CD Projekt’s proposed ESG Ambitions have drawn the ire of fans, including YouTuber ArchCast — who explains exactly how this proposal will ruin the developer’s games moving forward.
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Speaking to investors earlier this month, Board Member and CFO Piotr Nielubowicz discussed CD Projekt’s approach to ESG; business frameworks for Environmental, Social, and corporate Governance. Likewise, Nielubowicz is also “responsible for ESG reporting.”
Nielubowicz emphasizes the company will take a “strategic approach to ESG issues in the context of our business,” and their approach will not only reflect their “identity and values” but also “takes into consideration the interests of our stakeholders, identified in a relevance survey.”
The survey was carried out for the first time in 2021, and its results were used for a list of “important” ESG topics, and some points were already mentioned in their 2021 Sustainability Report. Nielubowicz then discussed how ESG would affect their products.
“Although this is perhaps not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about video games and ESG, we believe that our primary means of influencing the world at large is by developing games which can enrich gamers’ perceptions,” Nielubowicz stated. “This is why we do not shy away from confronting socially important topics in the stories we tell.”
“Our games depict social inequalities, the various paths people take through life, and the problems they face. We want to make sure that the characters populating the worlds we create represent a diverse set of mindsets, social groups, and backgrounds,” he explained.
The CFO then cites how some related themes were tackled in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Cyberpunk 2077. “Our products reach millions of people around the world so we want to focus on what’s important and encourage gamers to reflect upon the choices that surround them.”
Other major points included CD Projekt striving “to ensure that we’re a company people love working at” by allowing ambitious projects, career development paths, and internal training courses. “Together we create a diverse and inclusive working environment of which we are very proud.” Nielubowicz reiterated the company’s drive for a friendly and comfortable work environment.
Along with green agendas and aiming to become carbon neutral, CD Projekt’s values and corporate governance segment was detailed. While Nielubowicz stated they “do things the CD Projekt Red way — not necessarily adopting schematic approaches,” he insisted they were compliant with regulations, and “first and foremost, transparent.”
This meant “open dialogue with our teams, responsible communication with gamers, and improving our ESG disclosures, are the cornerstones of our strategy for building long-term, trust-based relationships.” Nielubowicz also pointed out CD Projekt ensured a strong foundation for IP protection, privacy, and cyber-security.
Nielubowicz concluded with how CD Projekt felt “a broarder sense of responsibility in terms of reacting to events around us. We care, and we get actively involved in the face of extraordinary circumstances — such as the COVID pandemic or the war in Ukraine.”
“We also intend to be socially active on a daily basis.” An example given for this was the second edition of the ‘Dziewczyny w Grze’ (Girls in the Game) scholarship and mentoring program.
However, it would seem the outlined proposals have not sat well with fans. Using third party tools to view dislikes, we see at this time of writing the video has 4.8 thousand dislikes, to only 26o likes.
Comments are also scathing, condemning CD Projekt for not focusing on games development, prioritizing investor desires over the fans’, that their future games would feature political proselytizing, and that it would undo all the good faith earned fixing Cyberpunk 2077.
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Another of those was YouTuber ArchCast, discussing CD Projekt’s new efforts, and opening “This does explain a lot. CD Projekt’s quality has been slipping for years now, and strong ESG portfolio coincidentally, also takes years. As contrary to popular belief, it is quite difficult to sell one’s soul to the devil; and the ESG system is hands down the closest thing we have to ye olde Satan here in the modern day financial world.”
He summarized ESGs as “actively ruining geekdom for many years now,” and that companies earn a better score “depending on how well it kowtows to a series of primarily political and ethical demands.” He then to recants and state it is “purely” about those demands, as “at no point does the value or the quality of the actual product being produced, affect the ESG score.”
Nonetheless, this score for supporting “far-left talking points” determines “a company’s access to a truly astonishing quantity of investor money,” estimates allegedly surpassing $1 trillion. ArchCast condemned CD Projekt’s video as “a fantastic example, as it could have been written entirely by a bot. It is a constant stream of buzzword soup that means nothing, and frequently contradicts itself.”
For example, ArchCast highlights how Nielubowicz boasted about not following schematics, only seconds later to state they followed regulations. He also took issue with how CD Projekt felt diversity and inclusion were important, yet had a woman’s only scholarship.
He mocks CD Projekt’s ESG Ambitions not including “make good games that aren’t buggy and/or unplayable messes on launch,” in clear reference to Cyberpunk 2077, and condemns a company attempting to reach those goals as “wh-ring themselves out,” and that it creates a conflict of interest between investors and consumers.
Looking back at “the old system,” ArchCast explains investors focused on what was likely to make a profit, and as such minimized any conflicts with gamers who simply wanted a good game. Even so, he admits such a system meant “head-honchos and money-men” chased over-saturated popular trends, and ignored genres like horror and strategy that weren’t as profitable.
“But that, simply amounted to a difference in views in what was a good game, as the aim was still to create products that people want to buy. With ESG investors however, our interests are completely unaligned,” ArchCast laid out. “In fact they are the antithesis of one another. I want a good game, they want a political fluff piece to feel good about.”
He compared ESG-focused games having the same issues as ’90s environmentalist movies, explaining that putting “the message above the medium” ended up lowering their quality; a trend that saw filmmakers failing to focus on making a good movie first and foremost.
ArchCast proposed this is “even more true for video games.” Film audiences suspend their disbelief for a few hours, with the creator balancing “the message” and the film for its run time. Video games can take tens of hours, and are far more personal and immersive. “You are a part of it, you are an integral piece within that story, and thus you will be hypersensitive to everything that is not that story.”
The YouTuber gives an example of ESG-driven games breaking immersion with a medieval village with abnormally diverse characters despite the time period and era. The reason for their presence becomes transparent.
“I know that decision was made in a boardroom, not in a writing room, and so I know that I am no longer in the game world, I am no longer in the experience. I am in some European Union Executive’s wet dream rather than my own video game experience,” ArchCast mocked.
He further insists rather than being an outlandish hypothetical scenario, “this is what happens every single solitary time a video game company or a geekdom company of any sort starts getting onto the woke drug of the ESG score,” as they try to make a game that checks as many ESG boxes as possible instead of directing their efforts towards making a good game.
ArchCast suggests this priority of investment over sales is shown through CD Projekt’s recent acceleration; planning to launch more titles over the next few years, compared to previously working on only a few projects over the same period of time.
Unsurprisingly, the content creator proposes this “shotgun” approach is the polar opposite to what CD Projekt’s goals should be. He cites the recent success of the Cyberpunk 2077: Edgerunners anime — where “there is not a speck of politics in it,” focused on quality entertainment, and featured content that would directly oppose the ESG desires — which resulted in a surge of Cyberpunk 2077 players.
“It is very clear what the audience actually want out of CD Projekt Red, but with the introduction of ESG scores, I very much so doubt they’re going to be getting it. Because now, CD Projekt Red isn’t making a game to sell to us. They’re making a game so that they can get more investment money,” the YouTuber warned.
Despite this, ArchCast feels as ESGs will soon meet political and economic rejection. This is due in part to not only ESGs being partly responsible for the west’s energy crisis, but that ESG investors will soon avoid “flushing their money down the toilet” to promote political messages over profit, as the economy suffers as well.
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