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Opinions 13 January 2020, 17:27

author: Christopher Mysiak

An scholar, librarian, wannabe witcher, and a gentleman. Cars, guns and swords are his things, as are deep stories about serious stuff.

"I bought the Witcher 3... Four Times!" How is The Witcher 3 so Popular After Five Years?

No expansion have been coming out, there's been only one patch in 15 months, modding community is barely active – and yet, the Witcher 3 is still on bestseller lists. Why does it still sell like hot cakes?

You surely have used some sort of price-comparing website in your life. You must have. It's just too convenient. Just another blessing of the internet. We also use an engine like that, which allows us to see what people are most keen on clicking. Want to guess which game was the most popular in the last five years? Yes, it was HIM.

The news itself isn't particularly exciting. What other game would it be? Madden NFL? Mario Kart? But there's one thing about these statistics that makes us think. Four years (in fact, almost five) have passed since The Witcher 3 turned out the best... sorry, since it was released – and yet, it doesn't want to leave the 'best-selling' lists.

That Wild Hunt absolutely killed it in 2015 (along with GTA V), this is quite obvious. Then, the dominance in 2016 was not surprising either: with the Blood and Wine expansion and the release of the GOTY edition, this game still didn't want to be forgotten. But the following years are already a mystery. Sure, when CD Projekt RED devoted all their attention to new games, Geralt had to give some ground to titles like, for example, Mass Effecta: Andromeda in 2017, and obviously RDR 2 in 2018. However, this doesn't change the fact that hits come and go, times change, and the Witcher is always on the jury. In the front row, I mean.

2019 – A NEW OPENING

And to make it a bit funnier, when it seemed the game is finally overdue, and the Witcher 3 has to make room for Cyberpunk 2077 – Netflix released eight episodes of their own take on Andrzej Sapkowski's saga, reigniting the passion for the video game. The international hype for the TV series grew to such proportions, it also affected the game.

Starting from July, when Netflix started advertising the series, the game's sales on Steam started going up. 2 million copies purchased in six months is about a quarter of all the sales this game made in its entire life. The influx of new players was accompanied by the return of veterans, and, as a result, the Witcher 3 achieved its new record of concurrent players – five years after being released. The result scored in 2015 was improved by several percent – to 103.3 thousand players at peak time.

Okay, okay, Geralt, enough with the stern faces. We all know you're a millionaire. - "I bought the Witcher 3... Four Times!" How is The Witcher 3 so Popular After Five Years? - dokument - 2020-01-13
Okay, okay, Geralt, enough with the stern faces. We all know you're a millionaire.

The time of yelling, old men

Of course, the Wild Hunt isn't the only game that ages like fine wine. GTA V is doing almost just as well, and games like Skyrim and Euro Truck Simulator 2 aren't far behind. The thing is, each of the above titles is constantly reminding the players it exists – meanwhile, the Witcher is sort of just sitting there, waiting to be played.

The last installment in the GTA series is over six-years-old, but it's still alive and kicking thanks to the multi-player module, GTA Online. Update chases update, the servers are constantly occupied by millions of players – and they're constantly joined by new ones. And dollars are raining into Rockstar's accounts from microtransactions. ETS 2 maintains players' interest by actively supporting their game based on community feedback, and constantly expanding the game world with ever more exotic locations. Thus, SCS Software is able to keep fatigue and boredom at bay. What also helps is certainly the fact that there's no real alternative for their games. And Skyrim? Apart from all sorts of ports for different platforms, the eight-years-old (sic!) RPG from Bethesda is mainly kept alive by the incredibly thriving modding scene. Almost no day goes by without a new adventure on Nexus Mods, waiting to be explored.

The Witcher 3 appears annually on Steam bestsellers – it may have been "only" in the gold category in 2018 and ‘19, but back in 2017 it "scored" platinum as one of the 12 most popular games on the entire platform.

Ok, so what's the deal with the Witcher 3? Expansions? The last one came out almost three years ago, and that was pretty much when the support for the game ended. Updates? Well, patch 1.32 was released just a couple of weeks ago, introducing support for simplified Chinese as an official language – but that was the first patch since over a year and a half. Multiplayer? Nope. Mods? Nexus Mods offers quite a few substantial modifications, along with a bunch of quirky ones, but you can count the mods released in the last weeks on two hands. And these are not very extensive projects.

Did I ever tell you CD Projekt RED flunked mod support in this game? As you can see, that doesn't stop it from selling like hot cakes after almost five years since launch.

INTERESTING FACT

In 2015, 71% of the the Witcher 3 copies sold were physical. In 2017, 74% of the output were digital.

Most of The Witcher 3 mods don't go beyond simple visual overhauls – like eliminating all light sources. Amazing, innit? - "I bought the Witcher 3... Four Times!" How is The Witcher 3 so Popular After Five Years? - dokument - 2020-01-13
Most of The Witcher 3 mods don't go beyond simple visual overhauls – like eliminating all light sources. Amazing, innit?

Things get more serious now, as we're about to crunch some numbers. The prices. Maybe the Witcher 3 just goes for peanuts? Maybe that's the deal – being constantly on sale, people just buy the game almost unwittingly. But that's not entirely true, either. Geralt keeps the style and doesn't dip below a certain threshold price easily, unlike most AAA games. The base price of the game reached $40 not even a year ago, and it will probably be another two years before we see another definitive drop.

Maybe it's about reissues? One of the ways Euro Truck Sim 2 is able to maintain interest is regularly resupplying physical retail with new editions, complete with the newest expansions. The game's Golden Edition comes in at least two varieties, with different content... And what about the Witcher?

Well, the GOTY version was released in August 2016, and included the core game and two expansions; a year ago, CD Projekt also released a trilogy bundle with limited-edition steelbooks, and... that's pretty much it. I think even Sapkowski's books lead a more vibrant life than the Wild Hunt, as they at least change covers every now and then (that video games just don't work like that is another thing). Games’ collectors don't have a lot to collect with the Geralt. Well, maybe figurines.

The Witcher 3 in the office

As concerns collecting. I began to wonder if maybe people just buy the Witcher for all the platforms they own. I checked this with my colleagues. The result of the survey, i.e. taking about twenty people I managed to catch and question, are as follows: the average employee of Gamepressure owns 1.3 of the Wild Hunt. At least here, people weren't very keen on buying the game for all their platforms – what's interesting, though, is that almost everyone in the office purchased the Witcher, even if they didn't really play it that much.

From other editorial trivia:

  1. digital and physical are equally popular;
  2. just one person owns the Wild Hunt on Xbox One, a few more, PS4, but they don’t come close to PC;
  3. the record belongs to Elessar, who owns four copies of the game (one on console and three on PC);
  4. only two people purchased the collector's edition;
  5. we have one editor who doesn't own The Witcher 3 at all.

A pretty thing, but does it have any practical application? - "I bought the Witcher 3... Four Times!" How is The Witcher 3 so Popular After Five Years? - dokument - 2020-01-13
A pretty thing, but does it have any practical application?

Eureka!

So what's the reason for the popularity of the Witcher 3? I come to the conclusion that the answer is extremely simple. It's the best RPG of 2010s. That's it.

In early 2018, CD Projekt RED revealed that the entire Witcher series had sold 33 million copies. We also learned how Wild Hunt sold on individual platforms. - "I bought the Witcher 3... Four Times!" How is The Witcher 3 so Popular After Five Years? - dokument - 2020-01-13
In early 2018, CD Projekt RED revealed that the entire Witcher series had sold 33 million copies. We also learned how Wild Hunt sold on individual platforms.

It seemed that everyone, who wanted to play the Witcher, played it. How could it be otherwise, when on Metacritic, the Wild Hunt is the highest-rated video game by player rating, and PC Gamer advertises its paid subscription with a picture of Geralt in the bath.

Don’t worry, doggo. Matthias was just looking for a reason to buy the game again. - "I bought the Witcher 3... Four Times!" How is The Witcher 3 so Popular After Five Years? - dokument - 2020-01-13
Don’t worry, doggo. Matthias was just looking for a reason to buy the game again.

It almost seems like there's no living gamer, who hasn't played the Witcher 3. That's obviously untrue. There's any number of reasons that might have prevented thousands of people from playing the game. Maybe they were a bit too young, maybe they had to wait for an upgrade of their PC, or console. Maybe they just didn't consider it until now. Then, there might be the people who just watched the show and read the books, and then learned about the game.

In short, the Witcher 3 is constantly being discovered. How long will this last? Probably still quite a while. The Wild Hunt is aging really well – neither the graphics, nor gameplay are noticeably obsolete. The game is indeed still a benchmark in many respects, and it might remain a best-seller even after Cyberpunk 2077 and next-generation consoles. Nothing ends, something begins, it would seem… ;-)

Christopher Mysiak | Gamepressure.com

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