The Witcher 3 DRM-free on PC; 'gamer-friendly' solution sought on consoles

The Witcher series of action role-playing games is reaching further than ever before, with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt launching simultaneously on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in 2014. The new consoles have been mired in discussion over DRM (digital rights management) recently, with Microsoft instituting connectivity requirements to play games, and PlayStation leaving publishers to decide how to control the sale and resale of their content. The Polish developer behind The Witcher, CD Projekt RED, now tries to find an ideal incarnation for its publicly asserted values, which are staunchly opposed to DRM of any kind.

"I can only talk about our intentions; we don't have any agreement finalized yet," CD Projekt co-founder Marcin Iwiński tells me, carefully choosing his words. "It's all quite early and we're finding out about it this week, at the conference. But our intention, obviously, is to choose the most gamer-friendly solution." In CD Projekt's perfect world, those solutions would be aligned with their PC- and Mac-based digital distribution platform, GOG.com, where games are 100 percent DRM-free. "Whatever the solutions will be for our partners, we choose something ideally as close to what we have on GOG as possible."

While The Witcher 3 intends to make the best out each new console's content ownership policies, Iwiński hopes players will remain cognizant of the game's full breadth of supported platforms. "There's one important comment I'd like to make. When we announced [The Witcher 3] at the Microsoft conference, we saw a lot of comments on the internet. 'Hey, you should not release the game on Xbox One.' I think, really, that's not fair to a lot of gamers who choose Xbox One as a platform. We strongly believe in the freedom of choice, and not releasing the game on any of the platforms would be a disadvantage.

"Gamers, ultimately, especially right now when the new platforms are showing up, choose what they think is fine for them," says Iwiński. "Some people will have good connectivity with the internet and have no problem, and they'll just go with the Microsoft solution. On the other hand, we'll see how it will be changing in time, because I think there will be a lot of things happening on the market and competition between all the platform holders. The thing that will not change will be PC and DRM-free."

CD Projekt is "capable of delivering the game" on all three platforms, says Iwiński, who thinks punishing Microsoft for its policies would punish the players on Xbox One equally (and, obviously, limit the game's sales reach). "People are overdramatizing to a certain extent," he says. "I just want to assure them that we are true to our values, and will not punish any gamers. At the same time, they can choose whatever they see fit." This reflects the developer's current stance on PC, where The Witcher games are also sold outside of GOG and under other store-native DRM, as is the case with Steam.

"I think the level of involvement of the audience, especially gamers, who are super connected online, has changed, so they're very vocal about it," Iwiński says. "I think this is particular in our industry. Are you really going to go online and bash a washing machine that you don't like? I don't think that you have such a personal attachment to it, but games, movies, books, they're very vocal about it."

When I facetiously describe a washing machine that needs to ping home base every 24 hours lest it swallow your clothes, Iwiński plays along with the joke: "But the cloud would be helping you to optimize the washing process."

This article was originally published on Joystiq.