Michał Kiciński: Generaly speaking, I don't miss it. If there's a small grain of nostalgia, I open up some strategy game on an iPad and that's good enough for me. It's not that I lost all interest in video games. I still like them, but now I have many more interests and activities which are more interesting than playing.
Back in the day I used to play all night long titles such as Diablo, Starcraft or Counter Strike, and then I had to recover lost health. Always, when I entered a video game world it completely disturbed my day-to-day life. I made a concious decision that there're equally interesting things, even more interesting than games, that simultaneously make me feel better - physically, psychically and emotionally.
You're not about to tell me, that you haven't played the newest Witcher?
- I haven't.
Admittedly neither have I. Even though the game looks brilliant, I am overwhelmed by the fact, that in order to complete it, you have to invest dozens of hours.
- That's exactly what I meant earlier. There comes a moment, when you have to make a decision, how you want to spend that dozens of hours of your life. At this stage, at which I am right now, I believe that the real world is just more interesting than the virtual one, even tho the latter can also be interesting and addicting.
The game industry is doing everything it can for us to dive deeper into the virtual reality. Nowadays the VR headsets, which are getting increasingly popular, cut the player from the real world even further. Are you not scared about that trend?
- No. I myself used VR headsets and I think they're phenomenal. Games themselves are not a threat at all. It's all down to self-control and common sense. It's obvious, that every single thing taken to extreme/overused will hurt us. Regardless if we're talking about the video games, watching TV or even sports.
What do you think about the success of The Witcher 3?
- I think that none of us expected such an unbelievable success of the game and CD Projekt itself. We're talking about a game, that has pretty much won every single award and accolade that you can in this industry.
If we're to expect something more, it would be even better sales of the game. My brother Adam (CD Projekt's CEO) spoke about it at one of the investors conferences. The Witcher 3 was of course a gigantic commercial success, but in terms of sales there's still a lot of room for growth. CD Projekt's ambition is to catch up with the largest developers in the world in that area.
Is "Cyberpunk 2077" the game, which will allow you to reach that goal?
- I think it's absolutely realistic. "The Witcher" was a fantastic material for a game, but it also constraint us. For startes, we're working with a story set in a fantasy world. Secondary, we're promoting a brand, that was mainly known in Central-Eastern Europe, and not in the west.
I'm confident, that Cyberpunk 2077 can be a much bigger commercial success than "The Witcher 3". Futuristic world of the Cyberpunk is much closer to what we know from our daily lives. It's also much more popular, massive as you can tell by its presence in the films, books, comics and games. You have to remember, that fantasy is a much more niche topic.
I believe, that in case of Cyberpunk, CD Projekt can fight not only for prestigious awards and accolades, but also for a huge commercial success. It's hard to achieve both of those in our industry, but it's perfectly doable, as shown by Rockstar and, in the past, Blizzard.
Blizzard was your role model?
- Definitely. Even before CD Projekt started building games, we were Blizzard's distributors in Poland. We were impressed by their philosophy. Blizzard was putting quality over quantity. You had to wait years for their games, and almost every launch was a success both commercially and in terms of quality.
Rockstar has now inherited that philosophy. That company works diligently on every game. They care about even the smallest detail. That results in not only great sales of their games, but also in player's trust.
CD Projekt doesn't have any problem with that trust either.
- Our advantage over many other developer studios came from the fact, that we're raised competing with pirates. When we first published Baldur's Gates many years ago, our main competitor was the 10th-Anniversary Stadium (old communist stadium turned into a huge marketplace in he middle of Warsaw). We had to do everything to gain player's trust and offer them a product, that would be a better deal than a pirated copy. Our philosophy from the beginning was: pirate is just a mistreated client.
CD Projekt is not only a game developer, but also a very dynamic publicly traded company. The past year has been very successful and record-breaking for your company. Where's the ceiling?
- I remember, that when we started our journey on the stock exchange, I told my friends that our shares can be worth even over 35 zloty ($8.61). They laughed. Today they're worth twice as much. It shows that even my very optimistic outlook turned out to be very pessimistic.
Where's the ceiling? I don't know. I am confident that CD Projekt has extremely good perspectives. They're tied to Gwent and the upcoming launch of "Cyberpunk 2077". I don't want to state any numbers because that would just be speculation.
Some people even say, that the recent success of the Polish gaming companies is a stock martket bubble...
- CD Projekt's success, as well as the success of few other developers has definitely changed the way investors view our industry. It's a double-edged sword.
Individual companies should be judged not by CD Projekt's achievement, but by their own successes and perspectives. I urge people to be careful. Achiving targets in the gaming industry isn't that simple as many may think.
You can't assume that investing in the game industy is going to give you high returns. It may turn out, that - just like in every other industry - there are mismanaged companies. For that reason you have to first look at the numbers - financial and sale results, and only then good climate around the entire industry.
You hold almost 11% of CD Projekt, which makes you one of the main shareholders. Do you not have an urge to get involved?
- I fully trust the entire management team of CD Projekt. I don't intend to interfere in their work. The company is in good hands. I am not only talking about the management, but also about the fantastic team, that has spent years building CD Projekt's success.
When can we expect the release of Cyberpunk 2077?
- Ha ha ha... I know as much as any other person, so I just patiently wait. However, Adam has clearly stated during one of the conferences, that the period between the release date announcement and the launch itself may be very short. Creating a short - lets say 6 month - but intensive marketing campaign is a hard to achieve ideal. Only well respected companies that have appropriate financial resources can pull it off. It's sort of a communication blitzkrieg. You have to be well prepared, but you can win a lot.
[the rest of the interview was dedicated to the vegan restaurant that Kiciński is opening in Warsaw]