CD Projekt RED: ‘It’s Not About Protection; It’s About Delivering Value’
NOTE: This is a portion of an interview from a five-part video series with Wil Wheaton. Watch the rest of the interview here, and check out Game Front’s E3 Channel for more news, previews and Wil Wheaton videos!
Copy protection on video games doesn’t work.
That’s the big reason why Marcin Iwinski, CEO of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings developer CD Projekt RED, said the developer abandoned the prospect of using digital rights management on its games when it could. In Poland, where the company is based, CD Projekt’s chief competitors were pirates. Copy protection wasn’t saving the company sales, so it had to look for new ways of competing, Iwinski said during an interview with Game Front video host Wil Wheaton at E3 2012.
“Whatever you do, when you release a game, it’s cracked,” Iwinski said. “And back in the day we were thinking, ‘What do we do to stop it?’ and of course, we tried all the copy protections and they just didn’t work. We have very skilled programmers and hackers in Eastern Europe, Poland and Russia, so whatever the protection was, it was taking about a week to crack it. So pretty fast we realized, it’s not about protecting it, because that just doesn’t work — it’s about delivering value to the end consumer.”
Iwinski told the story of Baldur’s Gate, the localized version of which was CD Projekt’s first major game release in Poland. In order to fight street piracy in the country, the company stopped worrying about copy protection and started looking at what it was delivering to players, he said.
“The thing is, the money you were spending in the store you were getting a big heavy box full of stuff. And the pirated version was just a couple of silver pressed CDs with a crappy printout — it was looking very cheap. As pirates were our main competition, they were charging not per game but per CD. So the game was multi-CD, so it was more expensive. So we launched a budget range, which we were pitching to the end consumer as ‘Original games, cheaper than pirated ones.’ And you were getting the original game, a nice manual, the cover and tech support.
While The Witcher required DRM as dictated by the game’s publisher, CD Projekt didn’t have the same distribution deal for The Witcher 2, and eventually decided against DRM altogether.
“On The Witcher 2, we realized we should go our way,” Iwinski said. “We actually protected the European as, again, we had a contractual obligation, but on GoG.com, our digital distribution platform, we released the game DRM-free. Funnily enough, the pirates didn’t use the GoG, DRM-free version that was available on Day One. They actually cracked the second version.”
Be sure to check out the rest of Game Front’s E3 2012 coverage and interviews.