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There's no other way to say it: the launch of the long-anticipated Cyberpunk 2077 has been a shitshow. CD Projekt Red's sci-fi open-world adventure has been in the works for eight years, and for the last three has regularly been one of the most discussed and debated titles amongst players and press alike, for reasons both good and bad. Now it's out, but it still can't shake the drama that's dogged it for its entire pre-release period.
As far as GAMINGbible's relationship with the game goes, we've attended previews and been impressed, only to see the game's marketing turn nasty and leave us with a sour taste. We've been enjoying the game, genuinely, across several platforms, since it released (here's our review); but we've also been entirely transparent with its performance problems, too, which has turned our Facebook comments into a (deeper-than-usual) sewer as we're accused of going out of our way to badmouth the game. We've done, and will do, nothing of the sort - Cyberpunk 2077's myriad problems are entirely of its own making, and we're simply reporting and responding to them.
The British games media awoke this morning - today being December 18th, 2020, eight days on from Cyberpunk 2077's release - to the news that the PlayStation store was taking the game off sale. (Microsoft has since done the same for Xbox - details at the end of this article.) A truly astonishing turn of events, but not wholly unexpected given what'd happened in the days before.
In the last week, it's been widely documented that the PlayStation 4 version of the game does not meet the expectations of its players, nor the high standards of the studio behind it. CD Projekt Red issued a statement a few days ago confirming that two significant performance patches were in the works for early 2021, but also offering refunds for those who'd bought the game on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, and who were not satisfied.
Unfortunately, Sony didn't seem to get that memo, and subsequently denied refunds to players. The sudden delisting of Cyberpunk 2077 from the PlayStation Store this morning would appear to be a necessary step to facilitate those promised refunds - as it's not like Sony just hands out refunds because a game has some bugs, or is known to crash from time to time, as several other games on sale right now are poorly optimised and riddled with glitches. The difference: a few million players, playing a hugely hyped title, all cheesed off at the same time. CD Projekt Red issued a new statement, which it posted in a tweet not long after news of PlayStation's removal broke.
"Everyone who is not willing to wait for updates and wants to refund their digital copy of the game, can do so," sounds ever so passive aggressive to me, but the phrasing of the statement is beside the point here. The point is that CD Projekt Red's monumentally messy launch of Cyberpunk 2077 needs to mark a tipping point for the development, distribution and coverage of video games, going forward. It has to. We can't not learn from this debacle.
The games media - and maybe more so game players, at least those who identify (loudly, on the internet, in our comments, loudly) as fans of the game or studio in question - have too quickly in the past brushed aside launch-window problems, confident that fixes will come. And they will come to Cyberpunk 2077, I'm sure of it. We've seen this happen for many games in the past, distant and recent - both in regard to features and game modes not present at launch, and inconsistent performance and bugginess.
But Cyberpunk 2077 should never have been released in the way that it was: a state on PlayStation 4 that the analysts at Digital Foundry called "dire", adding that "the game is simply too ambitious for the most outdated of console hardware, and even the more powerful enhanced machines are struggling". Ergo, CD Projekt Red's new game outgrew the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, before the consoles' times were up.
In trying to make their hugely ambitious game work on hardware that's now seven years old - for which there are reasons, not least of all the huge install bases, financial bottom lines to cover (and they sure were quick to cover them, prioritising that news over the refunds), and promises made several promo cycles ago - the developer has destroyed public faith and undermined confidence in its ability to deliver with the patches to come.
The patches of 2021 won't make Cyberpunk 2077 on 'last-gen' consoles on a par with high-end PC performance. There's no way they can, and nobody should be expecting it. But at the very least, if it just stops crashing, it'll be something. Because as the one staffer here who's been playing the game on PS4, that's the biggest failure of Cyberpunk 2077. The occasional flying car and wonky animation, I can live with. The threat of the blue screen, though? I've been playing through the game like I'm tip-toeing my way over the thinnest ice, for fear that doing anything too fast, and making the screen too busy, will send my PS4 spinning and see my progress lost.
With that in mind, I'm also pausing to manually save the game, all the time. This is no way to enjoy Cyberpunk 2077, to feel immersed in its world - even when that world's a lot less populated than you expected, and a whole lot fuzzier around the edges. And we know why the game is like this on PS4 - we asked some experts, who kindly explained. I've great sympathy for the devs who worked overtime to get this game out, and who did their best to make it... mostly playable. They've put so much into this game, and that comes through in how fantastically realised a lot of it is, even on PS4. But that doesn't prevent the overpowering feeling of crushing disappointment.
And knowing that CD Projekt Red knew that the game would be this messy, on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and put it out anyway? That's what cannot be repeated. The bottom line over everything else - player satisfaction, sure, but also developer health (you don't think staff will be crunching again to deliver these patches?), games media reputation (a lot of those 10/10 reviews have since been eyed with suspicion, not that there's anything shady actually going on, so you can stop that right now), and overall company reputation. There was so much good will for CD Projekt Red around The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and now it feels it's all been flushed away - as evidenced by a billion dollars (no, that's not a typo) being wiped from its stock value.
Loads of big video games have bugs at launch. Quirks, wrinkles, whatever. They get zapped, straightened out, fixed. But I can't think of the last time I tackled a video game with so much anxiety, so much concern, as I have Cyberpunk 2077. The game has been ruined for me, and while I'll maybe return to it when those patches are live, for now it's parked, an unsightly mangle of roadkill on the verge of a year that's seen some really great games come out.
A disastrous disappointment, then, but hopefully a fine and memorable example of how not to launch a video game: with blatant disregard of a huge swathe of your audience, of millions of excited players, and a misplaced bullishness about your capacity to both contain the launch-window problems and offer convincing longer-term solutions. In November, just a month ago, CDPR seemed untouchable. None of this game's controversies could damage its chances. Now, they're the subject of countless mocking memes, and even their most hardcore supporters are beginning to turn - loudly, in the comments.
There are 'broken' games, and then there's Cyberpunk 2077 for PlayStation 4. Let's never go this low again, yeah?
At the time of writing, Microsoft is yet to offer blanket refunds for players who (digitally) bought the Xbox One version of Cyberpunk 2077, beyond its own refund policies, and the game remains on sale. Applications for refunds need to be made within 14 days of purchase, and refunds are not guaranteed - more details here. SCRATCH THAT. Microsoft is also offering full refunds now, details here.
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