Okay, we get it, Andrzej Sapkowski, the creator of the Witcher universe, doesn’t like video games. But even more surprising is the fact that he fails to see how much popularity his novels have gained thanks to the electronic adaptations made by CD Projekt RED. In a recent interview with Waypoint, the Polish writer said:
The belief, widely spread by CDPR, that the games made me popular outside of Poland is completely false. I made the games popular. All of my translations in the West – including the English one – were published before the first game.
Well, that’s not quite correct. For starters, the first English translation of the first collecton of short stories about Geralt of Rivia, entitled The Last Wish (originally released in Polish in 1993), was out in 2007, the same year as the first Witcher game. But Sapkowski went further than that, claiming that the games spoil “his” market. The author believes that for every reader he gained thanks to the popularity of the games there is another he lost, because people took him for a writer of books based on games.
I think the result would be about equal, yes. If anything, there are more people who have played the games because they read the books. That's my count, but I'm not sure. I never did any studies.
This claim was countered by Dmitry Glukhowski, author of the Metro novels, which gained worldwide fame after the release of Metro 2033 video game. In harsh words he told Waypoint:
I think that [Andrzej Sapkowski] is totally wrong, and that he's an arrogant mother***er. Without the gaming franchise, the Witcher series would never get this crazy international readership that it has. And it's not just about the gamers but the gaming press and the buzz it creates, and just the feeling of something great and massive and impressive coming out. This got people hooked. He would remain a local Eastern European phenomenon without this, but he would never break into the West. And the same goes for my Metro books.
To add weight to Glukhovsky’s argument, the recent sales data shared by CD Projekt reveal that 96% of the profit made by The Witcher 3 and its two expansions comes from outside Poland, where the books were originally released. This means that the overwhelming majority of fans had their first contact with the Witcher universe thanks to the games (especially the third one). While we don’t know how many of them later read the books, it’s pretty obvious that the novels profited from the games’ success (in the West at least), not the other way round.
The two authors also disagree on video games’ artistic value. While Andrzej Sapkowski refused to collaborate on the Witcher games, claiming that there is no room for narrative depth or sophisticated language in this form of entertainment, Glukhovsky embraced the industry, even up to the point of collaborating with 4A Games on the story for the first game’s sequel Metro: Last Light. He also calls Metro 2033 the world’s first lyrical, sentimental and philosophical 3D shooter. More than that, Glukhovsky allows other authors to create their own stories within his universe.
All in all, media convergence is a thing. Like it or not, the television adaptation of Game of Thrones has undeniably boosted the popularity of George R.R. Martin’s saga as did The Lord of the Rings film trilogy for Tolkien’s books. Why then does Mr. Sapkowski make all that fuss? Could it be his way of saying, “Hey, everyone! I am the author of the Witcher! The books were out first!”? If so, he does a fine job, but he shouldn’t expect many people to like him for that.