CD Projekt, a company that gained respect, and the gaming community’s love with its Witcher franchise is now in shambles. I have never seen such a precipitous fall from grace for a “AAA” gaming company within the span of a week. Literally, two weeks ago the company was one of the most beloved publisher/developers in the world, and then, a week after Cyberpunk 2077’s launch, the company is now the laughing stock of the industry, and a cautionary tale on the pitfalls of deception, and unfinished games.
Every day, since its December 10th release, it seems that either a new game breaking bug, or a new troublesome issue pops up in the media. The company hasn’t caught a break, as its stock keeps dropping, and its latest game keeps getting panned. CD Projekt’s reputation has been destroyed, and it is unlikely that it will recover even after the company finishes patching Cyberpunk 2077 (a task that is likely to require years on base consoles).
How did we get here?
The easy answer is to say that: “CD Projekt rushed the game in an unfinished – at times beta – state to please fans and investors”. However, after 8 years of planning and development, the answers are much more complex than that. The New York Times published an article two days ago that sheds immense light into the large struggles within the Polish developer.
Cyberpunk 2077’s unfinished state is inexcusable. The game was announced in 2012, a year before the launch of the PlayStation 4, and Xbox One consoles. CD Projekt had 8 years to get this right. It is understood that The Witcher 3 was in development during this time, and up until its release in 2015. CD Projekt has been working since in improving that game’s experience across all platforms. However, that shouldn’t be an excuse; if you can’t work on two games at once for a few years, then maybe you shouldn’t work on two games at once.
It seems that over ambitions, greed, and over confidence played a part in Cyberpunk 2077’s downfall. According to the New York Times, developers working on the game knew that the game was not living up to the grand promises made by the CD Projekt Red’s executives. Here is an excerpt from the article that pretty much encompasses the company’s issues:
Inside CD Projekt Red, it was a very different story. Developers were increasingly concerned with some of the grand promises being made by management on the promotional marketing tour. Far into the game’s development, former employees said, the hyper-customizable and endlessly explorable world being sold to players was nowhere close to manifesting.
By 2019, chatter began to circulate in Polish game development circles that CD Projekt Red was way behind schedule with Cyberpunk 2077, even with a release date set for the following April. Some saw the departure of top executives — including key board members — as major warning signs.- Mike Isaac, Kellen Browning, New York Times.
To add to the game’s troubles, CD Projekt lost some of its more experienced engineers, as they left the studio in retaliation to the crunch times that they had been subjected to.
From what I can tell, Cyberpunk 2077’s development seems to have been a disaster in planning, management of work force, resources, and a plain showcase on how over ambitions can send – what on the surface seemed to be – a ‘great’ company, tumbling down as a guilty casualty of an epic disaster of biblical proportions.
Why Investors are Angry?
Sony pulling out the game from their PlayStation Store was a huge blow to CD Projekt’s finances. Investors have lost, and are losing money as we speak, and so, when news that investors were thinking in filing a lawsuit surfaced a few days ago, I can’t say that I was surprised.
Mikołaj Orzechowski – a Warsaw-based lawyer and CDPR investor – is alleging that the development studio “misrepresented” itself (lied) in order to secure funding. Thus, the lawyer is looking into suing the company. CD Projekt has some hardcore fans ( that staunchly defend Cyberpunk and the company) to this day, however, as shown throughout the last week, the company has a habit of lying, and purposely hiding important information.
An example of this was the with holding, and right out refusal to send reviewable copies of the console versions of the game to reviewers before launch, and the withholding of footage until the last possible moment in order for the game’s early sales not be impacted by how broken it was. This (the withholding of information), as a media member, was CD Projekt’s greatest sin over the past few weeks.
That said, if the company was willing to flat out lie about the state of the game with claims that it “runs surprising well” on base consoles, even though the game was nearly unplayable in said machines, lying to investors in order to secure money seems to be well within the company’s threshold of moral and ethical behavior.
So, no, I do not doubt Orzechowski’s allegations.
To add to CD Projekt’s growing mountain of troubles, Orzechowski is not the only one thinking in suing the company. Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP (New York law firm) announced that it is looking to represent shareholders who have incurred losses “resulting from allegations that CD Projekt may have issued materially misleading information to their shareholders and investing public”.
What will happen?
It is hard to say. This is an unprecedented crash for what seemed to be a “AAA” developer/publisher only nine days ago. I can’t recall a more embarrassing and disastrous launch for such a hyped up title in recent memory. I want to say 1982’s E.T., but I hadn’t been born yet, and that one proved to be a commercial failure, which is something that, at least at first, Cyberpunk 2077 was not, as it seems to run decently on high ends PCs.
Of course, the aftermath of the refunds, and lawsuits might still prove to be a financial disaster for the company in the long run. As I pen this article, it has to be assumed that CD Projekt’s developers are working in crunch like conditions to fix both the game, and their reputation in order to get Cyberpunk 2077 back on Sony’s store. Judging, by how bad the game runs on base hardware, and the departure of senior engineers their task is destined to be long and arduous.
I don’t think the company will go out of business, it had too much money to just simply disappear, unless investors decide to cut their losses and abandon the project, which is unlikely. Cyberpunk 2077 can still make tons of money once the game is fixed, and the next gen versions are finalized. Investors are likelier to just ride out the bad times, until the game starts to turn profit again.
However, given the current status of the code, it is likely that we won’t see the next generation versions of the game until next fall at the earliest. Honestly, I wouldn’t be shocked if next gen Cyberpunk 2077 slips into 2022 given the backlash that they have received for releasing Cyberpunk 2077 on – what at times seems to be – its Beta stages.
How patient will investors be? They already waited 8 years. Now, they are losing money, and the company’s reputation has taken a massive hit. Hindsight is 20/20, but perhaps, CD Projekt should have just stuck to The Witcher franchise, and to what they knew before undertaking a totally different game and setting with unrealistic Tower of Bable aspirations. Like the people in the bible’s story, CD Projekt was struck down by a higher power for attempting to punch above their pay grade.
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