Join GamesBeat Summit 2021 this April 28-29. Register for a free or VIP pass today.
The video game industry in Poland is fast becoming one of the most respected and prolific in Europe. GamesBeat spent a week visiting some of the game development and film studios making a worldwide name for themselves. You can read the stories that came out of our visit here, including our in-depth look at the growth of the gaming industry. The Polish government paid for Daniel Crawley’s trip. Our coverage remains objective.
For a project first announced way back in May 2012, we know precious little about sci-fi role-playing game Cyberpunk 2077.
Visiting developer CD Projekt Red in its Praga-district headquarters in Warsaw, Poland last month, it was clear that this lack of news is entirely intentional. Getting any information about this game’s development was nearly impossible. “We don’t talk about Cyberpunk,” laughed Tadek Zieliński, the project manager on the upcoming mobile mutilplayer game, The Witcher: Battle Arena.
But nearly seven million YouTube viewers have watched the stunning teaser trailer for Cyberpunk 2077, which Polish film and animation experts Platige Image created and released in January 2013. It’s a trailer born from an image found in the manual of the original 1998 pen-and-paper role-playing game, Cyberpunk 2020 — a trailer that showed an inspiring vision of a game that CD Projekt Red hadn’t yet created.
Surely the team must have something more to tell?
The secret world of Cyberpunk
I sat down with Michał Platkow-Gilewski, the head of marketing at CD Projekt Red, in one the studio’s meeting rooms, this one themed around its famous Witcher series of role-playing games. Swords hung from the wall, and a map featuring the world of the Witcher covered the ceiling. But despite the medieval theme, the futuristic subject of Cyberpunk 2077 came up during our chat about the studio’s rapid growth since its inception in 2002.
The number of employees is “changing super-fast,” Platkow-Gilewski told me. “It’s way above 200, maybe closer to 300. But this is divided between [the] Witcher team; [the] core team, which is responsible for engine, administration, marketing, finance, et cetera; and there’s a Cyberpunk team as well.”
Ah. So what could he tell me about CyberPunk and where it’s at? “Nothing. Zero,” he said.
I pressed a little, talking about how the spellbinding trailer reportedly came from little more than a panel of an old instruction manual. At that time, they had nothing more, right? “Nothing more,” said Platkow-Gilewski. “Now we have way more, but still we are not talking about it.”
But Platkow-Gilewski did share a little more information about the top-secret project, explaining that some artists in the studio are better at creating firearms, while some are better at swords. That defines whether they are working on the Witcher core team or the Cyberpunk core team. Other artists, such as lighting experts, are working across both projects.
As for the total size of the Cyberpunk team, “it is changing,” according to Platkow-Gilewski. “There were probably around 50 people, 60 people, but then a lot of people came to work on Cyberpunk, but they are, like, for two projects [Cyberpunk 2077 and The Witcher 3].”
A recruitment trailer
The people who came to CD Projekt Red to work on Cyberpunk, many from overseas, came mainly because of that incredible trailer, which was part of the reason the studio commissioned it.
“Yes, we needed people for Cyberpunk,” said Platkow-Gilewski. “I think that was the best recruitment announcement you can possibly imagine — and one of the most expensive as well. It worked, yeah. The Cyberpunk team is truly international and right now in the company we have people from more than 20 countries, probably. The last time I checked there was 19, but since then a lot of new people have moved in.”
But isn’t there a worry that creating a trailer to help with recruitment offers a vision of a game to fans that’s impossible to live up to? The pressure on CD Projekt Red to match that vision is surely huge. “I’m not afraid of that,” said the confident Platkow-Gilewski.
With the total studio team having more than doubled since the start of work on The Witcher 3, I wondered if there would be a big drop-off when development on that game was finally complete.
“I don’t think there will be a big change because we need a lot of people for the next project [Cyberpunk 2077],” said Platkow-Gilewski. “We are still one big family; we have more plans than capacities. With our plans, we have barely time for holidays after the project because we want to jump into new stuff.”
With such assured talk of what’s coming next, I asked one last time if he’d share some more about the mysterious Cyberpunk project: “One day I will. In one year we can meet and talk about that.”