CD Projekt Red: On the Edge

How CD Projekt Red became one of the most immersive brands in gaming.

Ben Roberts, Content Director

March 12, 2024

7 Min Read
A stuffed Rebecca plush.
A stuffed Rebecca plush.CD Projekt Red

Developers CD Projekt Red gained global recognition after bringing the written works of Andrzej Sapkowski to life in a multi-award-winning video game franchise. Now known globally as “The Witcher,” the franchise sold over 75 million copies through numerous sequels and spin-offs.

After the success of “The Witcher,” fans gave CD Projekt Red global authority to explore new narratives in the form of “Cyberpunk 2077,” selling 25 million copies. This game takes players into a futuristic dystopian setting, brought to life with immersive storytelling and compelling characters against the backdrop of Night City. “Cyberpunk 2077” continues to attract new audiences through downloadable content, new stories, a line of upcoming consumer products and a hugely popular anime adaptation.

License Global interviewed Nick McWhorter, director, global licensing, CD Projekt Red, to learn more about how licensing permeates the storytelling of the development studio and how it plans to bring those properties to life at retail. 

License Global: How has CD Projekt Red become a studio/brand known for immersive storytelling, adaptations, and fan-favorite properties? 

Nick McWhorter: “Story is the most important aspect of our games and has been from the beginning of our history as a studio. “The Witcher” was adapted from the beloved novels of Andrzej Sapkowski, and we wanted the gaming experience to align with the immersive and creative storytelling of the books. We built on these stories to allow players to make their own decisions as they play as Geralt of Rivia, the hero of “The Witcher.” This continued to build over the even more ambitious “The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings” and culminated with “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt,” which was released in 2015. This third game featured everything we honed with the previous two installments.

Still, it was expanded substantially with the introduction of a living and breathing, seamless open world full of stories and experiences to be had, forming a truly immersive RPG (role playing game) adventure. ‘The Witcher” has now expanded into multiple comic series with Dark Horse Comics, a cookbook with Penguin Random House, and many toys, collectibles, apparel, board games and other fan-favorite merchandise.

CD Projekt Red took a similar approach to our other franchise, “Cyberpunk 2077” – based on the original pen-and-paper RPG created by Mike Pondsmith. With “Cyberpunk 2077,” we developed an immersive, story-driven RPG with a wide range of player choice and agency and a deep narrative, both with the main storylines and numerous side quests. All this is packed into a neon-soaked world in the form of Night City that swallows you whole. 


How has that brand grown exponentially as new fans come on board with each new licensed product, episode and adaptation? 

The audience has grown organically as the scope of the games has grown. “The Witcher” is now approaching 20 years as a franchise and is recognized as part of the pop culture landscape between novels, games, comics and TV shows. The merchandise programs have developed and grown through this evolution, providing our fans with toys, collectibles, apparel, board games, accessories and more from our best-in-class licensees for these categories. 

What can you tell us about how “Cyberpunk 2077” is coming to life for fans through the original story, the added content, the anime adaptations and the fans following it gathered? 

We want our fans to be able to engage with the worlds we develop regularly. “Cyberpunk 2077” and the recent expansion, “Phantom Liberty,” provide hours upon hours of content and plenty of replayability. Our team also considered developing this franchise as a platform for telling exciting and thought-provoking stories early on, developing original comic series with Dark Horse Comics even before the game was released.

We now have many comic series, “The World of Cyberpunk” lore book, and an original novel “NO_COINCIDENCE” from Orbit Books, penned by acclaimed sci-fi writer Rafał Kosik. And, of course, there is the highly acclaimed anime series “Cyberpunk: Edgerunners,” created by CD Projekt Red in collaboration with Studio Trigger, which is available to watch on Netflix. We’re thinking about doing even more with the setting. For example, the followup to “Cyberpunk 2077” is already in the works at CD Projekt Red North America, with the core team establishing themselves recently in our newly opened Boston Studio. We’ve recently announced a collaboration with Anonymous Content on a live-action Cyberpunk series.” 


What is the key to bringing a property to life through anime adaptations? 

Cyberpunk as a genre has a long history in the world of anime, going back to classic films like “Ghost in the Shell” and “Akira.” We knew that anime would be a perfect fit for “Cyberpunk 2077” and were very excited that a leading studio like Trigger wanted to collaborate with us on the series. Our studio collaborated with Trigger on an original storyline set in the vast world of Night City, the game’s setting.

The approach was about telling the best possible story from the “Cyberpunk 2077” world by providing Trigger with all the necessary references. Our writing teams worked closely with their directors and animation team to create a story that can stand on its own as an anime and remain true to the world of Night City we created. And it works both ways, as you can even find some cool (and heartbreaking) nods to the anime in the game, which we introduced in one of the updates for “Cyberpunk 2077.”

How is your licensing strategy adapting and changing each year, and what do you hope to bring to the market in 2024?

It’s always about the merchandise best reflecting where our franchises are going. We’re currently most focused on continued programs supporting the recent release of “Cyberpunk 2077” on current-generation systems and the “Phantom Liberty” expansion. “Phantom Liberty” featured actor Idris Elba as Solomon Reed, a key character in the storyline, so it’s been great to explore figurines and collectibles featuring his character.

“Cyberpunk: Edgerunners” has also been very popular with fans worldwide, and we are actively working on multiple programs around the anime, with figures and collectibles rolling out globally, as well as regional apparel programs in North America, Europe and particularly Japan. With “The Witcher,” the game series has now eclipsed over 75 million copies sold and has an ongoing following with both core and casual fans. Some of our most popular programs include tabletop games from Go On Board with “The Witcher: Old World” and “The Witcher: Path of Destiny,” which have reached over $14 million combined in crowdfunding – and “The Old World” now also has a strong presence in retail. “The Witcher” continues to have an evergreen merchandise program of collectible figurines, gifts, accessories and apparel. Still, we’re always looking for new and exciting ways to expand our lineup with items that gamers and Witcher enthusiasts will enjoy. 


Gamers are some of the most engaged and enthusiastic pop culture consumers out there. These players dedicate hundreds of hours to the franchises they love, and the most passionate play our titles multiple times over. We strive to develop licensing partnerships to provide our players with a wide range of high-quality merchandise to continue to engage and delight as they await the next game or media release. Most of us in the industry are trying to balance direct-to-consumer e-commerce programs, like our own CD Projekt Red Gear store, with in-person pop-up shops, such as we’ve done in Japan and at conventions, to engage our wide range of fans.

While the global retail landscape is complicated, we plan to continue to develop entertaining and compelling ways for our fans to interact with our franchises as we develop future game releases and media projects. With an upcoming live-action Cyberpunk 2077 project on the board and more touchpoints for “The Witcher” in the works, CD Projekt Red continues to bring its adaptations and iterations of intellectual property to life through entertainment, fan-driven consumer products and lore-filled touchpoints as fan-bases continue to grow worldwide.

About the Author(s)

Ben Roberts

Content Director, License Global

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