The Witcher Interview

Rock, Paper, Shotgun has a pretty in-depth interview looking back at The Witcher with chief designer Michal Medej.
Was it daunting, breaking into a genre dominated by Bioware and Bethesda, and threatened somewhat by MMORPGs?

Personally I find it more motivational than daunting. It's really fair competition and we are not (enemies) on the market, as there are very few good RPGs for players to choose from. Still, we do struggle to get the best reviews, scores and awards. I think we did really well because the genre tycoons grew a little overconfident and stuck to the old clichés. We had to come up with an idea for a new, fresh and modern RPG experience that would still feel familiar to Baldur's Gate or Elder Scrolls fans. I think we were also a little faster in noticing that to compete with the more and more popular MMOs, you must offer a completely different experience. Many single-player RPGs still contain too many gameplay elements that are simply more exciting in a multiplayer game, like money grinding and random drops. Instead we focused on elements that just don't play an important role in MMOs a captivating storyline, meaningful choices, character interactions and emotions.
Would The Witcher would have been very different if made by a Western developer? Or do the fundamental mechanics of a strong roleplaying game outweigh such cultural differences?

Cultural differences definitely have a great impact on the game. The Witcher would certainly have been different, even if it was made by another team in Poland. It might be quite similar if developed by another European company. It'd have been a completely different style of RPG if done by Americans. I can bet I'd never recognize it's even (witcher-like) if the game had been made by a Japanese developer. I'm not even trying to imagine which would be better. but for sure they would be different.
We didn't want to make a (Polish game) as we did want to make it universal and accessible for everyone all over the world. But still we encouraged our designers to use our own culture as a base for ideas, as it's something we understand the best and can use to make The Witcher unique. I think it's a question that requires a much expansive answer.