CD Projekt Red is clearly trying to get the hype going for this February release of The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt as every week or two there’s been an announcement. And this week, as covered by our own Andrew Stretch, it was revealed that they will be having 16 Free DLC released.
First, I do want to say that I respect most of CD Projekt Red’s policies. Their no DRM set is a rare bit of sanity, their games are well designed and their DLC is more like older style patches with free bonus things they’ve done. As a fan of older games, I also love CD Projekt’s gog.com which has allowed me to play these games easier optimized for new pcs and to discover ones I had missed.
The plan for The Witcher’s 3 DLC goes as follows: there will be 16 of them. They will be released in groups of 2 – with 2 on Day 1 and 2 more each week. We don’t know the majority of these (Leaks will probably continue over the next few weeks sprinkling out) but the first four (day 1 and week 1) DLC were announced. They seem to be in a pack of one cosmetic and one gameplay thing based on the pattern we see so far.
These sound fine, but let’s discuss the issues here and why I believe it is nothing more than a marketing tactic.
The first is the timeline on these. While I do believe that some Day 1 DLC can theoretically be ready for Day 1 and not on disk, it seems unlikely that they can have 7 weeks’ worth of DLC set up in that manner. Essentially doing that for the Day 1 DLC requires pulling the people to put onto it while the game is in its later stages of development and then accelerating once it goes gold to take full advantage of the time.
However, that only would work with limited project scope and here we’re talking 16 DLC delivered at launch and then two per week. If it was merely cosmetic things, that wouldn’t actually be an issue – I think cosmetic things are a good way to go with free DLC. However, in this case, early as the *second set* of DLC they are adding a quest into the game.
This hurts the early adopters of the game. The people who have been waiting for over a year, preordering and playing get the game and it’s incomplete as parts of it are being doled out over the next few weeks. If you want the ‘full’ on the release version of The Witcher 3, you’ll be waiting 2 months after release to play. The fact that these DLC's are adding quest play and possibly even other unique features means those who pick up the game on the release are playing a watered-down version until the rest is released.
Why would they do this? Well, presumably it is for marketing. Typically as it nears release, the reviews will come out before and after giving it a week or two of news that is good to go for a larger title like The Witcher 3. However, by doing this, that taper-off period where the number of articles decreases from the date of release increases as there is a consistent flow of news relating to the game. For the first 7 weeks, there will be at least two additions to the game that will prompt places to write just a quick bit, or maybe someone to give their views on it or such.
It’s excellent from a marketing standpoint. You get to keep awareness higher and thus bring people into buying the game. And of course, going back to GOG if they got it there to download means you have another chance to sell them a new game as well.
In some ways, this is a symptom of the way DLC is being used by the industry as a whole, with things like Day 1 DLC and cutting things out for doing in DLC later. There is a proper way that it can be done – see Fallout New Vegas’ later ones and how it can support ongoing improvements to the game, but few care to do it that way.
Perhaps I’m just cynical in some ways, but seeing CD Projekt Red getting lauded for a marketing ploy rubbed me the wrong way. It seems disrespectful to your core contingent to tell them that they have to wait for the full game because the marketing department has decided to stretch out the launch process.