As we approach Cyberpunk 2077’s first anniversary, Bloomberg had the opportunity to interview CD Projekt’s Chief Executive Officer, Adam Kicinski. CD Projekt went from being one of the most beloved (and respected) game developers to one of the most despised (and ridiculed) studios in the span of a few days following Cyberpunk 2077’s botched release.
Over Hyping and its Evils
Unless you were living under a rock for the past year, most of you are aware that Cyberpunk 2077 was a glitch riddled release in all platforms. But the biggest issue with the game is that it was a poorly optimized product (especially on last generation consoles) that failed to deliver on most of its promises, and in the end, was released in an incomplete state.
Leaks of CD Projekt employees claiming that the game needed at least two more years in development (which would have pushed the game’s release date to 2022) among other issues such as crunch time practices, and key personnel leaving the company were made known .
The company’s stock value fell as lawsuits from its investors arrived. Sony pulled the game out of its online store for months as the company wanted to avoid costly refunds on its platform. In short, I can’t remember a more disastrous launch for an over hyped ‘AAA’ release in my lifetime.
Basically, Cyberpunk 2077 was a launched at full price in an unfinished state, and most of us were displeased by that fact. CD Projekt over promised on a game that it had announced 8 years prior to its launch. Perhaps more damning, the company kept the console versions of game away from reviewers because it knew that the game was in a terrible state.
What many gamers had hailed for years as “the game” or “RPG to end all RPGs” ended up selling millions of copies (mostly based on its hype), but also a critical flop on consoles. Even the PC version (which had less issues, and looked better than its console counterparts) did not match The Witcher 3’s brilliance.
Cyberpunk 2077’s dark fate was sealed by its hype. These expectations were created on false promises from CD Projekt, and by gamers who embraced the company’s ambitions solely based on their love for the excellent The Witcher 3.
Cyberpunk 2077 was released 2 years before its time, because it was too big of a game (to keep delaying), and the 2020 holiday season was too important of an opportunity (new consoles launched) to miss. The game had already suffered delays, and investors (understandably) wanted their money.
Cyberpunk 2077 Today
Cyperpunk 2077 is now, after a multitude of updates, playable. On consoles (even premium ones like the Xbox One X, and PS4 Pro) it has streaming issues, frame-rate drops, and subpar resolutions, and a multitude of glitches. But the campaign can be finished, and the game can be enjoyed in its current state.
The last generation versions (especially on PlayStation) have suffered from cut backs on visual effects, and NPC counts (there goes the promise of the ‘lively city’) for the sake of decent frame-rate numbers.
The biggest problem that Cyberpunk has even when played on next-gen hardware, is that even at 60fps, and decent pixel counts, the game remains far behind its peers. When a huge and gorgeous game like Red Dead Redemption 2 can exist on last generation hardware, many of Cyberpunk 2077’s down falls (Dumb A.I., PS2 era physics, lack of world interactivity) are hard to excuse.
I wouldn’t recommend the game to be played on last generation hardware, even it if its ‘playable’. Our own review of the game (played largely on Xbox Series X) stressed many of the issues with the title. But all hope is not lost.
CD Projekt Learned its Lessons, and Cyberpunk 2077 can be Saved…on Next Generation Hardware
“The retrospection of the project that didn’t go exactly as planned has triggered a strong motivation for change” – Adam Kicinski, via Bloomberg
The lessons learned involve a change in culture, and the intent hire more employees in order to match other AAA publishers.
There has also been a shift in ‘over-promising and setting release dead lines’. The shift mainly consists in avoiding both of these things. For example, there is no set release date for the much awaited ‘next-generation’ update, and no promises have been made in how big (and impactful) on Cyperpunk 2077’s quality this update will be.
“I deeply believe that the game’s perception may significantly improve in the future” – Adam Kicinski, via Bloomberg
Kicinski would add that he doesn’t expect a “wow effect” (from the update), but instead, a “gradual rebuilding of sales.”
Clearly, the company is very careful on how they handle things post-Cyberpunk release. It is much better to under-promise and over-deliver than to do the converse. Every one is happier when the former happens.
As for Cyberpunk 2077’s Next-Gen update, and what we can expect from it, Kicinski wasn’t too revealing in the interview. While the update continues to have a preferable ‘end of 2021’ release target, it seems that 2022 might be a safer bet.
CD Projekt understands that the game’s legacy, and future is greatly dependent on this update. Even though, Kicinski didn’t want to sell us on a possible “Wow” factor, I would hope that the Next-Gen update is substantial, and that many of the game’s core elements such as physics, and A.I. can take a big leap forward.
Cyberpunk 2077 was billed as a game that would set standards within open world, and Role-Playing Games. Needless to say, the game fell (extremely) short of pulling of either of these things.
That said, Cyberpunk 2077 has a great concept, interesting characters, and a decent main plot. If the next generation consoles can bring its world, and inhabitants up to par maybe CD Projekt’s new IP can turn into something special.
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