Right now the gaming community is aflutter with controversy over the year’s biggest AAA game, Cyberpunk 2077. Billed as a detailed “lived-in” open-world RPG Cyberpunk 2077 set sales charts on fire thanks to the fame of the studio behind it (CDPR) and the overall look of the game.
Now a week on from the release of the game and things have not gone well for CDPR. The companies founders lost 1 billion dollars in worth after the game’s release and it has become a serious hot button issue.
We’ve seen this before with games like No Mans Sky, Fallout 76, and Anthem. Yet this one tops them all for a variety of reasons. The entire media is buzzing about this story because unlike the above-listed games Cyberpunk is actually popular with the mainstream. Nobody besides hardcore gamers were picking up Anthem, but everyone was picking up the futuristic GTA.
Right now the narrative is pretty simple. CDPR released a broken and buggy game to the public for 60$ per copy. In addition, they hid the console version of the game (the worst version of it) so that they could maximize week 1 sales despite the game's significant issues. For those that do not know CDPR only sent out PC versions of the game for review and the PC version was the only good version (besides Stadia and next-gen).
Checking on Twitter ore Reddit reveals thousands of angry gamers up in arms over this newest controversy. I believe this is only a minority of the community though as the game does boast positive user scores in most places and is actually a very good game that is technically flawed.
Here I intend to go against the grain and defend CDPR and Cyberpunk. Wish me luck!
I first want to start with the most recent development. Last night Sony removed the game from the Playstation store and offered everyone who bought it a refund. At first, people thought Sony had just spat in the face of CDPR. It seemed weird considering that objectively worse games were never taken down, but it was revealed this morning that CDPR was partially behind it.
When Bethesda released Fallout 76, a horrible game, they received swift backlash. Instead of refunding people or fixing the game, they made it impossible to get a refund and are being sued over this very issue. Fallout 76 is still rather broken and boring to this day. Bethesda has in fact begun charging people monthly fees to play a 60$ title while also pushing people to spend money on microtransactions. Games are either pay upfront, pay through microtransactions, or pay monthly but Fallout 76 is all 3.
When Bioware and EA released Anthem, their newest “looter shooter” they were in a similar spot as Bethesda. The game was broken, causing permanent damage to many people’s PS4 and it was a boring repetitive game. Not only did Bioware not refund players it abandoned the game with nebulous promises to “fix it”. Over a year later there have been no updates.
CDPR did something that has never been done in gaming history. Something totally without precedent. They offered everyone a refund.
Not only that, they assisted people in getting refunds. They worked with Sony, Microsoft, Best Buy, and Gamestop to ensure everyone who wants a refund gets their money back. CDPR even offered to pay out of pocket if physical retailers refused refunds.
When the refund was first announced Monday many suspected it was a ploy. They thought that CDPR knew refunds through Sony were impossible and that this was them saving face for free. In reality we now know that CDPR was deadly serious about refunds.
In an industry obsessed with theft this should be rewarded not punished.
Now when it comes to game development things are tricky.
The main question here is what happened? Why is the game so broken and buggy? Why are there missing features? How can you excuse CDPR hiding the console version of the game?
Well, I can tell you what happened.
CDPR likely started with the PC version (where the game is good) and then tried to downsize it to work on PS4. The PS4 and Xbox One are 7-year-old systems with outdated CPUs
CDPR discovered that optimizing this complex game for old systems was a far bigger challenge than previously thought. What they did was they focused their entire time on optimization, leaving bugs to go unaddressed.
In October we got a delay and this is why. CDPR needed to optimize the game. They likely had it running at a low resolution but that was it.
You see Cyberpunk is a very detailed and very large game. The lighting is complex and the textures are more complex. The CPU of these old systems could not handle this game.
This is why the missing features all relate to NPCs and secondary mechanics. It was already a struggle to get just a few basic NPCs to work on PS4- let alone hundreds and all with complex behavior. I’d be when the next-gen version comes out next year we see this NPC feature implemented.
CDPR had 2 patches during late development. 1.02 and 1.03. The first one (1.02) fixed bugs and the latter fixed optimization- likely getting the game to run at 1080p.
CDPR underestimated the challenge here and right up until release they were trying to implement this 1.03 patch. They likely believed it would work out only to find on 12/9 that the patch tanks the framerate or causes serious crashing issues.
With the game already in retail stores, it was too late to delay and the game came out.
Now, this all makes sense. It accounts for missing features, it accounts for delays, and it accounts for that missing 1.03 patch.
If CDPR intended to cut and run why are they offering refunds? They could just fix the game and 90% of people would be happy but they are actually giving millions their money back.
After waiting for months or years to play a game that looks great only to find that it is sub-par it is easy to be mad.
But I ask you all to take a step back, stop feeding the rumor mill, and look at what really happened.
I think CDPR made a mistake here but in the end, they did the right thing, the thing nobody else does. To me that deserves praise and I hope to see this game improve and be a comeback story.