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 Capital 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 videogame distribution platform
2008 marked the beginning of diversification of the Capital 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
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).
In 2012 the gaming community was electrified by the news that CD Projekt RED had begun work on its second major franchise. Cyberpunk 2077 is based on a cult RPG system well known and appreciated throughout the world. The creator of Cyberpunk, Mike Pondsmith, is actively supporting the company in its development effort.
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.
Changes at the Capital Group – sale of controlling interest in CDP.pl
In November 2014 CD PROJEKT divested itself of the controlling interest in its domestic distribution branch. Following a batch of sale transactions, the CD PROJEKT share in cdp.pl share capital shrank to 8.29% and the subsidiary was excluded from the Capital Group.
GOG.com celebrates its 5th birthday
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.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is released
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was released throughout the world on 19 May 2015, in 15 separate language version and for three hardware platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. 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 week following release (i.e. by 30 June 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 Games 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 which supports, among others, online multiplayer gaming.
Hearts of Stone – first DLC pack for The Witcher 3
On 13 October CD PROJEKT released its first-ever DLC pack. Two weeks following release Hearts of Stone had 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 -the second and final expansion for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was released on 31 May 2016. Blood and Wine 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. The second expansion has already gained acclaim among gaming media representatives. GryOnline.pl gave it a score of 100/100, while foreign portals – PC Gamer and XGN – followed up with scores of 94/100 and 96/100 respectively.
GWENT: The Witcher Card Game
GWENT was announced by CD PROJEKT on the June, 14th on the eve of E3 – the world’s largest video game fair
GWENT is an online card game set in the world of Geralt of Rivia announced for the PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. It is a free-to-play game with optional microtransactions.
GWENT is about dynamic, unpredictable clashes of powerful armies known from The Witcher universe. Victory is determined not by sheer luck, but by player skill, intuition, ability to improvise and a strategic approach to deck design. The game will support both online and single-player modes.
The Closed Beta of GWENT: The Witcher Card Game for PC and Xbox One started on October 25th.