There was a somewhat surreal moment in the middle of yesterday's big Gwent tournament. Right after a short Witcher 3 musical performance and before the finals, Pawel Burza, Gwent’s community specialist and the tournament’s host, looked directly into the camera and apologised to the roughly 36,000 viewers for not having anything new to announce about the game’s ongoing development.
“The day has come where I have to confess my sins,” he said. “This is the segment where you’re supposed to see what we were gonna show regarding Homecoming. I know I was hyping this for which I’m very sorry.”
While the team had planned to show something from Homecoming, Gwent’s much-anticipated overhaul, Burza explained that CD Projekt Red ultimately decided that after three months of waiting for a glimpse of what new Gwent would look like, fans “deserved something more”.
It was a hard pill to swallow for many fans, especially because it didn’t really explain anything beyond Burza’s initial tweet on Saturday. Some players on the game’s subreddit were especially pessimistic. “I feel bad for everyone who thought that Homecoming will come out in 2018,” wrote one.
Gwent, the standalone card game inspired by a minigame in The Witcher 3 of the same name, has been in a rocky place ever since a massive update it received at the end of last year. Many of the game’s most hardcore fans are worried that the in-development game’s unique edges are slowly being softened in an attempt to make it more approachable or like Blizzard’s Hearthstone. Some players, meanwhile, have been upset over the introduction of more luck into the game through card mechanics relying on random number generation.
As a result, Gwent’s developers announced last autumn that they would be working on a soft reset called Homecoming, an update to overhaul the most controversial aspects of the game and take it out of beta alongside the Thronebreaker single-player campaign sometime in spring.
Part of the development of Homecoming, CD Projekt Red explained when they announced it, was that Gwent wouldn’t be receiving any substantial new patches so that the team could focus almost exclusively on Homecoming and Thronebreaker. However, three months on, players are desperate for information about how the update is coming along and what some of its changes might look like, especially as the game’s meta continues to stagnate and bored players turn elsewhere.
I myself have spent the last month getting more into The Elder Scrolls: Legends, Bethesda’s CCG, and have actually found it a surprisingly nice change of pace. I never thought I’d get bored of my Northern Realms armour decks, and yet here I am. Not to mention that Gwent’s matchmaking times seem to have grown substantially higher, at least when I’m playing Ranked late at night on PS4.
As such, the 10-minute video Burza said had been prepared specially for the weekend’s Gwent tournament to show off some of Homecoming would have been energising for fans to see. Its absence, meanwhile, presented just one more in a series of delays that began with Thronebreaker missing its planned 2017 release.
The game’s now been in open beta for over a year, leading some players to wonder whether CD Projekt Red has moved it to the back burner, especially amid all of the company’s post-E3 marketing for Cyberpunk 2077. Cyberpunk is a much bigger game with a larger audience, but it’s also one that’s still likely several years away.
“For those of you concerned about the project or if we are cancelling Gwent, no we are not doing that,” Burza said, trying to throw cold water on the doomsaying. “Homecoming is awesome. Thronebreaker is also awesome. But in order to show you how awesome it is we need more time.”
After months of waiting, the game’s player base was asked to wait a little longer. Many players will, of course, because ultimately they love Gwent, want it to succeed, and will be happy to come back the moment there’s something new.
“I’ve played card games since I was a kid — from Pokemon to DBZ to Magic to Hearthstone and beyond — but always got bored before long,” wrote one player in a love letter to Gwent and its developers a few weeks ago. “Something about the Gwent I discovered, a Gwent distinct from what I’d played in Witcher 3, really got its claws in me. I’ve now spent more than 1000 hours on the game, and I don’t regret that in the slightest.”
But recent gaming history is a graveyard of online multiplayer games that came and went because they failed to find a niche and rhythm of post-release evolution that could sustain them: Lawbreakers, Paragon, Evolve — the list goes on.
Whether Gwent will be among them, or eventually hit a stride commensurate with its quality, remains to be seen, but as winter wears on it’s easy to get wrapped up in fearing the worst.