In previous earnings calls (transcribed by Seeking Alpha), Kiciński has made clear that a spearate team was making multiplayer, and that, “we [at CD Projekt] think about it as a standalone product,” – but crucially never went as far as saying it would be released as a standalone project. Kiciński’s comments yesterday don’t clear that up, neither do they actually specify what’s now happening to that project.
“Previously we hinted that our next AAA would be a multiplayer Cyberpunk game,” he explained, “but we have decided to reconsider this plan given our new more systemic and agile approach. Instead of primarily focusing on one big online experience or game we are focusing on bringing online into all of our franchises one day.”
That tells us something has changed, but not exactly what. Cyberpunk multiplayer may have been delayed, it may have been cancelled, or it may be being retooled. Further, CD Projekt has now committed to adding online experiences to its future games, and says it’s building technology to make sure that all of its single-player RPGs come with some kind of multiplayer connnectivity. What it hasn’t said is whether that tech is close enough to use in Cyberpunk 2077 at some point – or if whatever the multiplayer mode was going to be could use that tech in some way. Equally, the messaging could mean we’ll be waiting for a future Witcher or Cyberpunk sequel to see its online experiments.
The result of all of this is that people are deeply confused about what exactly has happened (and what will happen) to Cyberpunk 2077’s multiplayer – social media is filled with opposing takes on the meaning of those comments, questions about what’s happened, and complaints from those who profess to have bought the game at least in part because of a promised multiplayer mode, and who are upset they may now not see it.
Asked for clarification, CD Projekt Red told IGN that the statement above was “all we have to say.”That stance, and the confusion it’s causing, became extremely clear during an Investor Q&A that followed the Strategy Update. In a short session, no fewer than five separate CD Projekt investors asked for clarification on what the plans for Cyberpunk multiplayer were. None got what they had come in looking for.
The closest to an explanation came early on from Kiciński, who touched on the company’s philosophy for multiplayer going forward, without directly explaining how that would be applied to Cyberpunk 2077:
“Regarding online, we are changing our approach. We want to have online in our future games, definitely, but step-by-step. We are working on specific features, enhancing our single player, but we are not working on releasing the next game [as] a big online experience. So we’ll be enhancing our single-player games with online experiences.”
“The only change is that we continue to work on [online] not as a main production line but as a supportive production line together with our single-player productions. But we believe that our ideas, once they will be revealed, will be very exciting for gamers as an extra experience in our world which fits our single-player games.”That haziness about the actual ideas behind all this led to a number of follow-up questions from investors. Matthew Walker of Credit Suisse put it perhaps most bluntly, when asking about the specific wording used in the original announcement: “I don’t think I’m the only person on the call who is somewhat confused by this definition about ‘online’ vs. ‘multiplayer’.” He added: “I appreciate you don’t want to reveal all your plans, but this is a pretty important thing that people have been waiting for, for quite a long time.” No plans were revealed in response.
This cuts to the heart of the issue. It’s absolutely understandable – and admirable – that CD Projekt would want to alter its marketing approach, and provide more accurate updates over a shorter period of time before release. But this works for projects that haven’t yet been announced, whereas Cyberpunk’s multiplayer mode has been announced, and been discussed (at least obliquely) for years at this point. To go silent on a project fans are excited for – and investors have budget sheets pointed at – seems counter-productive.
Asked for the fifth and final time about the mode in the Q&A, Kiciński (who sounded audibly tired at this point), replied more directly: “We are not ready to talk about any details,” adding later, “I know it’s hard for everyone, but we are trying to change our approach to talking about the future. We are more focused on how we work, less focused on our release plans.”
The problem CD Projekt faces is that its many interested parties are very focused on this particular release plan. The lack of concrete information, and the addition of more confusion, is yet another moment in a long, baffling campaign during which those who are most invested (in some cases literally) in Cyberpunk 2077 seem to be those left most without the answers they want.