The Ridiculous, Underdog Origins Of 'The Witcher' Video Game

This isn't an underdog tale, this is an underroach tale
The Ridiculous, Underdog Origins Of 'The Witcher' Video Game

The history of CD Projekt Red itself isn't any less interesting than the story of the company's mega-hit Cyberpunk 2077 The Witcher 3. The company started off in the '90s as a sort of video-game bootlegging operation that was the only way to get many games in Poland. It managed to thrive because copyright law was only added in one of Poland's later patches. Later, the company went on to also meddling with the inner parts of games by providing Polish localization. 

As the company's ambitions grew, they got the deal to bring the console exclusive Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance to the PC. The company's background in street dealings probably helped when they had to smuggle a PS2 developer kit from London to Poland in order to make the port. It wasn't meant to happen, though, because even their tenacity didn't save the game from cancellation after the IP's owner ran into internal trouble. CD Projekt, however, got to keep Dark Alliance's code, which hit the company like a sign that they should do their own thing.

Geralt of Rivia's first design

CD Projekt Red

Say what you will, but this looked incredibly acceptable back in '06

And that's… not exactly what they did. They immediately took to trying to convince Andrzej Sapkowski, creator of the hit Polish Wiedźmin series of books that they'd later turn into The Witcher. The company had the smart idea of going with something that was big in their own country. They tried to get Sapkowski to sell them the rights to make a game adaptation for a percentage of the profits, but Sapkowski laughed off the idea because, in his mind, games were crap that didn't sell, and a percentage of zero is probably also a really small number. 

He agreed to do it for the always-but-especially-now hilariously low fee of around $10,000. He was probably happy with the decision when The Witcher did okay, probably not so happy when The Witcher 2 eclipsed the popularity of the books, and straight-up pissed when The Witcher 3 became one of the most successful works of art ever made with over 30 million units sold.

Witcher 3's Geralt versus flying enemy

CD Projekt Red

Pictured: Sapkowski trying to renegotiate.

And Sapkowski wasn't even the only person doubting these bootlegends. Back in '05, The still incredibly small company went to E3 and made up for the lack of marketing budget via incessant field promotion.

They were so good at presumably smuggling flyers into other booths that they even got kicked out of Blizzard's booth. I'd like to attribute that to Blizzard's correct prediction that the people with the hilariously rudimentary budget would take less than 10 years to beat Blizzard at their own game, but if they really had such power of foresight, they would have foreseen the other big problems as well.

 Top Image: CD Projekt Red

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