Andrzej Sapkowskit, the author of the novels and short stories that inspired The Witcher video games, is seeking $16 million in copyright royalties from CD Projekt Red, the developer who created the popular roleplaying games based on those stories.
CD Projekt Red first acquired the rights to The Witcher in 2000, with an agreement that included a one-time lump sum payment to Sapkowskit for the use of his story's setting and characters. In 2007, the developer released the first The Witcher video game, which received both critical and fan praise. CD Projekt Red then launched two more games in the franchise, including the highly successful The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt in 2015. That title went on to become one of the biggest selling video games of all time, with a total of 33 million copies sold as of 2018. The developer also launched a digital card game based on the franchise, Gwent.
According to Variety, Sapkowskit now wants his fair share of that success in the form of a substantial royalty payment of $16 million. His lawyers argue that the lump sum payment he received was for just for the first game and that CD Projekt Red now owes him at least six percent of the profits that it made from the following titles. However, CD Projekt Red believes that it has already fulfilled its contract with Sapkowskit and released a letter stating its position. Part of that letter reads:
"The company had legitimately and legally acquired copyright to Mr. Andrzej Sapkowski’s work, i.a. 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."
Sapkowskit previously told Eurogamer that he now felt "stupid" in accepting the one-time lump sum payment for the use of his works. He also revealed that CD Projekt Red had initially offered him a percentage of profits on the games, but he did not have the foresight to see how successful those games would eventually become.
Meanwhile, CD Projekt Red is not resting on its previous successes. The company is hard at work on its next game, Cyberpunk 2077, a title that takes inspiration from the tabletop RPG of the same name. Although no one expects the title to release anytime soon, the developer continues to tease fans with screenshots and videos that give players an idea of what to expect. Because of the company's success with The Witcher franchise, fans already have high expectations for the new title.
Given Sapkowskit's comments, it seems that this is a case of hindsight being 20/20 and a cash grab for something he thought would fail and did not. This is likely one of those matters that will get settled outside of court so that CD Projekt Red can continue working on its current and future titles.