Poland: the amazing country that gave the game to Obama as a national treasure?

This article is from WeChat public number: Aotekuaitan (ID: aotekuaitan), author: Aotekuaitan

This is a photo taken in Eastern Europe in the 1980s. The boy in red on the far left is called Marcin Iwinski, whose biggest hobby is playing games.

Poland: the amazing country that gave the game to Obama as a national treasure?

However, during the Cold War, the East-West divide made it almost impossible for Poland to play European and American games, but this was not a problem for Malkin, but a business opportunity. He first “smuggled” many games that were not available in the Polish market by trading game cassettes with players from other countries by mail, and played them himself, and then used them to open a pirated game cassette store. Due to the lack of copyright protection laws in Poland at the time, Marcin made a fortune.

In 1994, not content with selling pirated discs, Marcin co-founded a company called CD Projekt, or CDPR for short, and has since become the largest game company in Poland, with The Witcher series and Cyberpunk 2077 among its titles. And it is said that because it does the game too conscientious, it did not make a bunch of DLC (material) to cut leeks, so it is also called “Polish stupid donkey” by Chinese players.

This “Polish donkey” is just a microcosm of the game industry in Poland and Eastern Europe as a whole. At present, Eastern Europe’s game consumption value has reached $4 billion, equivalent to the sum of Australia + New Zealand + Latin America, and the growth rate is more than 7%, which is nearly twice of Western Europe.

Among them, Poland, with a population of only 38 million, is the second largest game consumer market in Eastern Europe, accounting for 18% of the entire Eastern European game consumption, with 2 out of every 5 people playing games and 15% of players over the age of 55. During last year’s epidemic, the Polish government also organized a national gaming tournament “Quarantine Cup” to keep people at home.

In addition to people playing games in their own country, Polish gaming companies are also trying to sell their games abroad. Currently, Poland is the 7th largest producer of games in Europe and 7th in the world in terms of independent game revenue, with 96% of the $583 million in sales in 2019 coming from exports, and many games have a good international reputation. For example, the latest version of The Witcher 3 by Polish Dumbass sold more than 50 million copies in 2020, sweeping more than 800 awards worldwide.

So why is it that Poland, which many people stereotype as having little presence other than Chopin, instead has two brilliance in the gaming industry? How did the Polish game industry develop? In this video, I will talk about these questions.


To understand the game industry, we must first have a basic understanding of the production and classification of games.

Games can be broadly divided into two types: handheld online games and console games. For handheld games and online games, the overall technical level of the game is not so important. What is more critical is the density of consumer population and Internet infrastructure, that is, how many people can access the Internet and how many people can use smartphones. So the representative handheld and online game markets are generally China, Korea and Japan.

But the console game market is completely different. The console game is more like an artwork + industrial product, which requires long-term technical accumulation and project management experience. To use an analogy, handheld and online games are more like the Internet industry, while console games are more like the pharmaceutical industry and industry. The latter is usually the main market in Europe and America because of the high initial investment, so the later unit price and the configuration requirements of the equipment are also higher.

Polish games, mainly take the route of console games. On the one hand, this is because Poland is close to Western Europe, and is more influenced by the game industry in Western Europe; on the other hand, it is also because in the 1990s, the Internet was not yet popular in the life of the general public, and even if you want to engage in online games, you can’t do it.

But as I said earlier, how did Poland, which is not well-developed, take this path because of the large initial investment in console games? I’ll take the history of Poland’s stupid ass as an example. After founder Marcin made his first bucket of money by selling pirated copies, he and his partners decided to turn into an agent in 1998, like Tencent in the early days, to say goodbye to selling pirated copies by publishing other people’s games.

In 1998, a game called Bode’s Gate showed Malchin an opportunity. He believed the game would be a big hit in Poland, so he went all out to distribute the game, adopting a very aggressive localization strategy, translating the interface and voiceover into Polish, and adding many peripheral gifts that players would like in the game’s packaging.

Despite the cost of the aggressive strategy, the quality of the product allowed the game to sell 18,000 copies on its first day of release. This was an almost astronomical figure in Poland, where piracy was rife at the time.

After the success of Bode’s Gate, which made another fortune, Malkin thought about making his own game instead of just representing someone. So with the cheaply purchased “Demon Hunter” IP, Polish Donkey launched “The Witcher” 1, 2 and 3, which became a global hit and officially became one of the major European game makers.

The history of Polish Donkey is rather brief, but in fact, we can see that the rise of the game industry is very similar to the development of industrial manufacturing in late-developing countries in a sense: they all do the dirty work first, and then join the advanced international supply chain, while helping people to save money by doing odd jobs, and gradually climbing up the industrial chain, and finally forming the ability of self-research and mastering the right to speak.

Of course, a country, especially a small country’s industry, often needs government support to become an internationally competitive industry with special features. The Polish government has set up a creative project fund for game companies, and companies can apply for it regardless of their size. 11 Studios, which produced “This is My War,” was able to get rid of its worries with this fund.

In addition, almost every university in Poland has a game program, and last June, the Polish government even announced that Polish liberal arts teachers could choose to make “This is My War,” based on the Siege of Sarajevo, a mandatory part of their curriculum.

In 2011, during U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Poland, the then Prime Minister of Poland Tusk even “The Witcher 2” game as a national gift to Obama, the government so to bring goods to the country’s games, in addition to Poland is estimated to have no one.


In fact, the development trajectory of the entire Eastern European game industry is also somewhat similar to that of Poland.

First of all, because of the relatively close to Western Europe, it is convenient to contact the whole European and American game industry. On the one hand, a large number of European and American games entered Eastern Europe through piracy channels, and although they did not make money, they completed consumer education and cultivated the game market in Eastern Europe.

In addition, the capital and technology of many Eastern European game companies also come from Europe and America. The “Bode’s Gate”, which made a big profit for Polish Donkey, was licensed by Canadian producer BioWare. And when the Polish donkeys were in trouble in developing “The Witcher 1”, it was BioWare that provided them with the key game engine technology.

The second is the cheap labor costs of Eastern Europe. As mentioned earlier, games are also an industrial product that requires the full cooperation of dozens of departments and hundreds or thousands of people, so labor costs have always been a big part of game development costs. Because of the cheap labor and good quality, the cost of game development in Eastern Europe is almost 1/3 of that in Western Europe, for example, various game studios in Romania, although lacking the ability of self-research, can always get the OEM orders from the big factories in Western Europe.

The third is the special nature of the game market itself. Unlike other industries, games are less competitive internationally and talents flow more freely. A good game engineer may work in Poland today and go to the US tomorrow. And the freedom of movement of people makes the spillover effect of large companies particularly obvious.

A large number of game engineers flowing out of Donkey Kong go to other smaller game studios, further contributing to the development of the entire game industry. 11 bit, the Polish game company that developed games like This War of Mine and Frostpunk, has many former employees of Donkey Kong.

As a result, gaming products are probably also the most global in their DNA. Polish game exports account for 96 percent of total revenue, while 97 percent of consumer spending goes to buying games from other regions. This gives a game company the opportunity to have a global market, regardless of the country where he was born. This is especially crucial for small studios that make small budget games, because if you make a good product, you can reap a lot of purchases and reputation through global platforms like steam.


In 2016, It’s My War became an industry hit not long after it hit the Chinese game sharing platform Tap Tap, making more and more Polish game companies interested in the Chinese market. On the other hand, with the development of China’s game industry, especially the intensification of the wave of games going abroad, the demand for game industry talents in China is increasing day by day.

Although the world’s best game talents are in Silicon Valley, if you go to Silicon Valley to poach people you will have to face competition with international game giants, and the cost will be frighteningly high. At this time, you may want to look at the Eastern European countries represented by Poland, there may be unexpected discoveries.

On the other hand, there is also a gradual upgrading process of the public’s consumption of games. As China’s economy grows and national income rises, more and more gamers are trying out expensive console games, which is precisely the strength of the Polish gaming industry. Just like the Ukrainian aero-engine engineers nourished the Chinese aviation industry, the game industry in Eastern Europe may also give a hand in the tide of Chinese games going abroad in the future.

Posted by:CoinYuppie,Reprinted with attribution to:https://coinyuppie.com/poland-the-amazing-country-that-gave-the-game-to-obama-as-a-national-treasure/
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