The Witcher 3 developers beat piracy with a product worth owning

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Piracy sucks. While there are arguments that suggest that piracy isn’t akin to theft, the net effect is the same; people getting stuff they didn’t pay for, and ultimately have no right to use. One way to combat this is to saddle games (and other media) with DRM. But there’s a better way to stop people from illegally sourcing your product: make it something people want to own.

One way that game publishers do this is through often beautiful and ostentatious Collector’s Editions stuffed with physical memorabilia. The other – the method that CD Projekt RED’s used – is to make something awesome that people want to pay for.

The Witcher 3 developer CD Projekt RED is a consumer darling, and for good reason. They’ve not only made one of this generation’s finest and most expansive games, but they’ve supported it with an almost unparalleled reverence for the game and its fans.

Speaking at infoShare 2016 (transcribed by Kotaku), CDPR co-founder Marcin Iwinski detailed how the company fought piracy with a product worth owning.

“We released [The Witcher 3] without any copy protection. So, on day one, you could download the game from GOG, and give it to a friend (enemy as well)…and still we sold near to 10 million units across all 3 platforms. But the piracy factor was irrelevant, because we cannot force people to buy things. We can only convince them to do it. We totally believe in the carrot, not in the stick…I’ve seen many times, comments [that say] ‘Hey, I couldn’t afford the game when it was full price, but these guys are so fair, and they were never against us. They were always trying to do good, add a lot of value, give free DLC, give free content, that I bought the game from them when it was mid-price.’

…[In] lower income countries, people just cannot afford a 50 dollar game. So maybe our price-point offering in a certain country wasn’t right. For example, we have lower prices in Russia. And there is many cases like that.

We don’t like when people steal our product, but we are not going to chase them and put them in prison. But we’ll think hard what to make to convince them. And uh, convince them in a very positive way, so that they’ll buy the product next time, they’ll be happy with our game, and they’ll tell their friends not to pirate it.

And funnily enough, the more we proceed this way, the more we see them again on forums and Reddit and whatnot, we see that there is a guy saying ‘hey where can I download Witcher 3: Wild Hunt from?’ And then there is 10 people bashing them, ‘Oh you fucko, do not download the game. These guys are fair, they’re the only fair guys in the industry. You should go and buy it.’

And so, I’m not sure if this guy will buy it or find this link, but still, it’s a very positive attitude and it’s excellent word of mouth.”

And it’s a philosophy that’s certainly worked. In the same talk, Iwiniski confirmed that The Witcher 3 has now sold over 10 million copies.

Last Updated: July 19, 2016

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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