Starring Keanu Reeves, the futuristic but glitchy romp in the Red’s dystopian project was pulled out. What has gone wrong?
One of the year’s most awaited video games, Cyberpunk 2077, was released few months ago. It was a dystopian romp around a town inspired by blade runner that had all of the elements of a perfect storm of hype: almost a decade has passed since it was made; its maker, the Warsaw CD Projekt Red, was one of the biggest matches of the past decade (The Witcher 3, Game of Thrones, except grimer); it was Keanu Reeves, who is as famous as he is with gamers. Eight million customers were pre-ordered and charged before the game was released. But it’s all gone wrong since 10 December.
The ratings were strong on the day of launch – fantastic, even. Many of the reviewers admired the realization of the fictional Night Zone, its striking architecture and its grubby alleys, and enjoyed the revitalizing gunplay, the ball characters and the neon swagger. Some shared concerns about the very youthful sound of the game and its ability to hit the female bodies – none of them shocked anybody who had held an eye on the promotion of the game.
But those early reviews quickly gave way to disgruntled players’ grievances. The game they had been waiting for years was incorrect, the code obviously incomplete. Bizarre collisions impeded people’s night city adventures, or the game crashed so much that it was scarcely playable. Several scenes have been claimed to have induced epileptic seizures, leading a game maker to tweet: “With the exception of the one in [end user license agreement], we are actually working on incorporating a separate warning in the game. As far as a more permanent approach is concerned, this is being discussed by the Dev team and introduced as quickly as possible.”
On 18 December, Sony took the game off sale at its digital PlayStation Store and gave refunds to those who bought it – an incredibly unusual occurrence that only once I can remember when the Ashes Cricket 2013 game was fantastically ruptured and never seen again. The current scenario is expensive for Sony and CD Projekt Red, which now skip sales in the pre-Christmas season.
The results of an intensive and complex creation process involving hundreds of designers, engineers and animators working together on a giant software that is quickly being revised are facts of life for video gamers. In Cyberpunk 2077, they go ranging from funny (a person standing on a street corner who casually smokes a gun instead of a cigar, a pedestrian who drops to the floor to a patio table), to the outgoing (characters who wander or vanish randomly) to raging (random crashes that interrupt your play or stop your progress, the slowdown that makes a game unpleasant to look at). Cyberpunk suffers from them, even on state-of-the-art PCs – but the less powerful Xbox One and PlayStation 4 make them extremely poor.
The makers of Cyberpunk 2077 made a series of apologies and vows to fix things. It would not appear like this famous title, which has been in the making for so long, with so much investment behind it (game studios that I talked about predicting it would cost more than £300m to make) will launch in this state. It definitely points to issues with the CD project, whose workers would certainly be tired after months of pandemic overtime; since April this game has been twice postponed to provide more time for changes.
But, without a doubt, under the pressure of its owners, CD Projekt published it in an incomplete state, playing the game of the players being willing to stick to it and that it can be resolved reasonably soon. Another wait would have been much more expensive, with millions now investing in TV ads and foreign marketing. The result is exceptionally high-profile controversy, players’ unwillingness and a market cap route of the company.
Thanks to online updates, the launch of the computer game is not destined for 2020. Despite these first weeks of controversy, Cyberpunk 2077 will hopefully be patched in another three to six months, and it might even get dark. But a fiasco like this leaves a mark on a developer’s reputation even if it ends up being good. This year, people were much more eager than normal to avoid life and spend £50 for a little fun game that felt like a kick into the guts.