2020 was full of unexpected events that took the world by storm. We haven’t quite experienced another year like it. It was like a chaotic season of a long running TV show where the staff and crew didn’t know what they were doing. And to mark this year with an equally chaotic sendoff, the world of gaming came to experience its own big letdown: Cyberpunk 2077.
When Cyberpunk 2077 finally rolled out on the 10th of December 2020, eight years after it was first announced, hopeful gamers were disappointed to find that the product didn’t quite keep up with its massive hype. This disappointment was materialized in the share market when CD Projekt (the Polish company that developed Cyberpunk 2077) lost 30% of its shares from 10th December through mid-January. Soon, following the onslaught of negative comments and videos showcasing bug-riddled playthroughs, Sony pulled the title and began offering refunds. And the year’s most anticipated game became the year’s biggest gaming debacle.
Table of contents
#1 What went wrong with Cyberpunk 2077?
#2 A shocking revelation for the team
#3 Laying the tracks while the train was running?
#4 The pandemic worsened the situation
#5 Lessons learned?
#6 What does the future look like for Cyberpunk 2077?
#7 Curious to learn more? Check out these amazing related posts
What went wrong with Cyberpunk 2077?
A set of interviews that were done by Bloomberg with the development team and staff of CD Projekt revealed that poor planning and budgeting has led Cyberpunk 2077 to become what it is. The team had to double down on the project by working more than 13 hours. To make things worse it was revealed that this still hadn’t managed to expedite the process and get them closer to release. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re aware of just how much the company hyped up Cyberpunk 2077 in the months and even years preceding its release. In staff interviews, it was also revealed that the company was focused more on the marketing aspect of the game rather than the development side. CD Projekt wanted to gain a massive cult like following for what they envisioned would be one of their greatest games. They had ambition. But lacked the conviction and the right perspective to successfully execute it.
A shocking revelation for the team…
CD Projekt’s lack of perspective can be seen in how they planned the release date. If you’ve been keeping up with the world of gaming you probably remember Cyberpunk 2077’s demo at E3 2019. Featuring mind blowing graphics and a guest appearance by Keanu Reeves himself, the game garnered everyone’s immediate attention even beyond the gaming community. It was at this special event, held in June 2019, that it was announced that Cyberpunk will be released as early as April 2020. Sure enough it blew everyone away but the public couldn’t grasp the impossibility behind this statement at the time. Which is expected of course since we naturally have zero knowledge of where a game currently is in its development cycle. On the other hand, with this announcement, the staff and developers at CD Projekt found themselves shocked. They believed that there was no way it could come out by the said date.
“Laying the tracks while the train was running”?
Cyberpunk 2077 was envisioned to be a massive cross-generational hit, with the launch of the PS5 console around the corner. Of course before its release it really was. But looking at its development process, now laid bare for the world to see by its frustrated staff, it’s become clear that CD Projekt counted their cards wrong and aimed a little too high.
Looking at games that took the world by storm in the recent years like Among Us and the revived classic, Minecraft, it’s pretty easy to see that at the end of the day what makes a great game is its ability to make players have a good time. No matter how simple or complicated a game might be, if it gets the players engaged in the right way, then it has basically hit jackpot. It seems as if CD Projekt let this simple truth slip through them while creating Cyberpunk 2077. They banked on its potential to grasp the audience by the wow factor alone. Well at least they tried to create said wow factor with graphics, faux complications and imagined depth to the world building which in the end only led to burnout.
One staff member told Bloomberg that at one point, the process of developing Cyberpunk 2077 came close to trying to run a train as the tracks were being laid. He said this in reference to how some technologies needed for the project were being developed at the same time as the game was. This is a surprising level of inefficiency for a company that has several successful titles to its name thanks to the Witcher series.
The pandemic worsened the situation…
Come January 2020, CD Projekt finally realized that if they had any plans of rolling out the game by April 2020, it was time to abandon those plans. They were indeed behind schedule, as expected by most of its development team back in June 2019 at E3 when the launch date was first announced. Another couple of months down the line and the pandemic took the world by surprise. This was when the chaotic development of Cyberpunk 2077 peaked, taking a turn for the worse.
Most of the team had to work from home which immediately stripped them of access to some of the most crucial development tools and equipment. Communication and coordination difficulties resulting from teams being scattered on different locations also affected this process negatively.
All in all we can agree that the creators of Cyberpunk 2077 overlooked a few key aspects of developing video games. Which is unexpected of the company that developed the ever so popular Witcher series but that itself accounts for the first lesson to be learned from this fiasco. And that lesson is basically, no matter how successful your previous projects have been you’re never too cool to take a step back and analyze your capacity. Cyberpunk 2077 had all the ambition we love to see in a game developer but it had little touch with feasibility. Had CD Projekt aimed a little more reasonably the crunch to release Cyberpunk would have been a more enjoyable experience for the developers, which in turn would have boosted their productivity and creativity to deliver a wonderful product.
And that takes us to another key lesson here: The core of gaming is entertainment. In fact e-sports is the world’s fastest growing form of entertainment. So the core focus of creating a game is to make sure that players are entertained; that they’re impressed by the actual playthrough rather than by the flair and the hype surrounding it. It is true that CD Projekt nailed their marketing. In fact as mentioned earlier in this post, their staff revealed how their marketing efforts far exceeded their developing efforts. It’s understandable to want your most ambitious project to receive due attention. But unless that attention is sustained it doesn’t amount to much and CD Projekt failed to grasp this reality. So the key takeaway is to always be in touch with what you want your product to do; what purpose do you want it to serve once its out? And a few years down the line, how do you really want your project to be remembered?
What does the future look like for Cyberpunk 2077?
Given that Cyberpunk 2077 launched with a lot of bugs, it’s safe to say that CD Projekt will spend a good part of 2021 fixing these bugs on their road to redemption. In fact they’ve released a statement on December 13th, reassuring that improvements are on the way: “…we will fix bugs and crashes, and improve the overall experience. The first round of updates has just been released and the next one is coming within the next 7 days. Expect more, as we will update frequently whenever new improvements are ready.”
On a positive note it can be believed that this was only a wake-up call to CD Projekt and not an actual indication of a downfall. Hopefully, Cyberpunk 2077 will redeem itself and come back in a form that players of all consoles and PCs can embrace.
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