Bonus Round: Which Witcher?

Happy Friday, everyone! Welcome to Bonus Round, a look at some of the week’s biggest gaming stories. It’s another one of those weeks that comes and goes without any seismic newsquakes, but there are plenty of smaller shockwaves to discuss. Let’s get into it!

Screenshot from The Witcher

The Witcher remake announced

A few weeks ago, CD Projekt Red unveiled a slate of new games in the popular The Witcher series. As well as a brand new mainline trilogy, they announced two spin-off games set in the Witcher universe, referring to them by mysterious codenames. Now, we know a bit more about the game formerly known as ‘Canis Majoris’. It’s a remake of the original 2007 game The Witcher, rebuilt from the ground up by Polish studio Fool’s Theory.

I’ve grumbled in the past about unnecessary remakes and remasters, but I have zero complaints here; it makes 100% sense to remake the original Witcher game. CD Projekt Red never released the first game outside of PC, so console gamers have never had the opportunity to play it. The Witcher was also built on the now-obsolete Aurora Engine, making a simple port relatively complicated. The new Witcher remake will be built in Unreal Engine 5, which will (hopefully!) allow Fool’s Theory to craft a beautiful and modern-feeling experience.

Don’t expect to play the Witcher remake any time soon, though. CD Projekt Red studio head Adam Badowski said that ‘it will take some time before we’re ready to share more about and from the game’. Witcher fans still have plenty to look forward to, however. The anticipated PS5 and Xbox Series X|S rerelease of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is apparently still coming soon. Netflix is also dropping season 3 of its The Witcher show next summer, with spin-off miniseries Blood Origin releasing this Christmas.

Phil Spencer, CEO of Microsoft Gaming

Xbox chief hints at future price increases

Sony controversially raised the price of the PS5 in the UK and other territories in September. At the time, CEO of Microsoft Gaming Phil Spencer claimed that there were no plans for Xbox consoles to follow suit. This week, however, he slightly changed his tune.

Speaking at the Wall Street Journal’s Tech Live conference, Spencer refused to rule out the possibility of future price increases on hardware and software. “We’ve held price on our console, we’ve held price on games and our subscription. I don’t think we’ll be able to do that forever,” said Spencer, as reported by The Verge’s Tom Warren. “I do think at some point we’ll have to raise some prices on certain things, but going into this holiday we thought it was really important that we maintain the prices that we have.”

Rising prices are par for the course in the world of services and subscriptions. Just think of how much your Netflix bill has increased since you opened your account. Even though we learned this week that Game Pass has reached profitability, Spencer also revealed that subscriber growth has slowed down. It’s usually upon reaching this saturation point that a content provider will raise prices in order to extract more revenue from an existing subscriber base.

What used to be much rarer, though, was price increases on consoles that have already been released. In the shadow of a struggling global economy, however, Meta and Sony have started to buck that trend. Will Microsoft be next? We’ll probably find out one way or the other next year.

Screenshot from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II

Modern Warfare II disc contains just 70MB of data

Digital game sales have increased exponentially in the last decade, but plenty of gamers still buy them on disc. Some like to collect physical media, while others might prefer not having to download dozens of gigabytes of data. Well, you’re shit outta luck if you’re in the second group and want to play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II. The game’s disc contains just 70MB of data, meaning that physical purchasers will still need to download the remaining 150GB to play the game.

Modern consoles don’t actually play games off discs anymore, and haven’t for quite some time. When you pop a disc into a console, it copies all the data onto the hard drive. After that, any time you play the game, it actually runs off the internal storage; the disc in the drive merely proves that you have a license to play the game. This yields advantages like faster loading times and less wear and tear on the disc and console.

Even so, most game discs contain some playable form of the game, even if you have to download patches at launch. It seems a little bizarre to make physical edition purchases download the entire game. Depending on where in the world you live, data caps are still common among internet service providers. And while high speed fibre internet is common in Europe, many areas of the United States are still on broadband speeds or lower. There are going to be a lot of disappointed kids this Christmas who excitedly rip open a copy of MWII, only to find that they can’t play it for hours.