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CD Projekt

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CD Projekt S.A.
Public
Traded as WSECDR
ISIN PLOPTTC00011
Industry Computer and video games
Founded 1994
Founders
  • Marcin Iwiński
  • Michał Kiciński
Headquarters Warsaw, Poland
Area served
Worldwide
Key people
Adam Kiciński (President, CEO)
Marcin Iwiński (CEO)
Products
Revenue Increase PLN 798 million (2015)[1]
Profit Increase PLN 342.4 million (2015)[1]
Total equity Increase PLN 513.6 million (2015)[1]
Number of employees
370[2]
Divisions CD Projekt RED
Subsidiaries GOG.com
Website www.cdprojekt.com

CD Projekt S.A. (Polish pronunciation: [ˌsiːˈdi ˈprɔjɛkt̪ ˈɛs ˌa:], formerly CD Projekt Sp. z.o.o.) 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 GOG.com.

The company began translating major Western video-game releases into Polish, collaborating with Interplay Entertainment for two Baldur's Gate games. CD Projekt was working on the PC version of Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance when Interplay experienced financial difficulties. The game was cancelled and the company decided to reuse the 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 a console port called The Witcher: White Wolf; but development issues and increasing costs almost led the company to the brink of bankruptcy. CD Projekt later released The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt 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.

A video game distribution service, GOG.com was established by CD Projekt to help players find old games. Its mission is to offer games free of digital rights management (DRM) to players and its service was expanded to cover new AAA and independent games. The company opposes DRM 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 cdp.pl in 2014.[3]

History[edit]

Founding[edit]

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[4] and Iwiński, in high school, sold cracked copies of Western video games at a Warsaw marketplace.[5] 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.[6] After the transition to a primarily market-based economy in the early 90s, they founded their own company. Iwiński 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.[5][4]

Localization[edit]

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.[7] 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).[5][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. CD Projekt continued to localize other games after Dark Alliance's cancellation, and received Business Gazelle awards in 2003 and 2004.[8]

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 after Dark Alliance's cancellation. With the game cancelled and its code owned by CD Projekt, the company planned to use them to develop their first original game.[5][4] They intended 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]

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.[9] 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]

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.[10][11] The team, unfamiliar with video-game development, spent nearly two years organising production.[6] 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.[12]

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.[13] Atari agreed to publish the game.[14] After five years of development,[6] The game would bring Wiedźmin to an international audience, and so the company came up with an English name: The Witcher. The Witcher was released in 2007 to generally positive reviews.[15]

Sales were satisfactory, and the development of sequels began almost immediately after The Witcher's release. The team began the design work for The Witcher 2 , and experimented with consoles to develop a new engine for The Witcher 3. Their development was halted when the team began work on The Witcher: White Wolf, a console version of The Witcher.[4] 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;[16] according to Iwiński, CD Projekt paid them more than their own staff members. The team cancelled the project, suspending its development.[17] 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.[18]

The dispute over White Wolf was costly; the company faced bankruptcy,[19] with the financial crisis of 2007–08 a contributing factor.[4] To stay afloat, the team decided to focus on The Witcher 2 with the Witcher 3 engine. When the engine (known as REDengine) was finished, the game could be ported to other consoles.[20] To develop The Witcher 2, the company suspended development of Metropolis' first-person shooter They.[21] 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.[22]

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[6] and cost over $81 million.[4][23] After multiple delays, it was released in May 2015 to critical praise.[24] 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.[25][26] The team released 15 content downloads and two expansion, Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine.[27] CD Projekt released two other The Witcher games: The Witcher Adventure (a board game for PC, iOS and Android)[28] and The Witcher: Battle Arena, a multiplayer online battle arena game for iOS and Android.[29] At E3 2016, the company announced Gwent: The Witcher Card Game, based on the popular card mini-game Gwent from The Witcher 3.[30]

In December 2015, CD Projekt RED won the "Developer of the Year" award at The Game Awards 2015.[31] In March 2016, the company announced that they had another role-playing game in development, and that the title is scheduled to be released in the period 2017 to 2021. They also announced plans for expansion, where the RED division will expand two-fold.[32]

Game distribution[edit]

CD Projekt is a game distributor, and their Polish company (a digital distribution platform focusing on the Polish market) was renamed Cdp.pl in 2012. The service, which provided technical assistance, expanded to movies, electronic books and comics.[8] Cdp.pl 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.[3]

Stylised GOG.com lettering
GOG.com logo

In 2008 the company introduced Good Old Games, a distribution service with a digital rights management-free strategy.[7] 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.[33] CD Projekt partnered with small developers and large publishers, including Activision, Electronic Arts and Ubisoft, to broaden the service's portfolio of games to triple-A and independent video games.[34] Despite suspicions that it was a "doomed project", according to managing director Guillaume Rambourg, it has expanded since its introduction.[35] Income from GOG.com (known internally as CD Projekt Blue) accrues to CD Projekt RED.[4]

Future[edit]

CD Projekt developed three Witcher titles before deciding that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt would be the final game in the series with Geralt.[22][36] 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,[37] it was described by CD Projekt as "far bigger" than The Witcher III.[22] Another CD Projekt office in Krakow, which had assisted the development of CD Projekt's previous games, is expected to develop their own games in the future.[32]

Regarding the future of the Witcher series, Konrad Tomaszkiewicz, game director of The Witcher 3, stated in May 2016 that he hoped to continue working with the series sometime in the future, but had nothing planned at the time.[38]

Games developed[edit]

Year Title 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 Can Explode[39]
2015 The Witcher Battle Arena iOS, Android Unity Co-developed with Fuero Games[40]
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
Gwent: The Witcher Card Game Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One N/A Spinoff of a card game featured in 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[41]

They decided to focus on a few aspects and assess the value of other features. This approach, they hope, helps to maintain the quality of their games.[42] 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.[43] 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.[44]

The team makes the players their priority; according to Iwiński, support from players "drives" the company[45] (which considers themselves "rebels").[46] 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,[47] and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was released without DRM technology.[48] 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.[49]

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.[50] 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".[41]

The company aims to follow the Rockstar Games model, where the company works on a single project with a large team, and avoids working on multiple projects at the same time.[51]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Financial summary report". 
  2. ^ Miller, Daniel (April 30, 2016). "CD Projekt RED employee responds to 'sexist' accusations from The Chinese Room". GameZone. Retrieved July 27, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b "CD Projekt pozbywa się cdp.pl". Gry.Online. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Purchese, Robert (17 May 2015). "Seeing Red: The story of CD Projekt". Eurogamer. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d Pitts, Russ. "How The Team Behind The Witcher Conquered Poland". Polygon. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d Crapple, Craig (10 June 2015). "The wild road to The Witcher 3". Develop. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
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  9. ^ Klepek, Patrick (22 May 2015). "The Witcher Was Almost A Diablo Clone". Kotaku. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  10. ^ Blake, Vikki (26 May 2015). "The Witcher Was Nearly A Diablo Inspired Top-down ARPG". IGN. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  11. ^ LaBella, Anthony (22 May 2015). "The Witcher Originally Developed as a Point-and-Click RPG". Game Revolution. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  12. ^ Fogel, Stefanie (27 September 2011). "The Witcher 2 vs. Dragon Age II". GameZone. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
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  29. ^ Martin, Michael (19 January 2015). "The Witcher Battle Arena Release Date Announced". IGN. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  30. ^ Summer, Nick (13 June 2016). "Gwent from 'Witcher 3' is now its own digital card game". Engadget. AOL. Retrieved 13 June 2016. 
  31. ^ "Nominees | The Game Awards 2015". The Game Awards. Ola Balola. 12 November 2015. Retrieved 13 November 2015. 
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External links[edit]