Home Features Cyberpunk 2077’s current consumer catastrophe, explained

Cyberpunk 2077’s current consumer catastrophe, explained

10 min read
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Eight years, a breath-taking cameo, and several delays later, and Cyberpunk 2077 has finally arrived. It hasn’t been the kind of hotly-anticipated launch, has it?

Everywhere you look, people are upset. Cyberpunk 2077 is finally out, and while the game is a fantastic RPG in its own right, it’s not exactly the modern-day messiah that many were hoping for. Launch day issues have exposed calamitous bugs within the game, leading CD Projekt Red to come under fire for a number of managerial reasons in the post-launch environment of the game. There’s a number of reasons why people are so upset, so let’s take a look at them.

Bugs, bugs everywhere

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The cyber-elephant in the room is the most obvious one, as Cyberpunk 2077 clearly wasn’t finished before it finally launched. More time was needed, as a sandbox of its scale and ambition is currently home to enough game-breaking bugs to give Bethesda a run for its day one crown. It’s less pronounced on PC, but on PS5 and Xbox Series X? It’s absolutely frustrating.

Barring my own sessions where I’ve had several hard crashes on PS5 within the span of an hour because I dared to aim my gun or get out of a car, forums are filled with numerous examples of the game acting like an escaped insane asylum patient. What’s damning is that CDPR’s top brass knew about this, and rushed the game to meet certification on console so that it would be playable, not polished.

“In terms of the certification process and the third parties – this is definitely on our side,” business development SVP Michal Nowakowski said in an emergency investor’s call. “I can only assume that they trusted that we’re going to fix things upon release, and that obviously did not come together exactly as we had planned.”

Is the game slowly getting better? Yes, but it is still aggravating to play Cyberpunk 2077 knowing that even a mighty next-gen console is no guarantee that you’ll get a smooth experience.

It’s almost unplayable on older consoles

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If PS5 and Xbox Series X feels like a turbulent ocean to play Cyberpunk 2077 in, then PS4 and Xbox One is the Bermuda Triangle of options available to fans. The game regularly chugs along at an embarrassingly last-gen clip, and if your input is “it plays just fine on my PC” please know that your comment is about as useless as screen doors on a submarine.

Believe it or not, people don’t have $500 to throw at a new console thanks to 2020 being devastating for the income of many families. Many people have to stick with what they’ve got, and that just so happens to be last-gen hardware that is still capable of so much more. Should Cyberpunk have even been released on those consoles? That’s debatable, but when a lot of the marketing has promised consumers that the experience will be just fine on old-gen and even included console bundles, it’s a slap in the face to see the game suffer glaring faults on those devices.

CDPR has no shortage of talent who can make the game work on PS4 or Xbox One, but it simply chose to focus on newer platforms first and treat the old-gen like an afterthought. This fumble falls again on the shoulders of CD Projekt’s leadership, as Nowakowski admitted that “it is more about us looking – as was previously stated – at the PC and next-gen performance rather than current-gen.”

We definitely did not spend enough time looking at that. I wouldn’t say that we felt any external or internal pressure to launch on the date – other than the normal pressure, which is typical for any release. So that was not the cause. In terms of the certification process and the third parties – this is definitely on our side.

If you want to see just how bad Cyberpunk 2077 currently is on last-gen, take a look at Digital Foundry’s wrap-up, which calls the game an unacceptable hodge-podge of dropped frame and drastically reduced screen resolution at the best of times.

The refund policy is a joke

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Cyberpunk 2077’s launch has also highlighted just how broken the entire process for returning a video game is. Physical retailers have always been notoriously stiff on the refund process, flatout refusing to take anything back even if it’s a completely buggered experience, while digital downloads come with their own pitfalls.

Yes, Sony, Steam, and Xbox do have processes for returning a game, but you’d have better luck teaching a cat to take a bath. At this point, Sony’s not even entertaining refunds and is instead urging consumers to wait for future patches. Joint-CEO Marcin Iwinski said, “We are not encouraging gamers to return to the game. We hope they will give us a chance to improve the game on the original consoles. There was one fix last weekend. There is another coming in seven days. But there is an option.”

“You have to understand, Microsoft and Sony, for every product that is released digitally on their storefronts have refund policies. Despite various articles that have shown up, that things are being opened just for us, It’s actually not true,” Nowakowski added.

“These policies are in place and have always been in place. They are not opened up specifically for us. Anybody who has purchased any title on PlayStation Network or Microsoft’s storefront can ask for a refund.

While CDPR does have an email you can contact them at for a refund, for many gamers faced with the harsh reality of a broken video game return policy across the world, they’re shit out of luck.

CDPR no longer looks untouchable

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In an industry where every big AAA game release comes with many strings attached to it, CDPR built up a reputation as the last of the good guys. The studio and publisher that wanted to make a good game first, massive profits a distant second. Their approach to DLC and monetisation was something to be lauded, an approach that we wished that other companies would emulate.

Eight years for a big-budget video game is nothing if you believe that the end product will justify the wait, but then came stories of CDPR enforcing a crunch policy to finally get Cyberpunk 2077 out. There were stories of how employees were enticed to crunch on the game in exchange for tokens that would reward them with bonuses if certain criteria were met.

Mericfully Cyberpunk 2077’s requirement for a high Metacritic score being tied to employee bonuses was terminated after the game launched. The review process itself was incredibly dodgy, as our own NDA for the Cyberpunk 2077 review prohibited us from showing any original gameplay capture before the official launch date. Usually for video reviews, a publisher will ask us not to show any glitches as a day one patch normally sorts them out. There’ll also be restrictions of using certain story content in videos, but the general meat and potatoes experience is fair game.

Not being allowed to show any footage save for B-roll content and not being allowed to mention that either? Our warning bells were ringing pretty hard when we spotted that on the NDA form.

It’s a crushing blow to the psyche though, because seeing CDPR in this position, is like realising that your dad isn’t invincible. It’s a devastating blow to your morale to see the last holdout in a semi-monopolised AAA game development space reduced to a state that you’ve seen so many times before, tarnished armor on a single knight who for many years carried a flag of excellence and care for its consumers.

This isn’t a slight against the people working in the trenches at CDPR, legions of individuals who toiled away for months and years on a project and had to deal with management that wanted to push the product out well before it was ready. Right now, CDPR is paying the price for that attitude, as the poor launch has had an impact on CD Projekt Red’s stock value, hitting its founders net worth hard with $1 billion loss in only a few days.

People are tired after the year from hell

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It’s sad that by now, we’re used to this. A big game launches, fans rush in to have a good time and are met with a product that is horribly broken. We saw this with Anthem last year, Marvel’s Avengers failed on multiple levels to be a fun time, and Cyberpunk 2077 may be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

In a year that has taken a massive toll on the psyches of people who have had to sacrifice so much, holding out for Cyberpunk 2077 was the last flicker of hope in a terrible trip around the sun. Knowing that you’d have a game from a company that made a name for itself by being consumer-friendly was a powerful beacon to rally around…and then the end result was an alright dive into a world that can best be described as a horny version of Skyrim that spent far too much time watching Blade Runner.

Yes, I absolutely understand how weird it must sound that a buggy video game was a mental breaking point for many, but that’s the world we live in. When your options for existence revolve around megalomaniacal idiots winning their way into the highest office of the land, a high chance of catching a highly-virulent plague, a world that is slowly burning due to societal neglect and late-stage capitalism running amok while making life miserable for everyone else, you need some escapism.

And being let down like that at the eleventh hour? It’s no wonder that people are upset. Cyberpunk 2077 will likely cement its legacy as having one of the rockiest launches in video game history ever, CDPR will recover its stock value in time, and we’ll probably get mad at another upcoming game for the silliest of reasons in 2021 because that’s how the wheel turns.

But for now, the 2020 gaming calendar is going to end on a disappointing note, a soul-crushing bodyslam that was eight years in the making.

Last Updated: December 17, 2020

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