Author of The Witcher demands £12m in royalties from CD Projekt Red

Alex Moore explores the controversy surrounding the Witcher and its writer.

Alex Moore
29th October 2018
Image Credit: Flickr (ActuaLitté)

Andrzej Sapkowski, the author of The Witcher novels which inspired CD Projekt Red’s best-selling video game series, has demanded the developers pay him PLN 60m (GDP £12.2m) in additional royalties.

CDPR posted the bill online after receiving it in early October. Whilst stating that the company wishes to maintain good relations with the author, the developers have unsurprisingly rejected Mr. Sapkowski’s request.

According to the former head of CDPR, the company acquired the licence for the franchise for a sum equivalent to around $9,500. In a decision he would later describe as ‘stupid’ Sapkowski initially turned down their offer of regular royalties, instead opting for a one-time payment. The author has regularly voiced his disinterest in video games and explained his thinking as he initially ‘didn’t believe in their success.’

Sapkowski’s works are currently more popular than ever

It isn’t difficult to see why Sapkowski feels cheated. How could he (or anyone) have known that a relatively small developer could have taken his work and, over the next decade, turn it into a genre defining franchise with over 33million copies sold worldwide?

However, as CDPR has pointed out, the agreement he made with them was perfectly legitimate and any resolution must be respectful of all existing contacts.

Yet the author may still have a chance to get his hands on those millions, as Polish copyright law states that ‘[Article 44] may be invoked when the compensation remitted to the author is too low given the benefits obtained in association with the use of that author’s work.’ His lawyers are also claiming that the initial agreement was only for the first game, rather than the franchise.

Whether wins his compensation or not, he has undoubtedly already benefitted from the success of the games. It is true that his fantasy series was already well established long before the release of the first game in 2007, particularly in Eastern Europe.

However, the CDPR’s increasing popular games introduced players across the world to Geralt of Rivia and the rest of Sapowski’s creations. The author may not have profited directly from the games, but the renewed and widespread interest in his world has led to more sales of his books and new translations (The Witcher novels now exist in over 20 languages, many of which were only published after the release of the games).

Whilst Sapkowski struggles against CDPR, the developers will continue to profit from The Witcher franchise this month with the PC release of Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales on October 23.

It isn’t difficult to see why Sapkowski feels cheated

This single player title is set to utilise the card-based action of Gwent, the surprisingly deep mini-game introduced in The Wild Hunt, in an RPG with over 30 hours of content. Console versions will follow in December. The competitive multiplayer version of Gwent will be also be released later in October, after being in beta for the last two years.

Coupled with Netflix’s upcoming Witcher TV show, these releases show that Sapkowski’s works are currently more popular than ever.

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