Early days at the Warsaw computer bazaar
Computer games in the 90s – could one turn a profit on that? Marcin Iwiński and Michał Kiciński, a pair of high school friends who shared a passion for games, believed so. It was an era of transformation, with the Polish economy taking on an entirely new shape. Trade activities spilled out into the streets, bazaars and open-air markets. Marcin and Michał, both avid gamers, sought access to new games. They began forging contacts with their foreign counterparts and importing new releases to Poland. They could often be found trading games at the Warsaw computer bazaar located at Grzybowska street. Michał handled sales while Marcin took care of communicating with suppliers and arranging international shipments.
– I first met Michał in high school. I walked into the class and there was an empty seat next to him, so I took it. By the time school was out we had both become truants, skipping classes to play games. We decided to establish a company. It was a pivotal moment as the first CD-ROM releases were just starting to become popular around that time. We would order a batch of discs, then retail them on the bazaar. – reminisces Marcin Iwiński, Vice President and co-founder of CD PROJEKT S.A.
Towards a real business
Their first foray into the business world came in 1994, with the establishment of CDP.pl – the first member of the CD PROJEKT Group (now outside of the Group’s control). The company, originally named CD Projekt, focused on importing CD-ROM software releases from the United States.
– I hooked up with the guys. Michał called me to ask if I could help with packaging. Every day I would pick up a batch of packages and deliver them to the post office. The packages contained game CDs. Michał and Marcin were 21 while I was 25. – Adam Kiciński, President of CD PROJEKT S.A.
Marcin and Michał often recall spending long hours at the Warsaw computer bazaar, selling games shipped from abroad. Eventually they signed their first official distribution agreement with American Laser Games. More contracts followed, with such producers as Acclaim, Blizzard, Blue Byte, Interplay and Psygnosis.
Novelty: Polish boxes and manuals
Two years after its creation CDP.pl (still operating under the CD Projekt name) became the first Polish distributor to publish games in Polish boxes and with Polish manuals. What seems obvious today was a novelty at that time. The enthusiastic reactions by gamers proved that the Company had hit a marketing bullseye.
First full-fledged Polish localization
The next milestone for the Company was its first full videogame localization. The game was Baldur’s Gate and CDP.pl enlisted the voice talents of Krzysztof Kowalewski, Piotr Fronczewski, Wiktor Zborowski, Marian Opania and Jan Kobuszewski, among others.
– We began analyzing the concept in minute detail. Deep down we felt that players would welcome such a game, that they would buy it if only it were offered in Polish – says Marcin Iwiński – My own dad was involved in making documentaries. He knew about audio processing and postproduction, and had ties to the movie industry. I also had a programmer friend – Maciek Marzec. At first he said it couldn’t be done but then he took a look at the code and declared that it might be possible.
The game ended up selling over 100 thousand copies – a new record. CD PROJEKT had proven that Poles were ready to purchase legal games given sufficient product quality.
– We had to rent out an external warehouse. People lined up to buy the game and wholesalers got in fights over the product. On the first day alone we sold 18 thousand copies. Cash payments all around. That was a sweet day. – a smile appears on Marcin Iwiński’s face
The success paved the way for further distribution agreements covering such global hits as Diablo II and Baldur’s Gate II. In short order CDP.pl became the official Polish distributor of Atari, Cryo, Konami, Microsoft, Sega and others. The company also secured exclusive distribution rights for Ubisoft releases on PlayStation and PlayStation 2 consoles.
CD Projekt Red Studio Sp. z o. o. is founded
– We had always wanted to make our own game. While attending fairs in London and later in the USA we met with Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk. We also talked to David Perry from Shiny Entertainment. Instinctively we felt we belonged in that world. – recollects Marcin Iwiński.
In 2002 a new chapter in the Company’s history was opened, with the establishment of another CD PROJEKT Group member: CD Projekt Red Studio Sp. z o.o.
Work on The Witcher begins
– After porting our first console game to the PC we got hooked and knew we had to carry on. That’s when someone floated the idea to do something with ‘The Witcher’. It was a grand return to Andrzej Sapkowski’s literature which we had voraciously consumed in our high school and college years. When it turned out that the franchise exploitation and game development rights were for sale, we felt like we had won the lottery. – says Marcin Iwiński.
In September 2003 CD Projekt Red commenced work on its first proprietary RPG, set in Andrzej Sapkowski’s universe – The Witcher. The game had a budget of nearly 20 million PLN, which meant that – at that time – it was the most expensive Polish videogame ever created. Development took five years and involved almost 100 people, including Tomasz Bagiński (Academy Award nomination for The Cathedral), Przemysław Truściński (popular comic book author) and Vader – a Polish heavy metal band well known throughout the world.
The Witcher was not merely a financial success: it provided its creators with crucial know-how and reinforced their self-confidence. The Studio gathered a team of talented, experienced and passionate professionals – a strong foundation upon which the Company based its ambitious expansion plans.
The Witcher hits the shelves
The first Witcher-themed game was released in October 2007. The game was a commercial success, selling 35 thousand copies on the domestic market within three days of release.
In 2012 The Witcher was re-released for Apple and Linux devices. Since its release the game has garnered over 100 international awards, including notable recognitions from GameSpot, GameSpy and IGN for the best role-playing game.
Rollout of GOG.com – a new digital video game distribution platform
2008 marked the beginning of diversification of the Group’s revenue stream. The Company’s Good Old Games platform (initially offered in English) was set up in order to revitalize PC cult classics and enable them to be run under modern operating systems. As the platform began adding newer games the original name became obsolete and in 2012 it was rebranded as GOG.com. In line with the Company policy, games offered on GOG.com are free of cumbersome DRM restrictions and bundled with a wide range of bonus content.
– When GOG was taking its first steps DRM was still par for the course at most companies. And yet we have since attracted the majority of large producers. Something has changed. The world has moved on. But then again – every idea can ripen given enough time – says Marcin Iwiński.
The GOG.com platform currently includes over 2,000 items and most of its customers come from the United States and Western Europe. In March 2012 the company began expanding its catalogue with newer games, including premiere releases, and also added support for Apple computers.
In 2008 the Company underwent a reorganization. The newly established CDP Investment became the holding company of the CD PROJEKT Group, while the Group itself was composed of CD Projekt, CD Projekt RED and GOG Ltd.
Merger with Optimus S.A. and WSE listing
On 21 October 2009 CDP Investment concluded an investment agreement with Optimus S.A. – a company listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange since 1994. As a result, on 1 May 2010 Optimus purchased 100% of CDP Investment shares. Since the 2008/2009 crisis Optimus had not carried out production and distribution of IT equipment – consequently, the activities of CDP Investment group companies became the new core business of Optimus.
The merger between CDP Investment and Optimus S.A. became formally effective on 28 December 2010. Due to changes which had occurred at Optimus in the preceding quarters, the erstwhile popular manufacturer of computer hardware took steps to rebrand itself. On 25 July 2011 the District Court for the City of Warsaw approved the corresponding changes in the Company Articles of Association. The Company was renamed from Optimus S.A. to CD Projekt RED S.A.
In early October 2011 CD Projekt RED S.A. merged with its CD Projekt Red Sp. z o.o. subsidiary by transferring the totality of the acquiree’s assets and liabilities to the acquirer (merger by takeover).
Release of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
In late 2007 the Company began work on a follow-up to The Witcher. A proprietary gaming engine, named RED Engine, was created especially for the purposes of this project. CD-Action hailed The Witcher 2 as the most anticipated game of 2011 while the Polityka weekly included Geralt in its “50 most influential personae in Poland” ranking. The release of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings for the PC occurred on 17 May, 2011 – to the tune of the most extensive countrywide marketing campaign to-date.
Second release of The Witcher 2, digital revolution, and Cyberpunk 2077
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings releases on Xbox 360
In April 2012 CD Projekt RED released The Witcher 2 for the Xbox 360. An Apple version followed in late 2012. In October, the Company proudly announced that it had sold over 2 million copies of the second instalment in the trilogy – a near-twofold improvement over The Witcher in the corresponding period (six quarters following initial release).
CD Projekt RED announces Cyberpunk 2077
In 2012 the gaming community was electrified by the news that CD Projekt RED had begun work on its second major franchise, Cyberpunk 2077 – based on a cult RPG system well known and appreciated throughout the world. The creator of the pen and paper Cyberpunk 2020, Mike Pondsmith, would act as a consultant to actively support the company in its development effort.
Beginning of the digital revolution and rebranding of CD Projekt
Still more changes occurred by the end of 2012, with the Group’s distribution branch undergoing a digital revolution. CD Projekt was renamed CDP.pl and rolled out its own digital distribution platform, with 34 games on offer in October 2012. By the end of the year the platform catalogue had grown to over 100 items.
The rebranding of CD Projekt marked the conclusion of the Group’s organizational rearrangement. In November 2012 the General Meeting of CD Projekt RED approved a change in the Company name – the Group was again known under its familiar historical name of CD PROJEKT.
New CD PROJEKT logo
– The Northern Cardinal (or REDbird) is what we see ourselves in the industry: intrepid, bold and confident; flying high and aiming even higher. The color, cardinal red, is something that connects it with another bird, a mythological creature close to our cultural roots and heritage – the Raróg, a small firebird believed to bring luck to people. Red stands for energy, the inner fire that drives us; it represents something very close to everyone here – the creativity and passion we harness from within ourselves to make the best RPGs in the world – explains Adam Badowski, CD PROJEKT RED Studio head and CD PROJEKT Management Board member.
Release of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, GOG Galaxy, and Hearts of Stone
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt launches worldwide
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was released on May 19th, 2015, in 15 separate language versions and for three hardware platforms: PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. The game generated great interest among players and earned the acclaim of global media.
– I shouted: ‘It’s in! It’s in! The first review!’ I clicked the link and saw a score of 10/10. The whole studio burst into screams as we literally jumped out of our seats and began hugging each other. It was a wonderful moment: we had been aware of latent bugs in the code – and yet the reviewers saw something more than just a game. This was the pinnacle of achievement for everyone working at CD PROJEKT RED: to create something unique, something that transcends gaming – says Konrad Tomaszkiewicz, Game Director at CD PROJEKT RED.
In the first six weeks following release (i.e. by June 30th, 2015), 6,014,576 copies of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt had been purchased globally. By the end of 2015 the game had received over 300 awards and accolades, including five prestigious Golden Joystick awards and two trophies at The Game Awards 2015. In addition, CD PROJEKT RED was named 2015 Developer of the Year.
GOG Galaxy – a new technology by GOG.com
GOG.com introduced a new proprietary technology called GOG Galaxy, a client which supports online multiplayer gaming and acts as a library and storefront for games available on GOG.com. The client also includes auto-update features, and allows players to play games from GOG.com offline, DRM-free.
Hearts of Stone – first expansion for The Witcher 3 becomes available
On October 13th, 2015, CD PROJEKT RED released its first-ever expansion — Hearts of Stone for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Providing over 10 hours of additional content, Hearts of Stone follows Geralt as he is tasked to complete a contract given to him by the mysterious ‘Man of Glass’. Taking Geralt through the wilds of No Man’s Land, and the nooks and crannies of Oxenfurt, Hearts of Stone introduces new monsters, new characters, and a new mechanic called Runewords, giving players even more ways to engage in combat.
Two weeks following release, Hearts of Stone held an average Metacritic score of 90, ranking among the best game expansions ever published.
Launch of Blood and Wine and the announcement of GWENT: The Witcher Card Game
Blood and Wine – second expansion for The Witcher 3 releases
Serving as the conclusion to Geralt of Rivia’s adventures in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Blood and Wine was released on May 31st, 2016. The expansion offers over 30 hours of gameplay, set in an entirely new region — the idyllic land of Toussaint, dotted by picturesque vineyards and untouched by the ravages of war. However, a dark secret lies at its heart.
Blood and Wine gained fast acclaim among gaming media representatives. GryOnline.pl gave it a score of 100/100, while overseas outlets — PC Gamer and XGN — followed up with scores of 94/100 and 96/100 respectively.
GWENT: The Witcher Card Game announced; Closed Beta begins
On June 14th, 2016, at E3 — the world’s largest video game fair — CD PROJEKT RED officially unveiled GWENT: The Witcher Card Game — its latest title set in the world of The Witcher.
Inspired by the card-based mini game in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, GWENT is a free-to-play card game, focused on online multiplayer battles between witcher world armies, where players use skill — not luck — to emerge victorious. Players strategize to build powerful and effective decks, and use tactics and improvisation during dynamic card battles in order to defeat their opponents.
The title was announced for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. The closed beta for PC and Xbox One started on October 25th.
Start of GWENT’s Public Beta, Thronebreaker and GWENT Masters Announced, The Witcher turns 10
GWENT enters Public Beta
On May 24th, 2017, the Public Beta version of GWENT: The Witcher Card Game was released for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4, allowing more players to take to the battlefield and experience epic, witcher-world card battles.
Announcement of Thronebreaker and GWENT Masters
In August at gamescom 2017 in Cologne, CD PROJEKT RED announced Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales — a single-player campaign set in the Witcher world, combining elements of GWENT and classic RPGs — set for release on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 in 2018.
Also at gamescom, CD PROJEKT RED announced GWENT Masters — a professional esports series. Two GWENT Open tournaments and two GWENT Challenger tournaments were held in 2017, which helped set the stage heading into the first ever GWENT Masters series.
10th anniversary of The Witcher series of games
On September 3rd, 2017, at PAX West in Seattle, CD PROJEKT RED held a special discussion panel celebrating the 10th anniversary of its series of games starring professional witcher, Geralt of Rivia. During this event, studio representatives reminisced about bringing The Witcher trilogy to life, and the challenges its creators faced along the way.
CD PROJEKT joins WIG20, Cyberpunk 2077 trailer at E3, GWENT & Thronebreaker launch, Spokko joins CD PROJEKT Group
CD PROJEKT enters WIG20
On March 16th, 2018, CD PROJEKT S.A. became listed in the WIG20 index. WIG20 aggregates 20 of the largest and most liquid companies on the Warsaw market. In the second part of 2017, CD PROJEKT also joined two prestigious international indices: FTSE Mid-Cap Index — Emerging Europe and MSCI Emerging Markets.
Cyberpunk 2077 trailer goes live at E3
At June’s E3, CD PROJEKT RED unveiled a brand new trailer for its upcoming RPG: Cyberpunk 2077.
Cyberpunk 2077 is set in the classic Cyberpunk 2020 RPG universe, offering dynamic, first-person gameplay with a non-linear storyline. It tells the story of an up-and-coming mercenary named V, taking their first steps in Night City — a futuristic metropolis notorious for its high crime rate, and obsession over technology and body modification.
By the end of July 2018, the trailer had been viewed over 20 million times across all channels. In addition, selected journalists participating in E3 were invited to watch an hour-long presentation of Cyberpunk 2077 gameplay.
Cyberpunk 2077 received over 100 accolades from the media and participating organizations awarded to the best games at E3.
Mobile game development studio Spokko joins the CD PROJEKT family
In August 2018, CD PROJEKT established a new company in the framework of its Group — Spokko; a specialist mobile development team.
The Group has a majority stake in Spokko and provides the new company with access to its intellectual property, backed up by the creative and commercial acumen of CD PROJEKT RED.
GWENT launches following the end of Public Beta
On October 23rd, 2018, CD PROJEKT RED released GWENT: The Witcher Card Game on GOG.com.
The official launch of this witcher-world competitive card game — focused on online card battles between opposing armies — followed the release of a significant update entitled Homecoming. The Homecoming update featured a revamped deck-building system, new gameplay mechanics, a redesign of the game’s visuals, as well as implementation of user feedback from the Public Beta period.
Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales releases for PC
Also on October 23rd, 2018, CD PROJEKT RED released Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales on GOG.com. The corresponding Steam release followed on November 9th.
Thronebreaker is a standalone single-player RPG developed by a consortium of CD PROJEKT RED and GOG.com, combining narrative-driven exploration with unique puzzles and turn-based battles.
In Thronebreaker, players take on the role of Queen Meve of Lyria and Rivia, a battle-hardened war veteran of the Northern Realms. Facing an imminent Nilfgaardian invasion, Meve is forced to enter the warpath once more, building an army of her own amidst a journey of destruction and revenge.
A busy year for CD PROJEKT: official merchandise store opens, Cyberpunk 2077 takes E3 by storm, The Witcher reaches new milestones and gamers, and more...
Launch of CD PROJEKT RED Store
On May 8th, CD PROJEKT announced the launch of CD PROJEKT RED Store (now known as CD PROJEKT RED Gear), an online merchandise storefront. Built and run by CD PROJEKT RED, it gives gamers access to worlds of official apparel and collectibles inspired by the studio’s games.
The launch line-up of products included a selection of high-quality t-shirts and hoodies with designs spanning the studio’s franchises, a Shupe the Troll talking plush toy, a Witcher-themed notebook, and more.
Announcement of GOG GALAXY 2.0
Also in May, the team at GOG.com announced the launch of GOG GALAXY 2.0 — an updated and expanded iteration of the GOG GALAXY client.
GOG GALAXY 2.0 allows gamers to link to other platforms and collate all their games into a single library within the client — and also acts as a launcher for these games on PC. Community features also follow this path, with gamers able to add and chat with friends on other platforms.
In December 2019, GOG GALAXY 2.0 entered its Open Beta phase.
Cyberpunk 2077 news — Keanu Reeves reveals his starring role, cinematic trailer, Google Stadia version
On June 9th, 2019, at the Microsoft conference directly preceding E3, Hollywood actor Keanu Reeves made a surprise appearance on stage to talk about the game, as well as his involvement in the project, following the reveal of the Cinematic Trailer for Cyberpunk 2077. Mr. Reeves will be providing his voice talent and likeness to one of the game’s main characters, Johnny Silverhand.
The game’s cinematic trailer released at the conference had been viewed over 50 million times by the end of 2019. Fan reactions and sentiment throughout and after the show reaffirmed the high expectations associated with Cyberpunk 2077.
Later on, in August, CD PROJEKT confirmed that Cyberpunk 2077 will also be coming to Google Stadia.
New releases of The Witcher universe games; 40 million copies of The Witcher trilogy sold
In October, CD PROJEKT RED released The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt for Nintendo Switch.
The Complete Edition, which includes the base game, two expansions for The Witcher 3, plus its 16 free DLCs, allows gamers to take the 150+ hours of Geralt’s adventure with them wherever they go.
Earlier in 2019, while announcing the release date of The Witcher 3 for Switch in June, CD PROJEKT informed that The Witcher series has sold over 40 million copies since launching in 2007, with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt alone accounting for over 50% of that figure.
Two weeks after The Witcher 3’s release on Switch, GWENT was released on iOS. The iPhone and iPad versions combine the full feature set of the PC release with controls reimagined for the touch interface. Progress and purchases are shared between iOS and PC via the user’s GOG.COM account, while full cross-play is supported, allowing iOS players to battle opponents across all other supported platforms.
Purchasing the Jagiellońska 74 building complex
In October, CD PROJEKT announced that the Company had purchased the building complex where the Warsaw studio is located.
– For over 20 years now CD PROJEKT has been conducting its business from offices located in the buildings on Jagiellońska 74.This is where we’ve brought amazing worlds and adventures to life, and invested in infrastructure allowing us to create great games. This is where we’ve put down our roots as a company and where we want to continue to grow moving forward. But we want to do that on our terms – by making it the company’s true HQ, one that we can freely shape to our needs and vision as its owners. – said Adam Kiciński.
Combined with Jagiellońska 76 next door, which the Group purchased in late 2018, CD PROJEKT now possesses over 24,000 sq.m combined. This number includes more than 18,000 sq.m of floor area, most of it office space.
More Switch and mobile releases, Night City Wire premieres, Cyberpunk: EDGERUNNERS announced, Spokko announces The Witcher: Monster Slayer
Thronebreaker comes to Nintendo Switch; GWENT arrives on Android and Steam
The first quarter of 2020 saw two new releases. In January, Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales made its way to Nintendo Switch – with the port handled by Crunching Koalas. Then, in March, GWENT was released on Android. This was followed by its subsequent release on Steam in May. At this point, the GOG.com, Steam, iOS, and Android versions of GWENT feature full cross-play support, and allow players to cross over their purchases and progress between these versions by using a single GOG.com account.
Night City Wire Episode 1 premieres; The Gig trailer and Cyberpunk: EDGERUNNERS anime revealed
On June 25th, 2020, CD PROJEKT RED released the first episode of its dedicated Cyberpunk 2077 show: Night City Wire. Premiering on Twitch, episode 1 featured a brand new trailer, a fresh look at gameplay, and developer discussion about some of the game’s features.
Of the newly-revealed footage for the game, the brand new trailer The Gig provided a fresh glimpse into the story surrounding the prologue of Cyberpunk 2077, which was then discussed and broken down in further detail during the show itself.
During this episode, CD PROJEKT RED also announced the development of an all new original anime series called Cyberpunk: EDGERUNNERS, created in collaboration with Japanese animation studio Trigger, and Netflix.
CYBERPUNK: EDGERUNNERS tells a standalone, 10-episode story about a street kid trying to survive in a technology and body modification-obsessed city of the future. Having everything to lose, he chooses to stay alive by becoming an edgerunner—a mercenary outlaw also known as a cyberpunk.
The announcement detailed that CD PROJEKT RED would be producing the series, with Studio Trigger handling the animation side of things for the series. A scheduled premiere date of 2022 was also announced.
Thronebreaker released on iOS
In July, CD PROJEKT RED announced the release of Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales on iOS.
This version of the game provides the complete Thronebreaker experience, with dedicated touch-screen controls as well as cloud-save support allowing seamless play between PC and mobile.
An Android version of Thronebreaker was also announced, planned for release later in 2020.
The Witcher: Monster Slayer by Spokko announced
In August, Spokko, member of the CD PROJEKT Family, announced The Witcher: Monster Slayer — a free-to-play, augmented-reality, location-based RPG for iOS and Android mobile devices set in The Witcher universe.
Using advanced AR features, The Witcher: Monster Slayer casts players in the role of a witcher, as they use real-time location data and weather conditions to track down witcher-world monsters lurking in the world around them. Players must venture out into the real world and prepare for combat, before putting enemies to the sword in first-person AR combat.
The game entered its soft launch phase on iOS in September, 2020, with a planned announcement for the official release date expected by the end of 2020.