CD Projekt RED Q1’23 Financial Results Overview
Today we will have a deep dive into the recent report of CD Projekt Red (WSE: CDR). We will go through the company’s financials, examine how two of its major IPs are doing lately and have a look at its transmedia activities.
Financial Overview — Drop Before the Growth
First of all, let’s have a brief look at the company’s latest financial results. In Q1’23 CDPR generated around $39.8m Revenue (-24.2% YoY) and $17.1m EBITDA (-21.8% YoY). This drop may seem significant on paper, but the historical dynamic of the company’s financials shows that the company is used to reporting quite volatile numbers from quarter to quarter. Considering the rare releases of new titles — there was a five-year gap between The Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk 2077 — CDPR’s quarter-to-quarter is relying heavily on transmedia activity, as well as next-get games upgrades and DLC, which boost sales of the related titles. In this particular case, Q1’22 was the quarter when the next-gen upgrade for Cyberpunk 2077 came out, fixing many problems the game had at the start and significantly improving its graphics and performance on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S consoles.
Data source: CDPR Q1’23 Consolidated Report
In Q1’23, Revnue coming from sales of the company’s Revenue constituted 75% of the whole revenue, with the top sources being:
— Sales of Cyberpunk 2077;
— Sales of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt with Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine expansions;
— Licence Revenue from CD PROJEKT RED studio franchises;
— Revenue related to other products of the CD PROJEKT RED segment: the GWENT games: The Witcher Card Game, The Witcher 2: The Assassins of Kings, The Witcher and Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales.
It is worth noticing that another 25% of the total Revenue comes from GOG store, which is a great asset to stabilize CDPR’s Revenue flow between the releases of the games.
However, the company is still heavily dependent on two of its latest titles, The Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk 2077. That is why, to better understand the company’s short-term future, we are going to examine each of the titles and then have a look at the company’s work with those IPs.
Cyberpunk 2077 — fixed but still not all promises fulfilled
Cyberpunk 2077, the second franchise of the Polish studio, played a very cruel joke on the company. The revenue generated in Q4’20, when the game was released, turned out to be higher than the total revenue the company saw during the five previous years! However, the poor technical conditions of the game, especially on PS4 and Xbox One consoles, almost destroyed the developer’s reputation. Plummeting share price, law issues, and unprecedented refund policy from PlayStation — there has been everything.
In 2023, however, the release state of Cyberpunk 2077 doesn’t look like something extraordinary. The famous ‘yellow letter’ by the company’s executive was just the beginning of an infamous trend we observe today. Halo Infinite, Battlefield 2042, Forspoken, Jedi: Survivor, and LOTR Gollum are just a few of the titles, which showed poor performance at the start followed by apology letters from the developers on Twitter. As a result, many people start considering these letters to be a part of new marketing strategies.
Source: CD Projekt Red
Nevertheless, CDPR acknowledged its mistakes and promised to bring the game up to par. As of Jun’23, Cyberpunk 2077 has received a huge number of fixes and patches and shows a decent performance on every platform available. The additional interest to the game was fueled by the anime series Cyberpunk: Edgerunners released on Netflix in Sep’22. All this make the game the most Revenue generating title of the company today.
Not all of the promises were fulfilled though. Initially, the company planned to release the first free DLC in the H1’22, but we didn’t see any of the free DLCs for the game yet. The first big add-on, called Phantom Liberty and featuring Hollywood star Idris Elba, is now planned to be released in 2023. The exact release date is expected to be revealed during Summer Games Fest this week. Besides, the company won’t release any paid DLCs, though there were such plans before the scandals around the release of the game.
After over 2.5 years since the release of the game, Cyberpunk 2077 is the best-performing title in terms of Revenue so far with over 20 million copies sold. Looking at how The Witcher 3 manages to keep being a good-selling game after so many years, we can expect the same long-term support for Cyberpunk 2077 in the future. Speaking of The Witcher, it’s time to dive deeper into the game’s recent performance.
The Witcher — Stable Revenue Source for Many Years
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is doing great. After the release of the updated version of the game for PS5 and Xbox Series X/S consoles in Dec’22, total game sales reached a colossal 50 million copies. This makes The Witcher 3 the ninth best-selling game of all time. This achievement is especially significant since the game is purely a single-player experience. As for the whole game franchise, it has surpassed 75 million copies sold.
One of the keys to the success of The Witcher franchise is its transmedia approach and continuous development of the franchise. In the graph we presented above you saw how the release of two seasons of The Witcher series on Netflix has positively influenced the Revenue flow of the company. The third season of the series is scheduled for release this month already.
However, the series still has its own problems. First, the main star of the main show Henry Cavill will leave the show after season 3, and Liam Hemsworth would be taking over the role. What’s more, the first season of the spin-off series The Witcher: Blood Origin, released in Q4’22, received negative feedback from the audience.
Nevertheless, The Witcher franchise development goes beyond the Netflix series.
In 2021, CDPR together with GO ON BOARD announced and released a board game The Witcher: Old World, which received mostly positive feedback from the audience.
In 2015, a real-life Witcher school live-action role-playing event was organized by 5 Elements in cooperation with CDPR. The event became annual and was closed in May’22 due to reasons unknown. During 7 years, the Witcher school attracted more than 3000 people, who were taught fencing, leatherwork, how to cast magical signs, and more.
CDPR even made a try to expand in AR gaming with The Witcher Monster Slayer. However, the game was not able to attract enough audience and the company made a decision to close it by the end of Jun’23. According to AppMagic, the game has generated a total of $1.8m Revenue and 1.9 million installs.
CDPR is currently working on several projects in the Witcher universe. The first one is a remake of the original Witcher. The second one is a spin-off of the series called Project Sirius. Finally, The Witcher 4, under the code name Polaris, is in development as well.
Considering the ever-growing development of The Witcher IP, we can expect more the similar activities for Cyberpunk 2077 as well. As for now, CDPR already created an animated series Cyberpunk Edgerunners, in partnership with the anime house Trigger, Inc. The show received very positive feedback both from the audience and media and boosted the popularity of the IP. More than that, CDPR is now preparing a major Cyberpunk 2077 add-on with another Hollywood star and will start to work on a sequel (Project Orion) in 2024. In addition to The Witcher and Cyberpunk 2077 franchises, the studio started internal concept work on the third franchise under the code name Hadar. We don’t know anything about it so far but can expect more news in the future.
Two IPs Shaping the Future
CD Projekt Red is an example of how a gaming IP can evolve into a full multimedia experience. The Witcher, which began as a series of books by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, helped to establish the reputation for CDPR, and has expanded into a full entertainment IP, including TV shows, comics, and gaming. Cyberpunk 2077 is following a similar path — even the IP, though not as heavily, is based on a third-party franchise, a role-playing game by R. Talsorian Games. Despite initial challenges, the company has managed to overcome them through ongoing fixes and support for the game, attracting more players.
As a developer of AAA single-player games, the company is doing great, always fueling interest in its franchises and attracting new players between the releases of new titles. Still, this business model suggests the majority of Revenue comes in the first few weeks after the release, and Cyberpunk 2077 proves it. So it was a matter of time and growth before CDPR switched to parallel AAA games production.
In addition, CDPR is considering the implementation of the multiplayer mode in its games and initially planned to start with Cyberpunk 2077, however, the current plans are unknown. Moreover, as was proved by GTA, multiplayer can be turned into a stand-alone game with stable revenue inflow. Now, with several titles under development, the company might accelerate its growth and reach new heights. The only concern is that long production periods have always been compensated with the quality of games, especially when it comes to telling the stories. Moreover, the new games are developed by the acquired companies, which never worked on the series before. So will the company manage to keep the same level of quality while speeding up and paralleling the development process with newly acquired companies? We never know, but let’s hope that the new spin-off Witcher games will not make the same mistakes as the TV series spin-off made.