The Witcher 2 is one of the most highly-rated big-budget role-playing games in recent years, but according to developer CD Projekt, the game might never have happened.
In an interview with Eurogamer today, CD Projekt joint-CEO Marcin Iwińsk reveals how, in the aftermath of its success with the first Witcher game (2007), the company squandered millions of dollars on a doomed attempt to create a console version, stretched its resources with the launch of online distribution site GOG, and suffered from the severity of the global economic recession.
"It was looking pretty grim back then. It was very edgy," he said. "We had probably a year where we were scraping money to make the payroll at the end of the month.
The Polish company's biggest problem had been a partnership with Atari to create White Wolf, a console version of The Witcher, which had sold a few million copies on Windows PC. But the development, outsourced to French company Widescreen, ran into problems. CD Projekt took the difficult, and expensive decision to kill the project.
Atari's investment needed to be repaid. The Witcher 2 had to be developed. GOG was in its infancy, just at the time when the economy went bad.
"This was a few months of horror," Iwiński said. "And I don't know what happened, but at a certain point I realised that if this doesn't work I'll just do something else. Maybe I'll restart the company."
Despite difficult economic conditions, the company raised money on the Polish stock exchange, where investors liked its plans for The Witcher 2. The game series is based on a literary fantasy franchise that is much-revered in Poland.
"Overnight the stress just went away and I had new power to do things," said Iwiński. "People can make mistakes, OK, but we have to learn from them and we cannot repeat them."
The Witcher 2 was released in 2011 to positive reviews and strong sales. The Witcher 3 is currently in development and is due for release on Windows PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in 2014.