This Polish game developer you’ve never heard of just became a $1 billion company

Ever heard of CD Projekt Red? Didn’t think so. But you might know the company’s work: The wildly popular “Witcher” game series, for instance?

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In “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt,” you play as the dourest man in the world.
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CD Projekt RED

The company also runs popular online game store GOG.com, a place where you can buy games old and new, all without any DRM, which disallows copying or sharing. And now, between that popular series and the company’s burgeoning game store, CD Projekt Red is worth more than $1 billion.

Here’s what you need to know.


CD Projekt Red was born out of piracy. Co-founders Marcin Iwiński and Michał Kiciński used to sell pirated copies of games in their native Warsaw, Poland. We’re talking late ’80s, early ’90s.

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Like this, but illegally selling video games.
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Walt Disney Pictures

When the Soviet Union fell and Poland transitioned to capitalism, CD Projekt Red was founded. The company’s initial focus was on localizing Western games for Polish and Russian audiences.

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This is “Baldur’s Gate,” one of the gaming classics that CD Projekt localized for Interplay.
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Interplay

It was this type of work that led to the studio’s first original game, “The Witcher.”

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CD Projekt Red

The game was actually built on the guts of a cancelled game (seen below). CD Projekt Red has always taken this scrappy approach to making games.

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Interplay

Here’s a look at the initial game in action, from back in 2002:


When the game finally arrived, over five years later, it looked entirely different (and much, much more attractive).

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CD Projekt Red

The studio’s come a long way since. It launched an online game store — GOG.com — named Good Old Games.

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The store initially sold just older games, but has moved towards a larger selection nowadays.
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CD Projekt Red

Meanwhile, the “Witcher” series has gone on to critical and commercial success. First, there was the “The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings”:

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CD Projekt Red

And then there was the near-universally-praised “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.”

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CD Projekt RED

The third “Witcher” game is undeniably gorgeous.

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CD Projekt RED

Like, next-level pretty:

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CD Projekt RED

And it’s done incredibly well for the company, as has GOG. CD Projekt Red just crested a $1 billion valuation on the Polish stock market!

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Not even that huge valuation can make Geralt of Rivia smile.
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CD Projekt RED

And the game franchise has become a national treasure in Poland — former Prime Minister Donald Tusk even gave a copy to President Obama as a state gift!

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AP/Alik Keplicz