The Witcher 2, while currently a PC exclusive title with an Xbox port on the way, has been a marvellous success for developer CD Projekt. It’s sold millions of copies, and would have been an even bigger success if it weren’t for software pirates, who buccaneered the game into incredibly high numbers of illegal downloads.
And despite all this, the studio refused to implement any draconian DRM onto their title, standing firm behind a policy that has made them a favourite with legitimate PC players. And considering how many times The Witcher 2 was downloaded, that’s a pretty noble position from them.
“I was checking regularly the number of concurrent downloads on torrent aggregating sites, and for the first six to eight weeks there was around 20-30k people downloading it at the same time”, CEO Marcin Iwinski told PC Gamer.
“Let’s take 20k as the average and let’s take six weeks. The game is 14GB, so let’s assume that on an average not-too-fast connection it will be six hours of download. Six weeks is 56 days, which equals to 1344 hours; and with six hours of average download time to get the game it would give us 224 downloads, then let’s multiply it by 20k simultaneous downloaders.”
“The result is roughly 4.5 million illegal downloads. This is only an estimation, and I would say that’s rather on the optimistic side of things; as of today we have sold over one million legal copies, so having only 4.5-5 illegal copies for each legal one would be not a bad ratio. The reality is probably way worse.”
Despite all the potential revenue lost for the studio, Iwinski is still adamant that “DRM does not work”, explaining that no matter how sophisticated the protection a company comes up, it will still be cracked by a determined hacker, given enough time, and will only hurt “legal gamers” in the process.
“From the very beginning our main competitors on the market were pirates”, Iwinski said. “We of course experimented with all available DRM and copy protection, but frankly nothing worked. Whatever we used was cracked within a day or two, massively copied and immediately available on the streets for a fraction of our price.”
“We did not give up, but came up with new strategy: we started offering high value with the product, like enhancing the game with additional collectors’ items like soundtracks, making-of DVDs, books, walkthroughs, etc.”
“This, together with a long process of educating local gamers about why it makes sense to actually buy games legally, worked. And today, we have a reasonably healthy games market.”
It’s always nice to hear a developer approach serious matters with the right attitude, and Iwinski is right. Offering gamers something more for their buck, much like our older games did, with their massive boxes, chunky colour manuals and extras has proven to work in the industry, as there are some things that a pirate cannot download.
Last Updated: November 30, 2011