You’d be forgiven for forgetting but, in eons past (well, June), as Cyberpunk received its second delay, CD Projekt led an explanatory letter to fans with the words:
“‘Ready when it’s done’ is not just a phrase we say because it sounds right, it’s something we live by even when we know we’ll take the heat for it.”
Yesterday, in an emergency board meeting amid an increasingly disastrous launch, we got a statement that belied that approach, and even referenced it directly:
“After 3 delays, we as the Management Board were too focused on releasing the game. We underestimated the scale and complexity of the issues, we ignored the signals about the need for additional time to refine the game on the base last-gen consoles. It was the wrong approach and against our business philosophy.”
In the plainest possible terms, Cyberpunk 2077 was not ready, because it was not done – and, according to CD Projekt itself, likely won’t be truly done until February.
In a statement released 4 days after launch, CD Projekt laid out a basic roadmap for patches that will, in their words, “fix the most prominent problems gamers are facing on last-gen consoles.” The console version of the game has been released, but it is not finished – even after hotfixes, base console versions of Cyberpunk 2077 face framerate issues, huge texture load times, and a myriad of bugs. All console versions are still facing crashes (though some players have seen better performances on next-gen consoles running last-gen versions of the game), and even the superior PC version contained an unusual number of bugs at launch. Fixes have begun, and will be ongoing, but last-gen versions won’t be truly up to speed until early next year.
Let’s be clear here – it’s fair to expect a modern game to release post-release updates, even ones that specifically address bugs and performance issues, but it’s also fair to expect that game to function at around the standard of other games on its platform before those patches are applied.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, for instance, launched with a number of issues of varying levels of severity, but has seen updates smooth out its rough edges. What we’ve seen with Cyberpunk on base consoles is a step well beyond: a game that IGN has now described as failing “to hit even the lowest bar of technical quality one should expect even when playing on lower-end hardware.”
8 million people alone preordered Cyberpunk 2077. According to CD Projekt, 41% of that number (3.28 million) preordered console versions. While the company can’t make estimates on the number of people playing the game on base consoles versus mid-gen upgrades and next-gen, it’s not a stretch to surmise that – along with launch week purchases – millions of people have paid full price for a version that, on their consoles, even CD Projekt describes as “far from satisfactory”.
This situation isn’t just a failure of development and release, it’s a failure of communication.
Unsuspecting consumers simply couldn’t have known about these issues before choosing to buy Cyberpunk 2077 for their last-gen console. CD Projekt never showed the game on a base console pre-release, and it didn’t provide review copies for consoles until the day before launch, leaving no time for a full assessment. Even CD Projekt’s most open moment around the issue – explaining that the game’s third delay came down to last-gen console performance – exacerbates the issue. The game was delayed to fix that problem, so it’s entirely reasonable to expect that problem to be fixed upon release, and CD Projekt gave absolutely no indication that the problems had persisted.
There remains the unpleasant question mark over how much CD Projekt knew about this before release. It may not have known the scale to which the problems would run, but it feels next to impossible that the developer was unaware of last-gen versions’ performance problems, though some of its senior members’ statements seem to say otherwise.
Monday’s public apology says that the company should have “paid more attention” to the base console versions, and SVP of business development Michał Nowakowski subsequently responded to a question about why a further delay wasn’t opted for by saying that the company had concentrated too much on testing PC and next-gen versions’ performance. That offers up the idea that CD Projekt was simply ignorant of, at least, the scale of the issues in the last-gen version.
But, on the other hand, joint CEO Adam Kiciński introduced yesterday’s emergency call with the statement included at the top of this story, explaining that the management board had “ignored the signals about the need for additional time.” Company co-founder Marcin Iwiński adds that last-gen review copies weren’t purposely held back from media to avoid bad coverage, “we were just fixing the game until the very last moment.”
Perhaps most confusing (and some might say ‘damning’), two weeks before launch, Kiciński described base console performance as “surprisingly good” in a Q3 earnings call (transcribed by Seeking Alpha). Being kind, last minute development changes could have resulted in an unexpectedly broken version, just before launch – but no matter the reasoning, these statements give off a distinct impression that CD Projekt very much knew what it was releasing, and lost a race against time to mitigate the damage – perhaps even choosing to limit public exposure to that knowledge.
It speaks to an increasing pattern with CD Projekt of speaking a lot, and saying very little. The company has explained that “in theory” it could have released the game on PC only, delaying console editions, but hasn’t directly addressed why it didn’t. It’s explained that it will allow players to obtain refunds, even as many are denied them. It hasn’t even been totally clear on what the console versions’ future patches will entail, or what update priorities are – in yesterday’s call, Iwiński says he hopes console players will be able to “enjoy the game” by Christmas, but also says the major updates will arrive in January and February, “so, again, we humbly ask gamers to wait.”
On so many details around these issues, CD Projekt is failing to explain to its customers what’s happened, why it happened, and what exactly will be done about it. In the same June apology that I began this story with, the company heads say: “Our intention is to make Cyberpunk 2077 something that will stay with you for years to come. In the end, we hope you understand why we did what we did.”
Perhaps one of the biggest indictments of the company, 6 months later, is that we haven’t been allowed to understand at all – and that that may become Cyberpunk’s unwanted legacy.
IGN contacted CD Projekt Red for this article, who declined to comment.