CD Projekt, not to mention GOG.com and The Witcher's sequel, almost fell apart thanks to a single, money-draining project.
CD Projekt is currently one of the biggest names in DRM-free gaming, and it's been able to back up its position with success stories like The Witcher 2 and GOG.com. But things weren't always looking so rosy for this publisher. In an interview with Eurogamer, joint-CEO Marcin Iwinski revealed that the entire company came incredibly close to being scrapped, possibly taking plans for DRM-free gaming and Witcher sequels with it. But what could possibly bring down the company that would become one of Steam's biggest competitors? According to Iwinski, The Witcher: Rise of the White Wolf, a console port of the PC-exclusive that consumed any profits and goodwill gained from the original.
"It was looking pretty grim back then," Iwinski explained. "It was very edgy. We had probably a year where we were scraping money to make the payroll at the end of the month ... I realized that if this doesn't work I'll just do something else - maybe I'll restart the company."
Considering the original 2009 reports of White Wolf's pay disputes, this claim isn't exactly hard to believe. What's important to remember is that Rise of the White Wolf wasn't developed in-house, but outsourced to French developer Widescreen Games. Within a mere five months, the team started reporting problems with development, and requested extensions ranging from four months to a year. "I'm not mentioning all the tensions, all the hours of stupid discussions on the phone, 'you are guilty', etc," Iwinski said. "The thing is, what we realized was they had no idea how to make it."
Eventually, CD Projekt bit the bullet and cancelled White Wolf after millions in development costs. Atari wanted its investment repaid, resources were stretched thin with GOG.com's launch, and that's when the economy tanked. The Witcher 2 was CD Projekt's attempt to set things right, which thanks to generous investors in the Polish stock exchange, it was able to do so. "Overnight the stress just went away and I had new power to do things," Iwinski said.
Iwinski talks more about CD Projekt's formative years in the interview, but it's staggering to imagine about how close the company came to closing before its prime. Given that CD Projekt has been one of the few consistent supporters of DRM-free policies, we might have had a very different industry today without it.