CD Projekt

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CD Projekt
Spółka Akcyjna
Traded as WSECDR
Industry Computer and video games
Founded 1994
  • Marcin Iwiński
  • Michał Kiciński
Headquarters Warsaw, Poland
Area served
Key people
Adam Kiciński (CEO)
Number of employees

CD Projekt (Polish pronunciation: [ˌsiːˈdi ˈprɔjɛkt̪]) is a Polish video game developer, publisher and distributor based in Warsaw, which was founded in 1994 by Marcin Iwiński and Michał Kiciński. Iwiński and Kiciński were video-game retailers before they founded the company. CD Projekt is best known for their The Witcher series of video games and their digital-distribution service,

The company began translating major Western video-game releases into Polish, collaborating with Interplay Entertainment for two Baldur's Gate games. When Interplay experienced financial difficulties, a CD Projekt project (the PC version of Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance) was cancelled and company decided to use its code for their own video game. It became The Witcher, a video game based on the works of Andrzej Sapkowski.

After the release of The Witcher, CD Projekt worked on The Witcher: White Wolf; this descended into development hell, bringing the company to the brink of bankruptcy. CD Projekt later released The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, their first open world video games, which received positive critical reviews. The company's upcoming project is Cyberpunk 2077, an open-world role-playing game based on the Cyberpunk 2020 tabletop system.

CD Projekt is also a distributor., established to help players find old games, expanded to cover new AAA and independent games. The company opposes digital rights management in video games, and hopes that free downloadable content becomes an industry standard. CD Projekt considers maintaining their independence one of their most important strategies. The company currently focuses on the international market, particularly Europe and North America, and spun off its Polish business in 2014.[2]



Young man in a T-shirt giving a talk
CD Projekt co-founder Marcin Iwiński

CD Projekt was founded in 1994 by Marcin Iwiński and Michal Kiciński. According to Iwiński, although he enjoyed playing video games as a child they were scarce in Poland (which was in the Soviet Union's sphere of influence at the time). Polish copyright law did not exist and Iwiński, in high school, sold cracked copies of Western video games at a Warsaw marketplace.[3] In high school Iwiński met Kiciński, who became his business partner; at that time, Kiciński also sold video games.[4]

Wanting to conduct business legitimately, Iwiński and Kiciński began importing games from US retailers and were the first importers of CD-ROM games.[5] With the collapse of communism in Poland with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, they founded their own company. Iwiński (20 years old at the time) and Kiciński founded CD Projekt in the second quarter of 1994. With only $2,000, they used a friend's flat as a rent-free office.[3][4]


When CD Projekt was founded, their biggest challenge was overcoming video game piracy. The company was one of the first in Poland to localize games; according to Iwiński, most of their products were sold to "mom-and-pop shops". CD Projekt began partial localization for developers such as Seven Stars and Leryx-LongSoft in 1996, and full-scale localization a year later.[6] To sell their games, they approached BioWare and Interplay Entertainment for the Polish localization of Baldur's Gate. They expected the title to become popular in Poland, and no retailer would be able to translate the text from English version to Polish. To increase the title's popularity in Poland, CD Projekt added items to the game's packaging and hired well-known Polish actors to voice its characters. Their first attempt was successful, with 18,000 units shipped on the game's release day (higher than the average shipments of other games at the time).[3][4]

The company continued to work with Interplay after the release of Baldur's Gate, collaborating on a PC port for the sequel Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance. To develop the port, CD Projekt hired Sebastian Zieliński (who had developed Mortyr 2093-1944) and Adam Badowski, who became head of the company's game-development division CD Projekt RED. Six months after development began, Interplay experienced financial problems and cancelled the PC version. With the game cancelled and its code owned by CD Projekt, the company planned to use the code to develop their first original game.[3][4] CD Projekt continued to localize other games, and received Business Gazelle awards in 2003 and 2004.[7]

Game development[edit]

Enthusiasm for game distribution ebbed, and CD Projekt's founders wondered if the company should continue as a distributor or a game developer. With Dark Alliance‍‍ '​‍s codes, they decided to develop a game series based on Andrzej Sapkowski's Wiedźmin books (which were popular in Poland) and the author accepted the company's development proposal. The franchise rights had been sold to a Polish mobile game studio, but the studio had not worked on anything related to the franchise and CD Projekt acquired the rights to the Wiedźmin franchise. According to Iwiński, he and Kiciński had no idea how to develop a video game at that time.[4]

After two weeks of meetings we get two emails saying, in a very nice British way, "It's not so good". So pretty much: "Boys, go home". We were shattered. We were like, "Oh my god we suck".

— CD Projekt co-founder Marcin Iwiński, on publisher rejection of the Witcher demo[4]

The game brought Wiedźmin to an international audience, and the company came up with an English name: The Witcher. To develop the game, the company formed a video-game development studio (CD Projekt RED, headed by Sebastian Zieliński) in Łódź in 2002. The studio made a demonstration game, which Adam Badowski called "a piece of crap" in retrospect. The demo was a role-playing game with a top-down perspective, similar to Dark Alliance and Diablo, and used the game engine which powered Mortyr.[8] Iwiński and Kiciński pitched the demo to a number of publishers, without success. The Łódź office closed and the staff, except for Zieliński, moved to the Warsaw headquarters.[4]

Logo of a stylised cardinal and the words "CD Projekt Red"
CD Projekt RED logo

Zieliński left the company, and Kiciński headed the project. Although the game's development continued, the demo was abandoned. According to CD Projekt, the development team had different ideas for the game and lacked overall direction; as a result, it was returned to the drawing board in 2003.[9][10] The team, unfamiliar with video-game development, spent nearly two years organising production.[5] They received assistance from BioWare, who helped promote the game at the 2004 Electronic Entertainment Expo by offering CD Projekt space in their booth next to Jade Empire. BioWare also licensed their Aurora game engine to the company.[11]

The game's budget exceeded expectations. The original 15-person development team expanded to about 100, at a cost of 20 million złoty. According to Iwiński, content was removed from the game for budgetary reasons but the characters' personalities were retained; however, there was difficulty in translating the game's Polish text into English.[12] Atari agreed to publish the game.[13] After five years of development,[5] The Witcher was released in 2007 to generally positive reviews.[14]

Sales were satisfactory, and the development of sequels began almost immediately after The Witcher‍‍ '​‍s release. The team experimented with consoles, a new engine for The Witcher 3 and design work for The Witcher 2 (again powered by the Aurora Engine). This development halted when the team began work on The Witcher: White Wolf, a console version of The Witcher. Although they collaborated with French studio Widescreen Games for the console port, it entered development limbo. Widescreen demanded more manpower, money and time to develop the title, complaining that they were not being paid;[15] according to Iwiński, CD Projekt paid them more than their own staff members. The team cancelled the project, suspending its development.[16] Unhappy with the decision, Atari demanded that CD Projekt repay them for funding the console port development and Iwiński agreed that Atari would be the North American publisher of the sequel of The Witcher 2.[4] CD Projekt acquired Metropolis Software in 2008.[17]

The dispute over White Wolf was costly; the company faced bankruptcy,[18] with the financial crisis of 2007–08 a contributing factor. To stay afloat, the team decided to focus on The Witcher 2 with the Witcher 3 engine. The engine was unfinished, which prevented experimentation and prototyping. When the engine (known as REDengine) was finished, the game could be ported to other consoles.[19] To develop The Witcher 2, the company suspended development of Metropolis' first-person shooter They.[20] After three-and-a-half years of development, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings was released in 2011 to critical praise[4] and sales of more than 1.7 million copies.[21]

After The Witcher 2 CD Projekt wanted to develop an open-world game of a quality similar to their other games, and the company wanted to add features to avoid criticism that it was Witcher 2.5. They wanted to push the game's graphics boundaries, releasing it only for the PC and eighth-generation consoles. This triggered debate on the team, some of whom wanted to release the game for older consoles to maximise profit.[4] The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt took three-and-a-half years to develop[5] and cost over $81 million.[4][22] After multiple delays, it was released in May 2015 to critical praise.[23] Wild Hunt was commercially successful, selling six million copies in its first six weeks and giving the studio a profit of 236 million złoty ($62.5 million) in the first half of 2015.[24][25] The team released 15 content downloads and the first expansion, Hearts of Stone for The Witcher 3.[26] CD Projekt released two other The Witcher games: The Witcher Adventure (a board game for PC, iOS and Android)[27] and The Witcher: Battle Arena, a multiplayer online battle arena game for iOS and Android.[28]

Game distribution[edit]

CD Projekt RED is a game distributor, and their Polish company (a digital distribution platform focusing on the Polish market) was renamed in 2012. The service, which provided technical assistance, expanded to movies, electronic books and comics.[7] was later separated, with CD Projekt holding a controlling share. CD Projekt reduced its share to 8.29 percent, since the company wanted to aim at the global market rather than the Polish one. The companies would co-operate with each other for the distribution of games.[2]

Stylised lettering logo

In 2008 the company introduced Good Old Games, a distribution service with a digital rights management-free strategy.[6] After a fake closure to "generate some buzz", the service resumed.[29] The service aims to help players find "good old games", preserving old games. To do so, the team needed to unravel licensing issues for defunct developers or negotiate with publishers for distribution rights. To recover old code for conversion to modern platforms, they had to use retail versions or second-hand games.[30] CD Projekt partnered with small developers and large publishers, including Activision, Electronic Arts and Ubisoft, for the service in an effort to branch out to triple-A and independent video games.[31] Despite suspicions that it was a "doomed project", according to managing director Guillaume Rambourg, it has expanded since its introduction.[32] Income from (known internally as CD Projekt Blue) accrues to CD Projekt RED.[4]


CD Projekt developed three Witcher titles before deciding that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt would be the final game in the series.[21][33] The company's next project is Cyberpunk 2077, an open-world role-playing game based on the Cyberpunk 2020 tabletop system created by Mike Pondsmith. Introduced in May 2012 with an international development team,[34] it was described by CD Projekt as "far bigger" than The Witcher III.[21] The team is also working on Blood and Wine, the second paid expansion for Wild Hunt.[26]

Games developed[edit]

Year Game Platform(s) Engine Notes
2007 The Witcher Microsoft Windows, OS X Aurora Engine Enhanced Edition released in 2008
2011 The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, Xbox 360 REDengine Enhanced Edition released in 2012
2014 The Witcher Adventure Game Microsoft Windows, OS X, iOS, Android N/A Co-developed with Fantasy Flight Games
2015 The Witcher Battle Arena iOS, Android Unity Co-developed with Fuero Games
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One REDengine 3
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Hearts of Stone Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One REDengine 3 Expansion pack to The Witcher 3
2016 The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Blood and Wine Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One REDengine 3 Expansion pack to The Witcher 3
TBA Cyberpunk 2077 Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One REDengine 3

Company philosophy[edit]

The moment we start becoming conservative [and] stop taking creative risks and business risks, and stop being true to what we're doing, that's when we should worry. And I am not worried. Our values and our care for what we are doing and – hopefully what gamers would agree with – care for gamers is what drives this company forward. It's my personal horror to become a faceless behemoth of game development or publishing or whatnot. As long as I am here I will be fighting for this not to happen.

— CD Projekt RED founder Marcin Iwiński, on maintaining independence[35]

When the team develops a game, they focus on a few aspects and assessed the value of other features. This approach, they hope, helps to maintain the quality of their games.[36] The company focused on the development of role-playing games, with the team working on established franchises with a fan base and introducing lesser-known franchises to a wide audience.[37] When the team develops an open-world game, they prioritise quest design over the size of its world in the belief that having choices to make encourages players to immerse themselves in the game.[38]

The team makes the players their priority; according to Iwiński, support from players "drives" the company[39] (which considers themselves "rebels").[40] The team focuses on creative strategy over business strategy. CD Projekt RED opposes the inclusion of digital-rights-management technology in video games and software. The company believes that DRM is ineffective in halting software piracy, based on data from sales of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. CD Projekt RED found that their initial release (which included DRM technology) was pirated over 4.5 million times; their DRM-free re-release was pirated far less,[41] and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was released without DRM technology.[42] The team, believing that free downloadable content should be an industry standard, published 15 free DLC releases for Wild Hunt as an example to others in the industry.[43]

According to Adam Badowski, head of CD Projekt RED, maintaining its independence is a company priority. They avoided becoming a subsidiary of another company for financial and creative freedom and ownership of their projects.[44] Electronic Arts was rumoured to be attempting to acquire CD Projekt. This was quickly denied by Iwiński, who said that maintaining the company's independence is something he "will be fighting for".[35]


  1. ^ "Interview with Adam Badowski". Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "CD Projekt pozbywa się". Gry.Online. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
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  16. ^ Vandell, Perry (9 November 2013). "The Witcher 2 almost didn't happen". PC Gamer. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
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  18. ^ Derocher, Joshua (11 August 2015). "CD Projekt almost failed before The Witcher 2". Destructoid. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
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  27. ^ Tach, Dave (5 June 2014). "The Witcher Adventure Game headed to Mac, PC, Android and iOS". Polygon. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  28. ^ Martin, Michael (19 January 2015). "The Witcher Battle Arena Release Date Announced". IGN. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
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  30. ^ Bennet, Tom (16 September 2015). "How Save And Restore Classic Videogames". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  31. ^ "Bigger. Fresher. Newer. See what's new on". 2012-03-27. Retrieved 2012-04-05. 
  32. ^ Makuch, Eddie (8 September 2014). "GOG Celebrates Six Years of Advancing the "DRM-Free Movement"". GameSpot. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  33. ^ Makuch, Eddie (6 February 2013). "Witcher 3 may not be final Witcher game". GameSpot. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  34. ^ Crawley, Dan (17 November 2014). "Cyberpunk 2077 is CD Projekt Red’s ‘Fight Club’ — it won’t talk about it". VentureBeat. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  35. ^ a b Purchese, Robert (15 September 2015). "We are not talking with anyone regarding selling CD Projekt Red or GOG. Period.". Eurogamer. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  36. ^ Williams, Mike (19 June 2013). "Witcher 3 dev on next-gen, avoiding an "average, crappy game"". Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  37. ^ Curtis, Tom. "What The Witcher Taught CD Projekt About RPGs". Gamasutra. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  38. ^ Doolin, Patrick (28 January 2014). "How CD Projekt RED Is Reinventing The Open World In Witcher 3". Kill Screen. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
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