The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a hit, both commercially and critically. The game has sold over 4 million copies in three weeks worldwide, with an average review score of over 90 on every platform according to Metacritic. This isn't just a success, this is a slam dunk.
And CD Projekt Red was able to pull it off without punishing its biggest fans. Isn't it amazing?
How this magic happened
Batman: Arkham Knight is the most recent example of games that chop the content out of the release in order to offer a buffet of add-on sales and retailer exclusives; this means that no matter where you buy the game or how much you pay you'll be missing some form of content.
Mortal Kombat X was another prime offender in this category and my advice is the same for both: Skip buying new and pick it up when the "complete" edition with all the content and a lower price is released in a few months. Games shouldn't make fans who pay the most feel like suckers for getting the least amount of content.
It's worth paying attention to the pre-order bonuses of The Witcher 3, which included keychains, comic books, and limited edition packaging. These objects get you a reason to pre-order the game, but none of these bonuses includes any content that was removed from the game and only given to people who buy at a certain location. You may want that keychain or that comic, they both looked pretty neat, but wherever you bought the game you were given the full game. Nothing was removed to make retailers happy.
Besides, this was the standard edition of the game. Take a look at everything you get without spending more for a collector's edition.
"Just like with the previous installments of The Witcher, CD Projekt RED went out of their way to make sure the physical edition of the game is worth buying," Gamepreorders reported. "In addition to the game itself, all copies come with a soundtrack CD, a map, a compendium of the Witcher universe, and a set of stickers. Of course, the digital counterpart offers most of these goodies in downloadable form."
By May 11 of this year, over 1 million copies of the game had been preordered. Somehow offering not only the full game, but an enjoyable selection of goodies for every buyer, led to people wanting to hand over their money. The game also included a thank you note from the developers:
There is a season pass, but you know what the content is from the jump, and the $25 purchase will get you around 30 hours of brand-new content.
"If we ever decide to release paid content for Wild Hunt, I promise you, gamers will see why we decided to charge for it," Marcin Iwinski, co-founder and joint CEO of CD Projekt Red, told Polygon in a prior interview "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."
The purchasing decision is easy, which is the way it should be
This is on top of the 16 bits of free content you get when you buy the game. The problem with games like Mortal Kombat X is that it takes so long to research which exclusive you want and which bits of content that you're willing to give up you become exhausted by the process. It's consumer hostile, and it makes sure the people willing to pay the most will get screwed out of at least some content.
The Witcher 3 offered physical extras for early orders, sure, but you can also just run into a store or an online distribution platform and pick it up knowing you're going to get the full game, not to mention a bunch of fun extras as a thank-you from the developers. The purchasing decision is easy, which is the way it should be.
CD Projekt Red not only made sure the game wasn't chopped up, it went above and beyond to give everyone who bought the game at launch a great experience. The fans rewarded them with millions of units sold, and the reviews have been almost unanimously positive.
One of the biggest hits of the year achieved its success without attacking the people who helped get it there. Everyone else needs to be taking notes.