CD Projekt Red talks control and internal PR - MCV

CD Projekt Red talks control and internal PR

Develop sat down recently with Michal Platkow-Gilewski, Head of Marketing and PR at CD Projekt Red, to discuss the virtues of handling PR internally at a development studio.
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There's almost total vertical integration when you factor in GOG as a retail channel. How did the decision to retain so much control over the process from top to bottom come about?

The thing is that the whole company has been around for 20 years, because we started as a distributor of games in Poland. Then in 2002, we opened CD Projekt Red (the dev studio) then in 2008 we opened GOG.com.

We believe that it’s better to do everything with our own hands. Of course sometimes you have to measure the pros and cons and it may be better or faster or whatever to use someone external. But in the long run if you can make it with your own hands, it will be better because you care more, and you can focus only on that. Even if you have the best teams helping you from other companies, they’ll probably have one, two or more different projects, and we have only our project. We can set our priorities in the proper way and we can deliver whatever we want.

So to what extent to you end up still having to rely on the expertise of external companies for worldwide launches?

We are self-publishing and we are using regional partners only as distributors. Of course, we use their marketing teams, but it’s more like the executive part of the marketing, and also a lot of consulting because they know their markets better. In the headquarters we have marketing and PR and publishing and production and all the stuff which you’ll find in the final game. There are 20 something people working in marketing and PR.

Does this benefit the PR and Marketing people? Being that close to the development process?

Yeah. Definitely. The whole idea of having marketing and PR in-house was for the team to know everything about the game and be able to create real communication.

When you’re using a publisher or distributor, in most cases they have their PR agencies - people talking about the game who know the game from people who know the game from people who know the developers. I’m sitting right in the middle of the studio, and we have the review screens everywhere so we can watch the game everyday, we can play the game everyday, we can talk during lunch with all the developers we want and we can ask about our favourite features.

If we have an idea, we can consult that idea with the team as well, and it goes even deeper. While we are creating the games, it’s a common effort. So of course there are people responsible for any given feature or part of the game, but they are consulting with others as well.

Sometimes everyone, even HR, administration or finance can influence and help the game. When you’re talking about the skills for the monsters, for example, we created a huge table and everyone could throw their ideas and we were choosing what was cool and what wasn’t.

Of course, the design team was responsible for what was going to get picked up - not just which was voted up the most but which ones were the best - because they know everything about this or that aspect, but everyone can influence it, which is just super cool because we’re all more engaged in it.

I’m fighting for one feature, for example. If it’ll make it into the game, I’ll be very happy.

Can I ask what that feature is?

No, but it’s connected with sheep.

Right. How does this close-knit nature of everyone working together affect the messaging of the game to the public?

A lot, because we can truly see what the game's about and what’s different about the game. Then we have to match that with the face of the marketing campaign, so we’re talking about different aspects in different moments of the game.

In the beginning, we have to address The Witcher fans (all those who’ve played the previous games) because they were waiting most keenly for news, so that's the more hardcore messaging.

But now that we’re closer to the release date, we can address those more casual gamers who maybe don’t know the game. So we’re looking at it from the angles which may be comprehensible for everyone, even those who don’t know the previous games. And we have a lot of knowledge to be able to do that. I don’t know the game from the fact sheets - I know the game from the game. I can talk about the game freely and I don’t have to check what’s happening. That’s pretty cool and it makes me feel comfortable as well because I know what I’m talking about.

Thank you for your time!

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