Following a tumultuous launch last year for open world, neon-drenched RPG Cyberpunk 2077, leaders at CD Projekt addressed the path forward in a strategy update today aimed at investors.
"We want to do right by gamers," said Adam Kicinski, president and joint CEO of CD Projekt. The much-hyped Cyberpunk 2077 released in December 2020 and was fraught with bugs and performance issues that have made the game a talking point for crunch, marketing practices, and managing expectations for a major game release.
The game is also central to two class action lawsuits filed by investors who claim the company made false or misleading statements about Cyberpunk 2077.
Despite those issues--and being removed from the PlayStation Store--the game sold 13 million copies in its first few weeks of availability.
CD Projekt's plan
All this said, it's been impossible for CD Projekt to ignore its problems. Kicinski announced a few major pillars of the company's strategy moving forward to get the company back on track.
One significant shift is that CD Projekt Red (CD Projekt's core development team) plans to transform into what Kicinski called "Red 2.0," a concept that hinges on "parallel triple-A development," he said. "We want to improve the way we make games and Red 2.0 is our starting point."
This includes "centralizing REDengine to serve two franchises [Cyberpunk and The Witcher]," scaling up the company's talent pool, and "deploying a team of cross-project experts," and reposition for agile game production, among other operational shifts.
"Agility is central to these teams," said Pawel Zawodny, CTO and head of production, who added that parallel game development at CD Projekt will begin next year.
Related to development cycles are marketing cycles. CDPR became a victim of its own success with the popular Witcher franchise. The developer used its reputation for excellence as a platform to fuel the Cyberpunk 2077 hype machine, building expectations over years to extreme levels.
"Going forward, our [marketing] campaigns will be much shorter," said Michal Nowakowski, SVP business development. "We will wait until we're much closer to our game's launch before we start showing things like trailers, demos, or going into any depth about mechanics, etc."
He added that marketing campaigns will focus on polished game footage and demos, not concepts, and games will be shown on all platforms on which a game will launch (Cyberpunk 2077 was significantly more problematic on older-gen consoles). Nowakowski also said the company will keep customers up to date with general annual roadmaps for Cyberpunk and Witcher franchises.
On working conditions
"You cannot be an agile game developer without a sustainable and caring work environment," said Kicinski.
Kicinski also addressed working conditions at CD Projekt, which were the topic of reports outlining excessive crunch and burnout at the company. "We are working hard to minimize stress to prevent burnout and give our employees all they need to focus on their work with a fully positive mindset," he said.
He outlined a focus on inclusiveness and diversity, open lines of communication and a "barrierless environment," and forming teams of studio reps across disciplines to have direct discussions with the company board and speak on behalf of workers. Kicinski also said the company would focus on empowering employees and encourage personal development.
Kicinski added that CDPR is also looking at mergers and acquisitions. The company recently acquired Vancouver-based Digital Scapes which helped with development of Cyberpunk 2077.
Single-player RPG focus
CD Projekt will continue to expand into other areas in measured ways, but the company is using this time to refocus its efforts.
"Single player games will always be our core," Nowakowski said, though the company will continue to expand The Witcher and Cyberpunk franchises with online experiences, expansions, TV, movies, mobile offerings, and merchandising across new media to new audiences.
Kicinski stressed that CD Projekt's focus will continue to be "single-player, story-driven, triple-A RPGs." But he said the company will be shifting its long-term strategy and approach to creating online experiences.
He said the company needs to make sure it is able to implement online elements "where it makes sense...We don't want to go overboard or lose our single-player DNA."
Kicinski noted how CDPR had hinted that its next triple-A game would be an online multiplayer Cyberpunk. But he added, "We have decided to reconsider this now, given our new more systematic and agile approach," he said.
The company plans to bring online into "all of our franchises," he said, and CDPR will take time to build up the expertise in online game development before jumping in head first. Long-term, CDPR will use GOG as the basis for its online community.
"With a strong financial backbone we are able to secure our future development and seek out new opportunities to improve," Kicinski said.