Beleaguered Polish developer CD Projekt have this week outlined their long-term future in an annual strategic update. The 15-minute presentation itself was stuffed to the brim with announcements; no less than six games were outlined in an extremely ambitious ten-year plan. It’s an unusual PR move for sure. Ordinarily, game developers wouldn’t reveal the titles they’re intent on releasing a decade into the future, but this is the step CD Projekt deem necessary to rekindle some faith in their operation following the catastrophic fallout post-Cyberpunk 2077.
Yes, Cyberpunk’s release was almost two years ago now, and yes, the devs at CDPR have worked immensely hard to build a solid game on top of shaky foundations. But moulding a title to represent what was promised a decade ago doesn’t relieve CDPR of their operational failings. They’re not out of the woods yet.
And, perhaps from a cynical standpoint, this latest strategic update does little to dissuade those who’re concerned CDPR have not learned from past mistakes. Remember, Cyberpunk 2077 was first unveiled in May 2012, a full eight and a half years before release. Once again, CDPR are announcing games so far into the future they’re likely being made using tech that hasn’t been invented yet, no less with a team that understands how to use it. And what’s worse, they’re going to be working on multiple games simultaneously, breaking away from their long-time policy of working on only one major title at a time.
Now, it’s not all doom and gloom as the ghouls of CDPR’s recent history can’t be fairly compared to their plans going forward. For starters, as outlined in the strategic update, the company is aggressively expanding. In addition to their three Polish hubs, there’s the recently unveiled CD Projekt Red Vancouver in Canada plus a freshly acquired location in Boston Massachusetts. Development of their upcoming titles will be split between their auxiliary studios, which in theory should spread the strain of intricate and lengthy development cycles. They’re also set to work with an external studio too, which is another potential spanner in the works.
And what are the games that’ve been announced? Well, the first is a new Witcher game, a follow up to 2015’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, with two full-on sequels to follow that’ll form a new trilogy. This trio is expected to release within a six-year window, with two additional Witcher spinoffs that’ll be handled by CD Projekt’s newly acquired Boston outfit The Molasses Flood, a studio CDPR reassuringly proclaim as headed by experienced developers who’ve worked on past Witcher games.
Following all this gluttonous Witcher content will be a sequel to Cyberpunk 2077, a game CDPR state as taking “the Cyberpunk franchise further” and that it’ll “continue harnessing the potential of this dark future universe.” To be clear, Cyberpunk’s sequel is in the far-flung future, releasing after The Witcher’s next trilogy. Following that will be a brand-new IP codenamed “Hadar”, CDPR’s most distant prospect which they say is still in its early conceptual phase. Before any of this new content gathers momentum though, there’s still CDPR’s commitment to successfully delivering a current-gen version of The Witcher 3 plus 2023’s Cyberpunk 2077 expansion the Phantom Liberty.
CD Projekt Red’s ambitious plans are sound in principle. Leaning heavily on their former glories by reigniting The Witcher series whilst fostering its rising Cyberpunk 2077 community and announcing something brand new seems a solid three-pronged foundation which the company can rebuild its reputation on. It’s certainly a strategy that’ll appease shareholders, with CDPR undoubtably hoping to increase their market value by impressing investors previously rattled by Cyberpunk 2077’s disastrously buggy 2020 launch.
Truth is, as a company CD Projekt are in a fantastic place, financially speaking. Last year, the company turned over close to $230 million. Cyberpunk 2077 has recently surpassed 20 million players, with more than 100,000 concurrent players recorded on Steam in September just gone – a number surpassing The Witcher 3’s all-time high. With the success of Netflix anime tie-in Cyberpunk: Edgerunners surely bolstering players further, the sky’s seemingly the limit for CDPR. If they’re looking to draw in new investment, now’s the perfect time. Their bulbous strategic update – which, it must be said, was filled with so much stuff – certainly glosses over their former failings; they describe their intent to harness new tech, adopt Unreal Engine 5, and offer glimpses into a blossoming corporate culture buoyed by upwards marketing projections and shiny new premises – it’s all very exciting for those who’ve money they’re looking to invest.
However, it all feels as though CDPR are trying to force the narrative onwards, to push it beyond Cyberpunk 2077’s failings and as discerning consumers, we must push back.
For players, they just want an answer to one simple question: will the next title be an unplayable bug-infested mess? How The Witcher 3’s PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S versions and Cyberpunk’s DLC fair will be CDPR’s first true opportunity to demonstrate they’re a rejuvenated outfit. The success of their next release is crucial if they wish to reclaim the trust of those players severely burned after Cyberpunk 2077. Looking at the corporate aesthetic of their messaging, it’s quite clear it’s not directed at the end user, at the player (that is, unless any players are after a job at CDPR, as its clearly not just a corporate strategy update, but full-on recruitment driver too).
It’s worth stressing the corporate nature of CDPR’s messaging comes from the top, as does their strategic direction, and with it, any failures. Those at the bottom rung of the corporate ladder are not to blame for any game’s that’re released in unfit state. However, there’s been a mass exodus at the top of CD Projekt Red’s organisational structure following Cyberpunk 2077’s devastating launch. Game directors, lead designers, production directors, they’ve all gone on to pastures new. Co-founder and joint CEO Marcin Iwiński has just announced he’s stepping down from his leadership role after 30 years at the helm too. Perhaps, with new blood in CDPR’s crucial leadership positions, their immensely ambitious 10-year plan has opportunity to succeed.
Iwiński will stay on as senior shareholder, with a place on the board of directors, so his sway will still influence CDPR’s movements going forward. But admittedly, these are all steps in the right direction for CD Projekt Red. Right now, it seems like every action they take is simply to garner more financial interest (or maybe generate enough interest to suit a potential buyer, who knows?!) But, if their corporate messaging attracts a boatload of passionate developers to an international company which genuinely looks to be putting the effort into reshaping its culture, then there’s no reason why CDPR can’t simultaneously manage and successfully release solid title after solid title throughout the coming decade.
As ever, the proof is in the pudding. The Witcher 3’s upcoming current-gen version and Cyberpunk 2077’s the Phantom Liberty expansion simply must go well. CDPR’s story-driven games evidently resonate with a lot of people, and sure, there’re plenty of players – 20 million, in fact – who’re happy with where Cyberpunk is right now. However, for those still on the fence, CDPR have a real opportunity to rise from the ashes and regain their trust.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.