How the Most Anticipated Video Game of 2020 Became a Disaster

Starring Keanu Reeves, the futuristic but flawed game was pulled from Red’s dystopian project. What went wrong?

One of the most anticipated video games of the year, Cyberpunk 2077, was released a few months ago. It was a dystopian game set around a Blade Runner-inspired city that had all the makings of a perfect storm of hype: It’s been almost a decade since it was made; its creator, the Warsaw CD Projekt Red, was one of the biggest parties of the last decade (The Witcher 3, Game of Thrones, except more grim); it was Keanu Reeves, who is as famous as he is among gamers. Eight million customers pre-ordered and were cashed out prior to the game’s release. But everything went wrong since December 10.

Ratings were strong on launch day, even fantastic. Many of the critics admired the making of the fictional Night Zone, its flashy architecture and grimy alleyways, and enjoyed the revitalizing gunplay, ball characters, and neon swagger. Some shared concerns about the game’s very youthful sound and its ability to hit female bodies; none of them surprised anyone who had been attentive to the promotion of the game.

But those early criticisms quickly gave way to complaints from disgruntled players. The game they had been waiting for years was wrong, the code was obviously incomplete. Strange collisions prevented people’s nightly adventures in the city, or the game crashed so much that it was barely playable. Several scenes have been claimed to have induced epileptic seizures, prompting one game creator to tweet: “With the exception of one in [end user license agreement], we’re actually working on incorporating a separate warning into the game. As far as a more permanent approach is concerned, the development team is discussing it and is coming up with it as quickly as possible.”

On December 18, Sony pulled the game from sale on its digital PlayStation Store and refunded those who bought it, an incredibly unusual occurrence that I can only recall once when the 2013 Ashes Cricket game was fantastically broken and never seen again. The current scenario is expensive for Sony and CD Projekt Red, which are now skipping 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 giant software that is rapidly being overhauled are facts of life for video gamers. In Cyberpunk 2077, they range from amusing (a person standing on a street corner who casually smokes a gun instead of a cigarette, a pedestrian throwing himself onto a patio table), to outgoing (characters who wander or disappear random). ) to rage (random crashes that interrupt your game or stop your progress, the slowdown that makes a game unsightly). Cyberpunk suffers from them, even on the most modern PCs, but the less powerful Xbox One and PlayStation 4 make them extremely poor.

The creators of Cyberpunk 2077 apologized and promised to fix things. It wouldn’t seem like this famous title, which has been in development for so long, with so much investment behind it (the game studios I spoke about predicted it would cost over £300m) to release in this state. It definitely points to problems with the CD project, whose workers would certainly be tired after months of pandemic overtime; since April, this game has been postponed twice to give more time for changes.

But no doubt under pressure from its owners, CD Projekt released it in an incomplete state, playing the game that gamers are willing to stick with it and that it can be resolved reasonably soon. Another wait would have been much more expensive, with millions now spending on TV ads and overseas marketing. The result is an exceptionally high-profile controversy, a lack of will from players, and a path to market capitalization for the company.

Thanks to online updates, the computer game isn’t earmarked for release in 2020. Despite these first few weeks of controversy, Cyberpunk 2077 is expected to be patched in another three to six months, and could even go dark. But a fiasco like this leaves a mark on a developer’s reputation, even if it ends up being a good one. This year, people were much more eager than usual to avoid life and spend £50 on a fun little game that felt like a kick to the stomach.

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