEO of CD Projekt Red, told Polygon that the company is made up of gamers and they try to make games that treat other gamers how they would like to be treated.
"We always thought it's best to follow what you believe in, so here we are," he said. "Others may or may not do the same, but this is who we are and what we think gamers deserve."
Iwinski discussed what he views as a bad trend in the gaming industry in an open letter on the game's official site.
"Every time we reach out for a new release, we expect to be taken care of," he wrote. "We expect support if we encounter any problems, we love updates constantly improving the experience, and we feel really special when we receive free content that gives us more than we initially paid for. It doesn't have to be huge, it can be an awesome skin for a character, or an extra sword, or armor.
"Unfortunately this treatment is quite rare these days. As gamers, we nowadays have to hold on tight to our wallets, as surprisingly right after release, lots of tiny pieces of tempting content materialize with a steep price tag attached. Haven't we just paid a lot of cash for a brand new game?"
The free DLC program for the game, which is coming to PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on Feb. 24, will start arriving the day after the game launches. The first bundle of DLC will be a Temerian Armor set (horse armor included) and a beard and hairstyle set for protagonist Geralt. The second set will include an additional quest and an alternative look for one of the game's other main characters, either Yennefer or Vengerberg.
The rest of the free DLC will arrive in bundles of two, every week, starting March 4, for the next seven weeks. The DLC is available to everyone for free whether they purchased a Collector's edition, bought a physical or digital copy, or pre-ordered the game.
When asked why the content is being rolled out over weeks as DLC, instead of being included on the disc, Iwinski said that the content isn't finished yet.
"The fact that we are announcing the DLC before launch does not mean it is ready at this moment in time," he told Polygon. "As you probably know, we are currently focused on polishing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. This means that most of the teams are involved in finalizing development and optimizing the game. However, some of the teams are free to start working on additional content that can be released after we launch the game. This is the case here. DLC will not be present on disc."
The rise of paid DLC in the face of a mostly negative response from gamers is driven by pure psychology, Iwinksi said.
"When you get invested and emotionally attached to a game — and as we all know that's what gaming is about — you want to have the full game and have access to all the options," he said. "Why not have a bit better sword, armor or, yes, horse armor — if it's possible to. You might use it, you might not, but you want to have it. It's pure psychology and, from the 'here and now' business perspective, it's an opportunity to get more money out of each copy. I am not saying all DLCs are not worth the price, but I think this business model is definitely abused to say the least. We think things shouldn't look like this, and that's why we do it differently. We give this stuff for free."
Iwinski said he hopes their stand against releasing downloadable content for sale soon after a game's release will lead to some industry introspection and maybe changes.
"We really hope this will initiate a change in the industry, even if it's a small one at first," he said. "This, and we also hope to make someone's day better."
While Iwinski and CD Projekt Red seem against the notion of paid downloadable content for games, that doesn't mean they've entirely ruled it out for The Witcher 3 and future games from the company.
"If we ever decide to release paid content for Wild Hunt, I promise you, gamers will see why we decided to charge for it," he said. "We'll ask ourselves a simple question: Could anyone feel ripped off when they buy it? If there's even a slightest possibility they will, we won't do it."