Sometimes I start a column or news with a statement that a title “I don’t have to introduce to anyone.” This is my usual pattern, which I try to displace from my editorial habits. This time the inclusion of this phrase is more than necessary. I want to focus today on CD Projekt RED, a studio that definitely needs no introduction – especially when writing for Polish audiences.
To be precise, I would like to focus on their origins . For some, it will probably be information that has been known for a long time, and for others, it will be the basics of how it all began there. The story is very interesting in this case. It wasn’t that the game was released, this one was very well received, and then downhill – by no means! It all started much earlier.
As a company, CD Projekt RED has come a long way to become the number one most popular studio today when it comes to gaming studios. Not only in Poland, but probably in this part of the continent in general. At the very beginning, however, it was obvious that something great was being born there. Although not everything indicated it, the best proof was the ambition of the founders. They always aimed very high.
Stock market beginnings
But let’s start from the very beginning. To do this, we have to go back to the first half of the 90s and the two high school students who started it all – Marcin Iwiński and Michał Kiciński, of course . Young boys were already passionate about the subject of video games and definitely had a flair for business. In their teenage years, they wanted to earn their first money.
How was it possible to combine passion and getting rich to help develop it? Of course, through trade! The one that grew in popularity at that time. It was the 1990s that were the best years for the stock exchange in Poland – the loudest one was in Warsaw, at Grzybowska Street. When it turned out that the business really works and the first money comes in, you could start a business. It’s basically a natural step on your career path.
Everything flourished, the boys worked under the name we know today, and the games imported from abroad were sold at more expensive prices on the aforementioned exchange. In the end, it was decided to fully legalize the whole process , and Marcin and Michał – then just over 20 years old – supplied the Polish market with various items on CDs downloaded from the United States. Even then, they knew there was great potential in it.
Games in Polish
The first milestone was completed under the CD Projekt flag in 1996 . The English language was not as popular and common as it is today – enterprising men (along with Michał’s older brother Adam) decided not only to import games from abroad and sell them in Poland, but also to add something from themselves. They started translating boxes and even instructions!
And it was a real hit , and the interest was the best proof that the gaming community needs such a treatment. But if they wanted Polish packaging and Polish instructions… Why not translate entire projects? Only seven years after the company was founded and less than a decade from the beginning of the stock market, men have reached the point that contributed to its weakening.
By publishing Baldur’s Gate and breaking sales records (over 100,000 copies nationwide), they proved that Poles do not need illegal sources of defective games. As long as the process was properly facilitated, people were willing to pay – a similar model today elevated streaming services above Torrents. The current CEOs of CD Projekt were aware of this already then, many years ago.
Success breeds success – the offer has been expanded with new great hits , including Diablo II, which most players growing up in the 90s have on the shelf today. The team distributed Atari, Microsoft, Konami or even Ubisoft and Sega titles. They were a really strong player in the European market.
The Witcher – the start of something big
In the life of every person associated with the video game industry, there comes a point where they decide to create their own project. Some learn to code, others try to join small studies, and still others end up dreaming. There are also those who say they will and just do it. In retrospect, you surely know which group CD Projekt is in when founding CD Projekt Red Studio in 2002 .
Then came 2003, when the process that was the immediate beginning of where the company is located today began. Of course, I’m talking about the start of work on the adaptation of the Witcher saga from Mr. Andrzej Sapkowski. As Marcin Iwiński mentioned – when they found out that the rights to the plot were free, they felt as if they “grabbed God by the legs” . And it’s hardly surprising – most fantasy fans in our country know and like this brand.
The next four years are full of sweat, constant changes and a lot of fatigue. Anything to present in 2007 probably the most refined project that has been released by Polish artists so far. According to the information, it took only 72 hours to reach the threshold of 35,000 copies sold . Today the game is a huge hit and a true classic. Even today, despite many archaisms, you can have fun there before.
The rest is already known …
It seems to me that the story of “beginnings” can end at this point. Of course, the story of CD Projekt continues, and on its way you can find a whole lot of ups (the premiere of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt ) and falls (the unsuccessful debut of Cyberpunk 2077 ). It is quite natural, and the most telling is the fact that, despite various situations, the company has been operating in the minds of players for over twenty years.
I know that there is a general fashion to be averse to corporations and big institutions. I also know that before the premiere of Cyberpunk 2077, there were words that should not fall, and in the end – I know that the recent months have unfortunately been a downward trend and the inflow of information that sheds a really bad light on the studio (especially in terms of management). After all, they are powerful players.
Maybe I am naive and I am ruled by an exaggerated faith in people, but it seems to me that CD Projekt Red will still manage to get straight. Their history is the best proof of this . They never got anything for free, and nothing fell from heaven. From the beginning, from the very first business idea, they fought for their position. Today, the presidents are still presidents. They make mistakes, but have proved that they are not afraid of hard work and are where they are, not by chance. And this always allows us to be optimistic about the future.