Witcher 2 Devs Abandon Games Piracy Shakedown

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CD Projekt RED have abandoned their misguided pay-up-or-else anti-piracy scheme. Initially a hit with fans due to their rejection of experience-killing DRM, the company fell from grace when it was revealed that in common with other companies with less of a reputation to maintain, they had chosen one of the most controversial methods of extracting money from the public.

“Of course we’re not happy when people are pirating our games, so we are signing with legal firms and torrent sneaking companies,” said CD Projekt co-founder Marcin Iwinski back in November 2010.

TorrentFreak wasn’t really surprised by the statement. CD Projekt had done exactly the same before with the first installment of The Witcher.

“Mark our words, CD Projekt aren’t going to get an easy ride with this,” we predicted back then. But would they carry it through?

While trawling through endless Germany-based lawsuits in connection with another issue, the answer was right there – documents which showed that CD Projekt were sending so-called pay-up-or-else letters to alleged pirates demanding more than 900 euros per time. So, early December 2011, we reported what we’d found.

Response to the news was mixed. Some thought it was OK to chase down pirates but soon it became clear that this company, who had built up so much goodwill with impressive games and a refreshing attitude to DRM, risked damaging their hard-earned reputation with people they needed onside – the gaming press and their readers.

One of CD Projekt’s most vocal opponents (TF aside) were RockPaperShotgun, who proceeded to give the company a pretty hard time over their actions. Their arguments are well-worn, centering on the potential of accusing the innocent with disproportionate actions. But now, just a couple of months later, it is all over.

“In early December, [a TorrentFreak] article was published about a law firm acting on behalf of CD Projekt RED, contacting individuals who had downloaded The Witcher 2 illegally and seeking financial compensation for copyright infringement,” says CD Projekt’s Marcin Iwinski in a statement sent to RPS. “The news about our decision to combat piracy directly, instead of with DRM, spread quickly and with it came a number of concerns from the community.”

“Repeatedly, gamers just like you have said that our methods might wrongly accuse people who have never violated our copyright and expressed serious concern about our actions,” Iwinski adds.

“Being part of a community is a give-and-take process. We only succeed because you have faith in us, and we have worked hard over the years to build up that trust. We were sorry to see that many gamers felt that our actions didn’t respect the faith that they have put into CD Projekt RED.

“Our fans always have been and remain our greatest concern, and we pride ourselves on the fact that you all know that we listen to you and take your opinions to heart. While we are confident that no one who legally owns one of our games has been required to compensate us for copyright infringement, we value our fans, our supporters, and our community too highly to take the chance that we might ever falsely accuse even one individual.

“So we’ve decided that we will immediately cease identifying and contacting pirates,” Iwinski writes.

The full statement can be found here and is important on a number of fronts, all previously outlined in great detail.

But perhaps the most refreshing thing is the tone of the announcement. Look, let’s be under no illusions, the decision to abandon this ill-fated scheme is a commercial one, but CD Projekt did not tow the typically corporate line with a carefully sanitized release saying that their scheme had simply run its course, they actually listened to and then addressed the concerns of their fans.

For those already targeted by the scheme it’s too late, but the company can now move forward doing what they do best – making great games without needless distractions.

Oh, and for the other games companies doing the same in Germany but currently flying under the radar – we know who you are and we’re coming for you next, so you might want to get your retaliation in first, it’s easier in the long run.

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