In a somewhat unexpected move, CD Projekt Red has unveiled all the projects it will be working on for the next decade or so. Probably longer actually, given it announced not only a new trilogy of games set in The Witcher universe, but also a prequel, a spin-off, a Cyberpunk 2077 sequel, and a new IP we currently know nothing about. That’s a whole lot of stuff.
After the unmitigated garbage fire that was Cyberpunk 2077, the studio’s reputation remains in tatters, and following the Edgerunners’ redemption arc, this could be an attempt to restore normality and prepare us for the future. The majority of studios are hesitant to reveal what they’re working on at all until they have a glossy trailer, let alone put the entire company’s roadmap on display long before a single line of code has even been written. I admire this approach, but it also risks making promises that will be impossible to deliver on in the end. Let’s not kid ourselves.
It’s worth noting that this presentation was not only intended for the public, but also shareholders, investors, and potential creative talent wanting to make a future at CD Projekt Red. Much like fanciful CG trailers, it is equal parts a marketing ploy and recruitment drive, intended to attract people from across the globe with talent to help these upcoming projects shine. As gamers we view things from a one-dimensional perspective, putting hype on a pedestal and crying foul whenever a corporation fails to deliver on our expectations.
In laying out its plan earlier than anyone has before, CD Projekt Red hasn’t given us a chance to form an image in our heads about what these games might be or if they’d even be coming in the first place. We all wanted a new Witcher game and had our own ideas about what it would be like, but none of us expected an entire trilogy, so we didn’t get a chance to imagine our dream version of The Witcher 6.
The Cyberpunk sequel also seems to come out of left field given the first was such a failure, but the game sold 20 million copies and established a position in the cultural zeitgeist the developer was always going to build upon. It was a mess, but a successful one that has somehow recovered, and CDPR will ride that temporary resurgence straight to the bank. I’m excited to see more from this tabletop adaptation, even if the game itself is likely over a decade away and announcing it this early may only serve to hurt it in the long run.
Outside my echochamber of journalists, and even within it, we possess only a fleeting idea of how games are made and how long production takes. Impatience can so often cloud common sense, and we are now aware that CD Projekt Red is working on things we want to play, and thus it must hurry up or be punished for it. Bethesda has faced similar criticism with Elder Scrolls 6 and Fallout 5, making it clear these projects aren’t coming for a very, very long time. Starfield isn’t even out yet, and that thing has taken the better part of eight years to get out the door. Games are behemoths, and making one can often take half a decade, let alone a new trilogy, spin-off, new IP, and a sequel. I wish CDPR’s level of transparency was normalised in the gaming industry, but unreasonable fan expectations make that impossible.
There’s also the worry of production itself and whether crunch will once again play a factor in putting these games together. CD Projekt Red needs to learn some valuable lessons from Cyberpunk 2077, and how marketing a product should come after making it, instead of creating a false sense of anticipation around overblown demos and trailers that were never able to represent the final experience. Leadership has been shuffled and new studios have been opened all over the world to counteract this failure, and the presentation itself also points to a more inclusive approach to working conditions and allowing developers to approach the job with added flexibility. Still, three Witcher games in six years? Completing them without crunch will be a monumental achievement.
This isn’t just a change brought forward by the pandemic either, but a changing trend in triple-A development that all major studios must now contend with. It’s for the better, even if games take longer to make and budgets balloon to accommodate technical advancements that themselves are difficult to predict. It’s all a bit of a mess, and there are too many variables in the production process to tell if every single announced project will come to fruition. I view the presentation as the best case scenario, since many of these games won’t have entered pre-production, and right now are merely ambitions from a company that is known for promising too much and delivering too little.
I’m excited about the future of CD Projekt Red, but I’m also cautious about the studio spreading itself too thin to try to win back all the goodwill it has since thrown away. All of these games have the potential to be incredible, but good intentions aren’t enough to convince me.
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