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CDPR on mobile, where have they been and where are they going?

CD Projekt Red’s long-term strategy update indicated an increased focus on mobile, but their actions yesterday might confuse some. So, what’s the story so far?
CDPR on mobile, where have they been and where are they going?

CD Projekt Red yesterday hit the gaming world with a quick one-two-punch by announcing both their popular card game Gwent would be ceasing further development, and that the Witcher AR spinoff Monster Slayer would be shuttering fully in June of next year. For a company that indicated, however briefly in their documentation, a renewed focus on mobile it may seem a confusing approach. So what’s the story behind CDPR on mobile and where are they going?

The Story so far

So far, CDPR has seen two mobile games released in the modern mobile gaming landscape. The Witcher: Monster Slayer, an AR game developed by Spokko, and Gwent for mobile, a port of their card game. Both being spin-offs of the Witcher franchise, their adaptation of the Polish fantasy series that has also seen its own Netflix series (not based on the games).

As far back as 2017, CDPR were indicating a potential part of their Witcher card game Gwent. In 2018, CDPR would acquire mobile studio Spokko, the company that would go on to aid or develop all their mobile games. You’ll remember that as part of the announcement for the cessation of Monster Slayer’s services, that Spokko is going to be folded into CDPR itself. With some developers set to lose their jobs as a result whilst others will go onto ‘core projects’.

Gwent came to mobile in 2019 for iOS and 2020 for Android, relatively recently, but long enough for fans to enjoy many updates to the game. The fact development on new cards is ceasing will be worrying. However, the announcement that in-client tools for ‘Project Gwentfinity’ will be made available are encouraging. This should ensure long-term life for the game, which already has a dedicated fanbase

Gwent on mobile saw massive success, with the first three weeks of its release on mobile seeing the game rake in 68% of CDPR’s total revenue for that period.

For Witcher: Monster Slayer however the writing for AR games was on the wall even before it was released. As we reported back in 2021, location-based games were simply not taking off. Pokemon Go had effectively started a massive interest in AR games, but none managed to even touch its success.

With its release, although Monster Slayer did see significant technical issues, it also saw high revenue that pushed past even larger brands like Minecraft Earth. A big part of that can be that it followed a familiar format with the hunting of monsters similar to Pokemon (although with far more bloodshed). Although its shut-down may seem abrupt, especially with comparisons to Gwent, it’s important to note the large infrastructure investment AR games require for their location-based gameplay.

The most recent indication of CDPR’s further mobile development efforts was their noting in a strategy update that they were, indeed still committed to releasing new games on mobile. This could hardly be discounted as just an assurance to investors, as it accompanied major new announcements such as the Cyberpunk 2077 sequel and further media tie-ins based on the success of Cyberpunk: Edgerunners.

Where next?

Given that CDPR is now folding Spokko into their main studio, it seems unlikely that any further developments will be under another studio. We may see a potential partnership with an outside company, or more likely an in-house development. Given that many of the developers who are brought on from Spokko are likely to be multi disciplined in terms of game development this is not a sure thing of course. But it would make sense to bring on those who can easily pivot to developing new mobile games for CD Projekt Red.

More than likely the next brand to get the mobile treatment will not be the Witcher. The Witcher franchise is seeing renewed focus on mobile and PC with re-releases of the famous Witcher 3 and remakes of the first two instalments. However, CDPR’s main focus is on rehabilitating and re-energising the Cyberpunk brand. Despite a rocky (some might say the rockiest possible) release, with long-term sales remaining high and a renewed interest due to the Cyberpunk: Edgerunners anime, it would make sense for them to branch out beyond their flagship franchise.

So what form could this take? Well, given that in terms of cross-promotion, the Witcher is their main choice and the difficulty ensuring R. Talsorian Games (Mike Pondsmith, the original creator’s company) give permission to use their brand elsewhere, it’s unlikely we’ll see Cyberpunk in Fortnite or AFK Arena for example. What we may see is something more familiar, an action-RPG for example, or maybe even a gacha game of some sort. Given that Gwent is in the famously niche card-game genre, and the Witcher: Monster Slayer relies on the still-tricky and infrastructure-heavy AR genre it wouldn’t be surprising for CDPR to hedge their bets with such a potent brand.