Cyberpunk 2077 without a doubt is one of the most controversial titles released in 2020. While plenty of games had their share of controversy’s this past year, most notably being The Last of Us Part II. Cyberpunk 2077 takes the cake in terms of just the sheer drama, hyperbole, and mixed feelings that all came with the release of this game. Whether it was how the game was distributed to media and reviewers, to the quality of the game on the console at launch. It wasn’t only limited to how the game launched either as stories detailing crunch, and poor work conditions began to trickle out. On top of this, the LGBTQ+ community took issue with how certain characters and in-game aspects were handled, as well as some transphobic promotional Tweets. While a lot of nuances were lost in listing all the controversies that surrounded this game, it certainly gives you an idea of just how much of a mess this game has been for CD Projekt Red.
For so long CD Projekt Red has championed being all about the consumer, and separating themselves from the big “greedy” corporations such as EA, Take-Two and etc. However, things have changed after launching an absolutely bug-riddled broken game on console and purposefully holding back console review keys. I have never seen a company lose so much goodwill in a matter of days, in my tenure in covering video games. The flashback was huge, from both media and fans as they tried to figure out just what went horribly wrong. However, in a video featuring CD Projekt Red co-founder Marcin Iwinski explained some of the things that led to Cyberpunk 2077 releasing in the state it did.
Below, you’ll find CD PROJEKT’s co-founder’s personal explanation of what the days leading up to the launch of Cyberpunk 2077 looked like, sharing the studio’s perspective on what happened with the game on old-generation consoles. pic.twitter.com/XjdCKizewq
— Cyberpunk 2077 (@CyberpunkGame) January 13, 2021
Taking Some Of The Responsibility
At first, when I watched through the video I was impressed with how Iwinski admitted that the game simply needed more time in development. Instead of blaming the whole studio, he defends the team as a hard-working and talented studio filled with many passionate employees. He instead places the blame on the board of directors who ultimately made the decision to release the game in the state that it was. I cannot overstate how rare it is for individuals on the board, or company leaders to shoulder the blame for a bad launch. Often they will let that blame and anger fall upon the shoulders of the developers and the studio name, rather than coming out and taking responsibility. In the social media era, many are very quick to demonize the developers for being greedy or lazy, depending on which clickbait Youtuber they get their information from. But to see Iwinski put the blame on leadership made me truly think that CD Projekt Red heard the message loud and clear. Unfortunately, there is another 4 minutes of dialogue that essentially walks back this first set of statements almost instantly.
One point that Iwinski constantly tries to hammer home is how technically impressive Cyberpunk 2077 is, and that they were guilty of being too ambitious with their ideas. This is something that many developers struggle with. Sometimes you have to let creative ideas go in order to have a better performing game. These kinds of sacrifices are an unfortunate commonplace in the world of game design, and it seems that CD Projekt Red did not want to compromise their vision. In a way, I applaud them for that. Trying to make the most ambitious game that you can, is a goal for many developers. However, in the AAA field, it feels increasingly rarer for developers to push creativity to the forefront, often falling into safe gameplay and story loops. Plenty of developers such as Arkane do a fantastic job of delivering a flawless game that also pushes the boundaries of what we experienced in the medium before. You should never sacrifice the overall quality of your game in order to pull off a few “cool” moments within a game.
Another big eye-roll moment comes from Iwinski constantly referring to Xbox One and PlayStation 4 as the old consoles throughout the video. While Cyberpunk 2077 most certainly did launch almost a month after the release of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X & S. I do not for one second believe that Cyberpunk 2077 was developed with next-generation consoles in mind from the beginning. This has become a convenient crutch for CD Projekt Red to fall back on, but many have seemed to forget that Cyberpunk 2077 was originally supposed to launch much earlier in 2020. Which would mean that we would have received broken Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions plus the PC version. The saving grace for Cyberpunk 2077 was that the PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X seemed to be better equipped to handle Cyberpunk 2077. Even though the official next-generation patch for the game is not live, and the game is currently played via BC or Smart Delivery, this is not the next-generation version of this title. These are the “old consoles version”. Iwinksi goes on to praise the PC version of the game saying that it delivered on their vision of the game. Which, for the most part, Cyberpunk 2077 was a much different game on PC than it was on console. However, that is something I feel the leader of a company that delivered this game shouldn’t brag about.
Regardless of whether you bought Cyberpunk 2077 on PC, Xbox, or PlayStation, you spent essentially the same amount of money on the purchase. While PC versions of games will always run better on PC due to the nature of it being an open platform with a lot more power at play. The difference between Cyberpunk 2077 on PC and console was staggering in the worst way. Even with that being said, many PC players had to deal with many bugs, glitches, and even save file corruptions. This game was far from what many would call something to be proud of.
Public Battles That Should Never Happen
While CD Projekt Red’s stance on how the game has been performing for its players may be slightly off base. The biggest problem that the studio faces is its leadership’s utter inability to let some criticism slide or even in how they address the criticism. There are a lot of difficult conversations surrounding the work conditions that are happening currently and previously at CD Projekt Red. Over the past few months, Jason Schreier has published several articles with multiple sources in regards to how the studio operates internally. From mismanagement, lack of communications, and project focus, to force overtime, and much more. There is certainly a lot of issues and accusations the studio faces in the court of public opinion.
— Adam Badowski⚡️ (@AdamBadowski) January 16, 2021
Instead of taking a step back and speaking through official channels and addressing these issues in a meaningful way, CD Projekt Reds studio head Adam Badowski took to Twitter to publicly disagree with certain parts of Schreier’s reporting. Now, I am not trying to force people to choose a side in regards to this issue. It is likely that we don’t have the full story on both sides of this argument. There is no way to 100% confirm or dispute what information has been presented by Badowski or Schreier. However, there is one statement in Badowski’s statement via Twitter that just doesn’t sit right, and once again it came back to the state of the game. He states the following in regards to Schreier’s report in regards to most of the developers he spoke to not thinking the game was ready to launch.
“You’ve talked to 20 people, some being ex-employees, only 1 of whom is not anonymous. I wouldn’t call that “most” of the over 500-people staff said what you claim.”
This just shows how much Badowski is missing the point of the criticism. He is trying to argue about how many of his staff believed the game was released too early. In the end, it doesn’t matter if none of the staff thought that the game was ready or not. The board of directors pushed the game out the door, full well knowing the state of the game. You cannot argue the quality of Cyberpunk 2077 with the number of glitches, bugs, and broken content was documented by players. It’s an insult to the developer who worked on it, and the QA that tested it to call this their best work. Cyberpunk 2077 should have been delayed again, but since the leadership decided to release the game, it’s up to them to salvage their reputation. The damage that was done to their reputation with not only the launch but the conversation post-launch has only done more harm to them.
Staying Quiet And Moving Forward
The biggest problem that CD Projekt Red faces right now is that they keep on talking. This is a similar criticism I have had about Bioware in regards to Anthem, stop talking about it and just show us results. This may seem harsh, but talking via personal accounts and defending the state of the game when many had to fight for refunds is simply not a good look. Lockdown on social media interactions focuses on fixing the issues with the game and delivering content to Cyberpunk 2077. CD Projekt Red released a roadmap of the upcoming content that will be coming to the game, as well as the next generation patch for Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. That was a good first step that was overshadowed with them releasing a video that defended the state of the game, and involved trying to publically fight reports of mishandling development. Unless they plan to make an official statement to these allegations just leave it alone, and focus on delivering the product you promised.
A perfect example of being quiet and providing results is of course No Man’s Sky from Hello Games. The game released to massive backlash due to broken promises and miscommunication from the developers. While the backlash quickly went overboard like it most often does. The team at Hello Games went quiet and spent a long time working on fixing the game, as well as fulfilling broken promises from before. When No Man’s Sky: Next was revealed, the public response was incredibly positive. Hello Games studio lead Sean Murray even made an appearance to talk about the journey on Inside Xbox. No Man’s Sky is now regarded as one of the biggest comebacks that we have seen in gaming, as they even now continue to update and add content to the game. It truly was an incredible turnaround that no one could have thought possible.
CD Projekt Red could have this turnaround if they stick to their revealed roadmap, and simply stop engaging in arguments with media, and influencers over the state of the game. If Cyberpunk 2077’s DLC is phenomenal, and the next generation patch turns out to be jaw-dropping. People will be quick to forget about CD Projekt Red’s transgressions, because if there is one thing I have learned over the years of covering video games. Consumers only care about what you have produced lately, CD Projekt can no longer rest on the laurels of the Witcher 3. It’s time they face the music, and get to making Cyberpunk 2077 the game they promised.