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CD Projekt's plans for The Witcher and Cyberpunk could have a hidden cost

CD Projekt RED has come out with a host of announcements for five new projects, including five new Witcher games, a sequel to Cyberpunk 2077, and a game set in an original series. 

The prospect of a new Witcher trilogy is very exciting, and CD Projekt RED’s six-year timeline for releasing three separate Witcher games is ambitious, and that's before we even consider the Cyberpunk 2077 sequel or the new IP. However, given that the Polish video game developer is using ominous-sounding codewords for its new Witcher games, making heads or tails of what’s going on can be difficult. Here’s the breakdown. 

“Polaris” is the codename for the next Witcher game. Currently in pre-production, Polaris is, as far as we understand it, The Witcher 4, heralding the start of a second Witcher saga. Though we don't have codenames for Polaris' two planned sequels yet, CD Projekt RED has committed to releasing them down the line. Next up, we have Canis Majoris. This one’s a standalone game developed by an external studio featuring developers with previous experience working on the Witcher series. Lastly, we have Sirius, which aims to be a stark departure from previous titles. Developed by The Molasses Flood, this one intends to use multiplayer to complement a single-player campaign “with quests and a story”.  

Here's a summary of the announcements and their codenames:

  • Orion: The next fully-fledged Cyberpunk game, in development at CD Projekt RED.
  • Polaris: The first game in a new Witcher trilogy in pre-production at CD Projekt RED.
  • Canis Majoris: A standalone Witcher game by an external studio.
  • Sirius: A story-driven game by a smaller studio with multiplayer elements.
  • Hadar: A new series, set in an original universe, created by CD Projekt RED.

Sirius business

The Witcher Sirius Logo

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

For Witcher fans, the implications of these ambitious announcements are massive. We've already seen CD Projekt RED dip its toes into expanding the universe of its Witcher games. The developer illustrated that the broad and expansive fantasy setting is ripe for exploration with the Witcher card game Gwent and its standalone spinoff.  

These aren't throwaway games, either: Gwent: Rogue Mage is a great Witcher game in its own right. If CD Projekt RED plays its cards right, the sheer breadth of opportunities on offer within the Witcher setting may well offset the danger of Witcher-based oversaturation. 

It will also be fascinating to see where these new Witcher projects go with gameplay and narrative. Project Sirius looks to be a stark departure from the traditional Witcher formula. The emphasis on multiplayer could offer a refreshing change of pace for fans of the series. Though we don't know exactly what form this will take yet, the idea of fighting dark-fantasy monsters with a group of pals certainly has an appeal. Though EA's gritty Monster Hunter-Like, Wild Hearts may pip CD Projekt RED to the post.

However, even though two of the five announced Witcher titles are being developed by an "external studio" and The Molasses Flood rather than CD Projekt RED proper, it's fair to say that all of these developers will have their work cut out for them. It's no secret that crunch culture was a serious problem during Cyberpunk 2077's development and that we shouldn't ignore the Witcher 4's warning signs

Hopefully, by dividing up the workload, CD Projekt RED can avoid the delays and crunch conditions that plagued The Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk 2077, but the studio has done little to prove it's changed since December 2020. When deadlines are approaching and three Witcher games, a Cyberpunk sequel, and a new IP are all on the slate, will the studio be able to resist trying to hit release dates by throwing its staff into the meat grinder?

I fear we may be heading towards a repeat of the Cyberpunk 2077 debacle, where CD Projekt RED promises more than it can deliver and, in doing so, could hurt its own employees. Nobody wins when game developers oversell. Release dates, and fair treatment of workers, are both likely to slip in this kind of environment.

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