RPGS are not cool. The genre conjures images of Dungeons and Dragons, Lord of the Rings and epic adventures that only the most dedicated gamer will ever stand a chance of finishing.
And while they have always been successful (on PC World of Warcraft still reigns supreme), they are hardly mass market entertainment properties.
Well, at least that used to be the case. Last year there were five games that sold over 1m units in the UK – two shooters, a football title, Zumba and an epic dragon and magic adventure game that can consume hundreds of hours of your life.
Bethesda proved with Skyrim that RPGs can reach a mass market audience, even in the hard-to-crack console sector that’s dominated by shooters and dance games.
And it did it shortly after Deus Ex posted good launch figures and before Mass Effect 3 became the biggest selling game in its series.
So for the likes of Namco Bandai, now really is the ideal time to release your critically acclaimed PC RPG on Xbox 360.
“This is the first time that the franchise is to be released on console and it’s a big step in taking this title to the masses,” says Namco Bandai’s marketing director Lee Kirton.
“It will also deliver one of the best RPGs to sit alongside some of the great titles out there such as Skyrim, Dark Souls and Mass Effect.
“It’s a very different game to anything else currently out and we hope that fans of RPGs in general will want to play it.
“We are investing heavily this time of the year. We want this to be the first major title for release in April and to grow the word-of-mouth on what a brilliant game it is.”
The Witcher is based on a series of fantasy short stories by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski from the 1990s. It made the move into games with CD Projekt’s The Witcher in 2007. The game was critically acclaimed and even utilised BioWare’s own Aurora Engine.
The series nearly made it to consoles in 2009 with The Witcher: Rise of the White Wolf, but following internal development struggles, it never saw the light of day.
Yet the series lived on, and The Witcher 2 emerged in May 2011. The game was a commercial hit, shifting 940,000 copies in just three months. Most sales were made via retail (roughly 200,000 were sold via the likes of Steam).
And this coming Tuesday (April 17th) marks the series’ debut on 360.
“It stands toe-to-toe in terms of development production value with the biggest RPGs,” says Kirton on the game’s popularity.
“It’s a 50-hour-plus experience that will grab you from the start. It will be talked about for many years to come. This edition has been secretly in development for a long time and it’s no port. The player will find over four hours of additional quests, new cut scenes, characters, a new opening CGI and other surprises. The game has already won hundreds of awards on PC and the work to develop it for 360 has been commendable.”
Namco Bandai isn’t just chucking The Witcher 2 out on shelves and hoping Skyrim fans will lap it up. Kirton and his team are advertising the title directly at these RPG devotees. There’s an exclusive review in Official Xbox Magazine, with covers, video features, trailers and more appearing regularly.
“We hope to attract a more mainstream buzz, but our overall marketing and PR is focused at those playing Mass Effect and Skyrim,” says Kirton.
“The game is good. People know about it. It’s developed by one of the world’s best RPG developers. The franchise has won over 100 awards. The Metacritic for The Witcher 2 is high. The console version is stunning – an epic journey and one of the most engrossing adult RPGs ever.
“Our expectations are high, but the market is hard to judge these days. We are passionate about the franchise and we are doing everything we can to shout about how great this game is.”