2015 has been a pretty good year for gaming in terms of pure entertainment, but it's often been soured by news of some very questionable business practices. Whether it was simple stuff like Star Wars Battlefront's preposterous $50 season pass or Deus Ex: Mankind Divided's deservedly canned pre-order strategy, there's been plenty to shake your head at over the last 12 months. For what it's worth, we reckon that one company in particular shunned the greedy nature that's sadly expected from our industry these days – we're talking, of course, about the studio behind The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, CD Projekt Red.
The Polish outfit is no stranger to treating its customers with respect. Building its name on the PC, the studio supported both The Witcher and The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings well into their respective lifespans, adding content and positively tweaking the two titles to the best of its abilities. It was with Wild Hunt, though, that the developer took its post-release support to the next level.
"Wild Hunt is everything that the current AAA climate has seemingly fought to abandon"
Geralt of Rivia's latest adventure launched on 19th May, and once it was available, CD Projekt Red set its rather ambitious downloadable content strategy into motion. The plan was to release small bits and pieces – new equipment, new quests, and miscellaneous additions – on a weekly basis, and although a couple of items got delayed once or twice, it's safe to say that a steady trickle fresh content kept many players coming back to check out what was new. The most important part, though? Everything was free.
We see countless other titles nickel and dime users for very small slices of DLC all of the time. More niche games in particular tend to launch with an abundance of optional content that can be downloaded piece by piece for a couple of dollars, and even though this is likely to be a more effective business model for games that aren't going to set sales charts alight, it still leaves a bit of a sour taste after you've spent your hard earned cash on a fully priced title. CD Projekt Red said to Hell with all that, and simply dished out free DLC on a regular basis.
Of course, unlike those niche releases that we mentioned, The Witcher 3 had a huge marketing push behind it – but that's not really the point. Wild Hunt attracted so much positive press from the media that it may well have been worth the cost of pumping out free additional content in the first place. Couple that with the fact that the game has basically remained highly visible across the web thanks to a consistent supply of game updates, and it could be argued that the media has done a lot of the title's advertising for it. A big budget, critically acclaimed fantasy role-playing game gets free DLC and additional stuff through regular patches? It's everything that the current AAA climate has seemingly fought to abandon.
"The studio refuses to conform with many of this industry's increasingly ugly trends"
The Warsaw-based studio has always stuck by its fans, and that's why it's managed to gain so much trust. After months of free DLC, Wild Hunt got its first expansion: Hearts of Stone. The fresh adventure could be acquired through the title's season pass, and around the time of the main game's launch, we remember seeing a lot people say that they would be grabbing the pass straight off the bat. Why? Because they had genuine faith that CD Projekt Red would deliver the goods. And guess what? It did. Hearts of Stone is absolutely superb, and at a standalone price of $9.99, its mere existence puts the offerings of countless other titles to shame.
However, as hinted, it's not just about free DLC and attractive price tags – it's about the developer's decision to go against the tide and refuse to conform with many of this industry's increasingly ugly trends. Sure, the studio has undoubtedly stuck to its own plan, growing fat on the goodwill that its been fed by both consumers and the media alike, but ultimately, Wild Hunt is a game that deserves to be surrounded with such positivity.
We don't think that CD Projekt Red should be crowned the best developer of 2015 on these merits alone, though. We can't possibly forget that the studio has produced one of the greatest games of this year, and what's considered by many to be one of the best role-playing releases ever made. What's more, we can't help but feel that this is a developer that's only just hit its prime, and for that reason, we can't wait to see where it goes next.
Do you agree that CD Projekt Red is the best developer of 2015? If not, then who is? Fight for your favourite in the comments section below.