There’s no denying that CD Projekt Red has been setting the bar for relationships with its consumers. Whether that’s DRM free releases, post-launch support, or just an honest apology when they screw things up, CDPR has built an image around honesty and integrity. Marcin Iwinski, co-founder of the company, took the stage at GDC to talk about what it takes to build that kind of relationship and where many big publishers and developers go wrong.
We named The Witcher 3 our favourite game of last year, and one of the best PC games ever, for good reason.
“Games should really be the same across all editions,” Iwinski said before displaying an image that detailed all the complicated differences between the various editions of a recently released Ubisoft game. “I’m not trying to call anyone out,” he said, “but with all the tricks and different—very often unfair—ways of monetizing additional content, people are suspicious.”
During the presentation, Iwinski earnestly talked about the importance of treating consumers with respect by using simple and honest messaging—whether that’s in the form of what editions to purchase or the sale of expansion packs. Iwinski played a clip from YouTuber Angry Joe ranting about Star Wars Battlefront’s ambiguous (and exorbitantly priced) season pass, highlighting how important it is to clearly communicate what it is consumers are actually purchasing. “Whenever you ask people to pay for something, you should always give as honest description as possible,” Iwinski said.
Iwinski then turned his sights on pride, suggesting that many developers and publishers lack a sense of humility. When they screw up, they shut up. “There’s nothing worse than silence,” Iwinski stated. “You see that a lot in this industry, especially with big games.” To illustrate how CD Projekt Red attempts to be different, Iwinski brought up the controversial issue of downgrading the visual quality of The Witcher 3 from how it appeared when it was first announced. Instead of trying to spin the story, CDPR invited Eurogamer to their offices to explain their reasoning and share their apologies. “People will understand.”
Finally, Iwinski turned his attention to the issue of many developers using PR firms as a buffer between their audience, criticizing the practice. “You are the passion. You are the reason the game is happening. If you do not talk directly to gamers, you’re losing most of that,” Iwinski said. “The reason for the success of The Witcher—of course it’s a great game—but a big part of that is we talk directly to media, we talk directly to gamers. There’s no bullshit in between.” Iwinski was quick to address the fact that he isn’t suggesting that PR firms are inherently bad, but that too many companies don’t use them effectively.
Leaving no stone left unturned, Iwinski then went on to make a brief statement about platform exclusive games, displaying an image of several that are sold only on PS4 while making a broad suggestion that the audience can decide for themselves whether it’s a benefit to gamers.
In the end, it is obvious that Iwinski, and by extension CD Projekt Red, believes in their core principle of always being humble when dealing with their customers, a simple practice that seems to be further setting them apart as a company that cares about the games they build.