What just happened? The Witcher franchise, especially the brilliant third entry and its expansions, have made developer CD Projekt a lot of money. So much, in fact, that the author of the original books, Andrzej Sapkowski, is demanding $16 million in additional royalties from the company, which has refused his request.
Back in the early 2000s, Sapkowski, who had eight of his Witcher novels published between 1992 and 2013, sold the video game rights to CD Projekt for a lump sum rather than a percentage of the profits.
The Polish company says it received “an official demand for payment filed by plenipotentiaries of Mr Andrzej Sapkowski.” The author and his team say the original deal was only for the first game in the Witcher series, and he is owed royalties for all the subsequent titles.
A translated letter from Sapkowski’s lawyers states that “careful reading of your contracts concluded with the Author might lead one to conclude that, if the company did effectively acquire any copyright at all, it concerned only the first in a series of games, and therefore distribution of all other games, including their expansions, add-ons etc, is, simply speaking, unlawful.”
Sapkowski and his legal team say he is due between 5 percent and 15 percent of the games’ profits. His lawyers are asking for 6 percent of the profits gained from the Witcher series, which works out at 60 million Polish zlotys (over $16 million).
Sapkowski said in an interview with Eurogamer last year that CD Projekt originally offered him a cut of the games' profits, but he said no and took a single, large fee as he didn’t believe they would be successful. A move he called “stupid.”
Not surprisingly, CD Projekt has rejected Sapkowski's demands. “In the Company’s opinion the demands expressed in the notice are groundless with regard to their merit as well as the stipulated amount,” wrote the developer.
“The Company had legitimately and legally acquired copyright to Mr. Andrzej Sapkowski’s work, insofar as is required for its use in games developed by the Company. All liabilities payable by the Company in association therewith have been properly discharged.”
Given that CD Projekt isn’t about to hand over $16 million to Sapkowski, it appears that the case could be heading for the courts. With a new Gwent-based standalone game—Thronebreaker—about to be released, and the Netflix TV series set to arrive in 2020 (in which Sapkowski serves as creative consultant), it looks as if the Witcher name will be in the spotlight for plenty more years to come.