On March 21, CD Projekt Red confirmed a new The Witcher game while revealing a new Unreal Engine 5 partnership with Epic Games. Shortly after that announcement, CD Projekt Red's Global PR Director Radek Grabowski had to clarify some crucial details about this new game and the Epic Games partnership in a tweet:
While this tweet clarifies the biggest misconceptions about CD Projekt Red's The Witcher announcement, it also highlights that the developer announced this game way too early and vaguely. CD Projekt Red is already losing control of some of the discourse around the game and risks repeating one of the biggest mistakes of Cyberpunk 2077's development and marketing: Overpromising.
Cyberpunk 2077's big mistake
CD Projekt Red announced Cyberpunk 2077 in May 2012 at a press conference. At the time, the developer promised features like a "gripping non-linear story filled with life and detail" and a variety of character classes, weapons, upgrades, implants, and more to choose from. It said the game would "set [a] new standard in the futuristic RPG genre with an exceptional gaming experience."
Cyberpunk 2077 would not release until December 2020, over eight years later. But in the meantime, CD Projekt Red continued to tease the title with trailers and interviews, highlighting the game's ambitious scope and vision. CD Projekt Red developers hyped up how the main story and sidequests intertwined, how the game would feature multiplayer, how cops would be very reactive, and more. Although the game looked and sounded very impressive prior to its release, many of these features and promises were either missing or half-baked in their implementation into Cyberpunk 2077.
Cyberpunk 2077 Teaser Trailer
For eight years, an RPG that was supposed to change the genre forever was promised, but in the end, all we got was a fairly standard open-world RPG with a bevy of technical problems at release. The massive backlash happened because people were so excited for Cyberpunk 2077, partly because CD Projekt Red hyped up all of these ambitious features over eight years.
The reality is that game development is an arduous journey that doesn't always go according to plan. Designs change, features are cut, and sometimes the finished product just doesn't come together. CD Projekt Red probably never meant to lie to its fans, but priorities and development timelines shifted and what the developer ultimately delivered with Cyberpunk 2077 wasn't up to snuff.
As CD Projekt Red made the mistake of announcing Cyberpunk 2077 too early and overpromising, I thought the studio would what to share more details on its next game until it was close to release. That was not the case.
CD Projekt Red was not willing to share a development time frame or release window as part of The Witcher announcement, so it's likely that this game is still several years away. Although the developer didn't reveal many details at this time, announcing the next The Witcher game so early gives s the Polish studio plenty of time to do so. For example, the game's director is already promising that there will be no crunch during the development of this game, something people may hold him accountable for as stories about the game's development emerge. CD Projekt Red must be cautious about what it shares about this new game before launch if it doesn't want another PR disaster, and it already seems to be getting a bit out of hand.
Grabowski's tweet indicates that there are already some misconceptions about the game. That will likely exponentially worsen as CD Projekt Red continues to tease this title in job listings, interviews, and trailers. It's a dangerous approach, so why did the developer make this "initial confirmation" happen so early? There are several reasons why this could be the case. First off, most of this announcement was focused on CD Projekt Red's partnership with Epic Games and the use of Unreal Engine 5, and the developer wanted to confirm the first game that will be part of this partnership to make it more exciting for fans.
Meanwhile, CD Projekt Red is still recovering from the backlash toward Cyberpunk 2077's rocky launch. Announcing a follow-up title to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt now not only restores a little bit of goodwill with fans and investors but will also attract some Unreal Engine-experienced developers who might be nervous to come to CD Projekt Red following Cyberpunk 2077. 2022 has been a year of anticlimatic and purposefully vague game announcements. CD Projekt Red's The Witcher announcement is simply the latest one to be part of this trend, but it's also one of the most worrying because this developer has made this mistake before.
While CD Projekt Red felt pressured to confirm this game early, they need to be very careful if they don't want to repeat the mistakes of Cyberpunk 2077. The best course of action for CD Projekt Red to take now is to stay completely silent until it has a clear idea of what the finished game will entail. If that isn't the case, this could all be building to disappointment in the year 2030.