CD Projekt

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The CD Projekt Red Logo Image source

CD Projekt is a video game development and distribution company based in Warsaw, Poland, founded in 1994. The company began as a distributor of foreign software across Poland, but has become renowned for its videogame series, The Witcher, which is based upon the series of 6 fantasy novels and 15 short stories written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski[1]. While the company has been criticized in the past for the portrayal of women and lack of racial diversity in its games, it has most recently faced backlash due to problems relating to the release of its newest game Cyberpunk 2077.


Co-founder Marcin Iwiński


CD Projekt was established in 1994 by co-founders Marcin Iwiński and Michał Kiciński, who were high school friends. The company initially focused on importing CD-ROM software from the United States for distribution within Poland. Among their first distribution agreements were contracts with Acclaim, Blizzard, Blue Byte, Interplay, and Psygnosis. [2]

In 1999, the company turned toward localization with the Polish voice dubbing of Baldur’s Gate. The localization was a success and saw over 100 thousand sold copies. CD Projekt continued to work on the PC port of Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance until the publisher Interplay stopped development due to financial difficulties.[3]

The cover of The Witcher 3

CD Projekt Red

The CD Projekt Red studio was established in 2002 after the company took interest in creating original games. The company owned the code for Dark Alliance after its cancellation, which it repurposed for their first original game The Witcher. After five years of development and 20 million złoty, The Witcher was published by Atari in 2007 and received positive reviews. [4]

Shortly after, the studio began development on both The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings and The Witcher 3. The team also began a console port of The Witcher called White Wolf but ended up canceling the project after financial discrepancies.[5] Due to this, Atari demanded repayment for the console port funding, worsening the financial burden on CD Projekt. The company scrapped plans for The Witcher 3, instead of using its engine to finish the development of The Witcher 2.[6] The second entry in The Witcher series took three and a half years and was released in 2011 to very positive reviews.[7] In 2012, the studio first announced plans to develop Cyberpunk 2077.

After the success of The Witcher 2, the company found every greater success with the release of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt in 2015. Cyberpunk 2077 was the next major game release in 2020, preceded by several delays in the release date.[8]

Cover for Cyberpunk 2077

Release Issues with CyberPunk 2077

Pressure from the gaming community forced CD Projekt Red to release Cyberpunk well before it was ready to be released, with internal employees even saying that they knew the game was not ready for release[9]. This led to an official release riddled with bugs that rendered the game unplayable for some players. Some bugs were as minor as cars driving through walls or people disappearing[10], while others were major bugs that could ruin your gameplay. One such bug causes save files to become corrupted and unusable once the 8 MB data limit is surpassed, which can occur by carrying too many items in game.[11].

Unfulfilled promises are another aspect of the game's release issues. Cyberpunk was marketed as a vast open-world role-playing game with endless exploration and interactions. Many believed it would be a trailblazer in its ability to make every interaction, mission, and player design unique. Instead, the setting of “Night City” seems to be mostly “window-dressing” where NPCs follow similar patterns with limited interactions and some areas of the game are inaccessible until very specific mission stages[12]. With the creators saying much of their focus was on optimizing the game’s performance[13], the developers may have focused most of their time on fixing bugs at the detriment of creating a fully interactable world[12].

CD Projekt RED Board Member and SVP of Development, Michał Nowakowski, admitted to having misled Microsoft and Sony in order to pass their certification process to get Cyberpunk 2077 out on time [14]. Nowakowski shared that, "in terms of the certification process and the third parties - this is definitely on our side. I can only assume that they trusted that we’re going to fix things upon release, and that obviously did not come together exactly as we had planned.[15]" This instance has caused discussion regarding Sony and Microsoft’s certification process, as in this case, resulted in customers spending money on a broken game [15].

One final major issue with Cyberpunk 2077, was that CD Projekt Red released it as a game that could be played on older generation consoles, even though the game’s performance was much worse on these consoles[16]. This led Sony to offer full refunds to anyone who purchased a digital copy for a PlayStation and then taking the digital copy off of their store[9].

Ransomware Attack

In February 2021, CD Projekt Red suffered a ransomware attack in which the source code for some of the studio’s most high-profile releases, including the Witcher 3, GWENT, Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales, and Cyberpunk 2077 were stolen.[17] Eventually demands were issued to CD Projekt Red, requesting a large sum of cryptocurrency or the perpetrators threatened to leak and/or auction the stolen data over the Dark Web. CD Projekt Red refused to negotiate with the criminals and stated, “We will not give in to the demands or negotiate with the actor.”[17] CD Projekt Red later confirmed that no personal data was compromised in the attack and that the company was cooperating with law enforcement agencies to bring the entries to justice.

CDPR source code/data auction; Exploit Forums 2021 [18]

True to their word, the perpetrators auctioned off the source code for CyberPunk 2077 and other files over the Dark Web, on February 10th and facilitated through a hacking enthusiast forum, Exploit. Cyber security intelligence firm, the KELA Group, confirmed the auctions to have been legitimate and that the bidding minimum began at $1 million USD.[19] The auction was only open to users who deposited 0.1 bitcoin, as to encourage only serious participants. KELA later confirmed the pricing terms of auction and verified it was also listed with a “buy-it-now” option priced at $7 million USD, and that the data had been successfully auctioned and purchased by an undisclosed individual.[20] The auction reportedly remained open for 48 hours after the final bid, and thereafter, representatives connected with the auction confirmed that a satisfiable offer had been received on the condition of no further distribution of the data.[20]

Still, despite this agreed upon conditions of the auction, the stolen source code and data appeared on the internet on file sharing and upload websites such as Mega, albeit briefly, and although the leaks were eventually removed they also were never directly tied to the ransomware attack suffered by CD Projekt Red. CD Projekt Red then began issuing DMCA takedown notices to remove illegal posting of it's intellectual property.[21]

Major Game Releases

Cover Year Name Platforms
Witchercover.jpg 2007 The Witcher macOS, PC
Witcher2cover.jpg 2011 The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Linux, macOS, PC, Xbox 360
Adventureappicon.jpg 2014 The Witcher Adventure Game Android, iOS, macOS, PC
Battlearenaappicon.png 2015 The Witcher Battle Arena Android, iOS
Witcher3cover.jpg The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Hearts of Stone
2016 The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - Blood and Wine
Gwentcover.jpg 2018 Gwent: The Witcher Card Game Android, iOS, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Thronebreakercover.jpg 2018 Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Cyberpunk.jpg 2020 Cyberpunk 2077 PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Stadia, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S

Ethical Implications


CD Projekt Red has been known to participate in crunch time, a common video game industry practice of working excessive hours and days to meet a deadline [22]. During this period, game studio employees often work up to twelve hours a day for several weeks, or sometimes months [22]. This often results in sleep deprivation for employees, which can significantly reduce developers’ ability to make rational design choices and produce high quality software [22]. Additionally, crunch time has been found to have a detrimental effect on employee’s personal relationships and mental health, causing many to consider leaving the gaming industry [22]. Crunch time within the games industry has been widely accepted as an intrinsic part of the work culture, leaving employees to believe that this mentality cannot be changed [22]. It has been discussed that crunching occurs due to ineffective techniques, poor time management, and planning issues from management [22].

The company has received criticisms for using crunching practices in their development in order to meet deadlines [23]. Lead character artist, Paweł Mielniczuk, recalled that “For half-a-year, we were working 12-hour days every day, all weekends, all the time,” and mentioned now-studio head, Adam Badowski, sleeping under his desk without changing clothes [24]. Amidst the development of The Witcher: White Wolf, the studio also crunched to meet deadlines, only to have the project be canceled. Crunch was again experienced for several months during the development of The Witcher 3.[25] Most recently, the studio broke its promise to staff that there would be no mandatory crunch for Cyberpunk 2077 following several release date delays [26]. During the development of CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077, it was reported that the company was mandating six day work weeks for its employees leading up to the game’s launch [23].

Death Threats

The release of Cyberpunk 2077 was met with mixed reception from fans as many soon realized that a lot of the gameplay features promised by the development team had gone unfulfilled.[27] For example, in a series of podcast interviews CDP developers Miles Toast and Philipp Weber claimed that Cyberpunk 2077 would include over 1,000 NPCs with their own unique behaviors and hand-coded daily routines.[28] This was a substantial claim not only due to the time commitment involved in hand-coding NPC routines but also because an open-world RPG like Cyberpunk 2077 would have to run many of these routines simultaneously in front of the player. CDP made other lofty claims, like multiple unique story arcs and gameplay altering dialogue which, altogether amounted to the expectation of a truly next-gen experience that players ultimately never got. [29]To exacerbate the situation, Cyberpunk 2077 was plagued with immersion-breaking bugs.

CD Project Red’s senior game designer Andrzej Zawadzki shares his response to online harassment

While critics of the game did not hesitate to point out its flaws, some gamers had a more extreme reaction and began sending death threats and other harassment to CDP developers.[30] The vitriolic social media attacks were not unprecedented, as they also received death threats earlier that year after the announcement of Cyberpunk 2077’s third release date delay. It is unclear to what extent the online harassment affected the CDP team, but it is known that several employees have since announced a break from social media for the sake of their mental health. The nature of the internet is that anonymous abusers can send people more harassment than ever before while utilizing both public and private information to make their threats all the more salient. For the victims who develop psychological and physical disorders (or find old ones worsened) due to the constant fear of their harasser’s threats being carried out, they may find it difficult to engage in daily tasks like sleeping or working. [31]

By sending death threats and other harassment to developers online after Cyberpunk 2077 failed to meet their expectations of quality, these abusers have further jeopardized the CDP dev team’s ability to produce good work. Furthermore, as CD Project Red’s senior game designer Andrzej Zawadzki took to Twitter in December of 2020 to say, “There are some lines you simply don’t cross.”[32]

Gender Discrimination In Games

Female Monsters

"These are noonwraiths – the spirits of young women and girls who died violent deaths right before their weddings. Driven mad with pain and anger, they wander the fields searching for their unfaithful lovers or backstabbing rivals, though they will kill anyone who does not get out of their way in time." - Witcher 3 bestiary entry

The company has been criticized for its portrayal of female monsters in The Witcher series. Stang notes how many monsters appear as attractive, naked women before turning into hideous monsters [33]. She claims there is an emphasis on luring male protagonists and using their bodies as weapons [34].

Portrayal of Women and Gender

The Witcher series has been criticized for its female NPC’s. The games all feature interactable female prostitutes, with the exception of one male prostitute that cannot be propositioned. The Witcher 3 sex scenes show a clothed Geralt, the main male protagonist, and the women are naked [35]. It has been discussed that video games, similar to other forms of entertainment and media, are sources of information that children and young adults may use to form an understanding of what behaviors and attitudes are considered appropriately masculine or feminine [36].

Cyberpunk 2077 also received criticism for its oversexualized imagery throughout the game. An advertisement seen on ingame signs depicting a feminine model with an erection visible under a leotard was met with backlash due to its dubious portrayal of a seemingly transgender individual [37].

Underrepresentation of Racial Diversity

The Witcher 3 has received criticism for its lack of racial diversity. Before the addition of the Hearts of Stone DLC, the game did not have any people of color. Some of the developers defended this by stating they were occupied with other issues [38].


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