The launch of CD Projekt Red's highly-anticipated open-world RPG has been fraught with controversy.
Sony has pulled Cyberpunk 2077 from the PlayStation Store and is offering disappointed gamers refunds for their digital purchases. No official reason was given, but the move follows a rocky launch for one of this generation’s most highly-anticipated games, one fraught with game-breaking bugs and unclear messaging.
“SIE strives to ensure a high level of customer satisfaction, therefore we will begin to offer a full refund for all gamers who have purchased Cyberpunk 2077 via PlayStation Store,” Sony’s announcement reads. “SIE will also be removing Cyberpunk 2077 from PlayStation Store until further notice.”
In a Tweet from the official Cyberpunk 2077 account yesterday, CD Projekt Red elaborated on its discussions with Sony regarding the decision.
“Following our discussion with PlayStation, a decision was made to temporarily suspend digital distribution of Cyberpunk 2077 on PlayStation Store,” the release reads. “You can still buy physical versions of the game in brick and mortar stores and online. All purchase digital and physical copies of the game will continue to receive support and updates as we continue to improve your experience.”
For Carter Rogers, principal analyst at SuperData, the disappearance of the game from the PlayStation Store is bizarre.
“The removal of Cyberpunk 2077 from PSN just a week after launch (on top of all the other developments) is truly unprecedented,” Rogers told GameDaily. “The closest comparison is probably the PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight being pulled offline due to technical issues, but this is more significant.”
In the week since Cyberpunk 2077’s launch, CD Projekt Red’s open-world RPG has come under fire for a deluge of technical problems. For the most part, these issues have been limited to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One platforms, with the PC version garnering a fair bit of praise. Further, the PS4 and Xbox One versions appear to run a bit better via backwards compatibility on the PS5 and Xbox Series X, even if the true next-gen versions won’t launch until sometime in 2021.
David Cole of analyst group DFC Intelligence didn’t mince words when asked about the ongoing Cyberpunk saga.
“The Cyberpunk mess is one of the biggest screw ups in the history of the industry,” Cole told GameDaily.
“What is surprising is it happened on so many levels," he continued. "Reviews were through the roof at launch. Also, the problems were with the PS4 and Xbox One versions, not so much the PC, which is ironic because Sony and Microsoft are supposed to have checks in place to assure that does not happen. In other words, titles need to go through a certification process, unlike the open publishing for PC.”
Cole said to expect a lot of blame getting thrown around in the coming weeks and months for the disastrous launch. Obviously, the publisher, CD Projekt, will shoulder most of it, but there’s an argument to be made that press and console manufacturers contributed as well.
“There is a secondary question of how so many people enable them to get away with that,” Cole explained. “Reviewers, Sony, and Microsoft have a role as gatekeepers to prevent publishers from doing that and making consumers feel comfortable about buying a product. Those are the entities that really lose a lot of consumer trust in this mess.”
In a call with shareholders on Monday, CD Projekt Red said the onus was on the company to fix the game’s outstanding issues, and that this is the top priority in the coming months.
"This is definitely on our side,” CD Projekt Red’s Michal Nowakoski said. “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."
Regarding the impact the game’s launch might have on shareholders, Cole said that Cyberpunk 2077 is likely to shake the confidence of potential investors moving forward.
“We deal a lot with the investment community, and something like that really gets them spooked,” he explained. “They are another group, like myself as an analyst, that rely on gatekeepers. I did a big investment presentation the day before Cyberpunk released, and my analysis was that--based on the reviews--it looked like Cyberpunk lives up to the hype. A month before, we were telling people that we were worried the game would not be finished in time and hoping it would not be rushed out the door. In hindsight, that early analysis was more in line with what happened. So I feel burned because the reviewers raved about so I prematurely said it seems like all is okay.”
Cyberpunk 2077 has faced a fair bit of criticism outside of its technical problems as well. Most notably, the game featured epileptic triggers that have since been addressed. Some have also taken issue with its representation of transgeneder people and people of color, resulting in an “edgelord” online presence. These issues are compounded by the well-documented use of crunch in the later stages of development. In all, it’s been a rocky year for CD Projekt Red.
Rogers said that there’s still a chance for CD Projekt Red to redeem Cyberpunk 2077, but it’s going to require some long-term dedication and a thorough examination of the studio’s internal practices in addition to simply fixing poor framerates and crashes. He compared the potential turnaround to a couple other high-profile redemption stories.
“Changes to the underlying game will likely have to be made, much like how Final Fantasy XIV and No Man’s Sky were updated after their poorly-received launches,” Rogers explained. “Improvements to things like traffic AI and letting players change their appearance after character creation are some examples.”
CD Projekt Red’s business is built on sparse but well-received game releases, which makes the failure of Cyberpunk 2077 that much more notable, Rogers said. Because the studio doesn’t put out games all that often, it’s paramount to its business to fix Cyberpunk 2077.
“CD Projekt Red will be defined by Cyberpunk 2077 for years until their next title comes out,” Rogers said.
It’s a shame that one of the most-anticipated games of the generation has been shrouded by so much controversy. The level of hype Cyberpunk 2077 managed to achieve was always going to cast it under increased scrutiny, but the launch has been chaotic at nearly every level.
As a result, Rogers anticipates that the impact of the launch will be felt across the industry.
“The fact that this happened to one of the biggest games of the past several years will likely lead to some industry practices being changed or at least called into question,” he said. “These include refund policies, restrictive review terms, and allowing games to ‘come in hot’ with the assumption that they will be rapidly patched at launch.”
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