Back in 2007, when the Witcher video games first emerged on the scene, people were not expecting much. After all, this was a medieval fantasy RPG based on the novels of an author few had heard of outside his native Poland, boasting a sexist protagonist with a gruff voice in the usual Lord of the Rings-inspired universe.
To make matters worse, the initial translation from Polish was a bit of a mess, although admittedly this was later rectified, and the more recent director’s cut edition of the game features much cleaner dialogue.
I like many people back then was blown away when I played The Witcher, its dark themes and good gameplay hooking me in, while after my experience with the first game I ended up playing through all the subsequent games in developer CD Projekt Red’s great saga.
Interestingly, though, amongst the disbelievers back then was the author of the novels the game is based on, Andrzej Sapkowski. Actually, the man admitted in an interview last year that he like many other people was bewildered by the game’s success. Also, he was upset about the fact that he only demanded an upfront payment from CD Projekt for granting the company the rights to make games based on his books, rather than a percentage of the profits, something which likely would have made him filthy rich by now taking into account how successful CD Projekt’s games have been to date.
But it seems Sapkowski is determined to get a larger cut of the games’ profits here and now, and his lawyers recently sent a letter to CD Projekt demanding a whopping $16 million US dollars as royalties, as was recently reported on Eurogamer.
This is because Sapkowski argues his original contract with CD Projekt was for only one game, while CD Projekt has so far released several games set in the fantasy universe created by the Polish author.
However, CD Projekt has been quick to respond to Sapkowski’s demands, essentially saying they owe him nothing now and have no intention of ponying up the large sum the Polish writer is currently demanding.
“The Company had legitimately and legally acquired copyright to Mr. Andrzej Sapkowski’s work, insofar as is required for its use in games developed by the Company”, said CD Projekt in its response.
Also, and perhaps due to the fact that CD Projekt is now the heavyweight it is in the video game industry thanks to the success of The Witcher games, the company expressed its intention to settle the matter amicably with the author of the Witcher novels.
“It is the Company’s will to maintain good relations with authors of works which have inspired CD Projekt Red’s own creations. Consequently, the Board will go to great lengths to ensure amicable resolution of this dispute; however, any such resolution must be respectful of previously expressed intents of both parties, as well as existing contracts”, added CD Projekt.
What’s strange, though, is why Sapkowski decided to issue his demands to CD Projekt now? According to his lawyers’ statement, he had been thinking about the matter for some time now, and it’s likely the man probably had enough of seeing each successive Witcher game sell millions of copies, reaping fame and fortune for the people at CD Projekt, while he was left out in the cold.
And Sapkowski might have a point here, because even though CD Projekt wrapped up the trilogy of games featuring charismatic protagonist Geralt of Rivia in 2016 with the release of the Blood and Wine expansion for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, it later expressed its interest in making more games set in the Witcher universe.
As a matter of fact, another story-based game set in the Witcher universe is releasing this month, likely prompting Sapkowski’s actions, while the card game based on The Witcher (Gwent) is coming out in late October too.
It remains to be seen, though, whether Sapkowski can succeed, and get what’s likely a fairer cut out of CD Projekt’s work, or whether his demands will be dismissed in court come the day. Time will tell how things will work out for the author of the Witcher novels and CD Projekt in the future, though, with the Polish company now being hard at work on the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 sci-fi game, which is slated to hit consoles and PC in the near future.