In 2013, Polish game developer CD Projekt Red released a cryptic trailer showcasing cinematics for a new project titled Cyberpunk 2077. Two years later, CD Projekt Red released The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, one of the most critically acclaimed games of the last generation, garnering almost 260 Game of the Year awards. CD Projekt Red established itself as a pioneer in game design and quality, filling fans’ heads with dreams of this new Cyberpunk game.
Remembering that cryptic trailer and brimming with hype, fans returned to the video in search of a release date. All they saw was, “Coming: When it’s ready.”
Looking back, that phrase was a piece of devilish irony that is the cherry on top of one of the biggest disasters in video game history. CD Projekt Red published Cyberpunk 2077 on Dec. 10, 2020, and it, in fact, was not ready. It clearly said 40 minutes in the oven, but instead, CD Projekt Red pulled it out 5 minutes in and threw a soggy mess at its consumers.
The result was a broken, unfinished product that disappointed buyers, who had been riding on a mountain of anticipation. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One editions took a technological leap five years back, with frequent frame rate drops, lowered resolutions and buggy missions and non-player characters. The frame rate was steadier on next-gen consoles, but the bugs and glitches remained.
The issues were so bad that CD Projekt Red issued apologies and full refunds for the game — a huge financial loss for the company. Sony also removed the listing from the PlayStation Store and offered refunds.
And the financial ramifications for the company didn’t end at the refunds — the disastrous launch caused CD Projekt Red’s stock to fall by almost 9.4 percent. Soon after, investors bombarded the developer with four class action lawsuits, citing the company misled them on the development of the game. The Poland Office of Competition and Consumer Protection also began investigating the company once the lawsuits appeared.
After the new year, details about the game’s development slowly came out. The disappointing rollout was a culmination of faulty management, lack of developers and a sheer misunderstanding of what was required to properly finish the project. CD Projekt Red also came under fire for putting its workers through a crunch, a frowned-upon practice of overworking, even when it promised not to.
In January, CD Projekt Red co-CEO Marcin Iwiński laid out a road map of patches and fixes to make the game steadier across all platforms, a kind of redemption arc in hopes of reviving the game.
But the road to redemption wouldn’t be fit without some potholes. On Feb. 9, the company was hit with a ransomware attack, stopping many of its developers from working on updates for the project. Many employees were working remotely and could not access company servers due to the hack. It was a risk to employee privacy, and the company had to run checks to make sure no secure data was lost and no malware was on company computers.
Through the hacks and lawsuits, CD Projekt Red was able to regularly push out updates, fixing bugs and glitches throughout the game. Finally, the game returned to the PlayStation Store on June 21, making it available for all consoles. But after six months, was it enough?
The short answer is no. The game still runs extremely poorly on last-gen consoles with slow frame rates and severe graphical downgrades. Sony has even listed on the PlayStation Store, “Purchase for use on PS4 systems is not recommended.”
It’s not a polished game consumers should expect from a $40 to $60 purchase. The game is undoubtedly better than where it started, but it still simply isn’t what was promised to fans.
But there is some hope: CD Projekt Red is working on next-gen updates to the game, optimizing and raising the quality to better use the PS5 and Xbox Series X hardware. With faster storage and better processing and hardware, the game could finally live up to its enormous expectations of a Cyberpunk paradise. Gamers will have to wait until the updates come out sometime before the end of 2021 to find out.