It May Be The Worst AAA Launch Of a Videogame Ever, But it’s Still Worth a Stocking-Stuffer.
Last Christmas, I decided to play The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt for what was meant to be a one-off review after having watched the Netflix original series. Two months and 300 hours later — after finishing every single quest in both The Witcher 3 and its dual DLC — I was absolutely hooked and ended up collecting all of The Witcher Dark Horse comics and audiobooks. As many people, including myself, found a strange kinship with Geralt of Rivia, the voice of a neo-liberal reluctant hero. After the resurgence in sales thanks to players who bought the game last year, The Witcher 3 became one of the best-selling games of all-time. Much of which was thanks to CD Projekt Red’s great handling of the project in what was the most loyal book-to-videogame adaptation ever created. An indie darling turned overnight sensation, CDPR was celebrated for genuinely listening to their fans and was responsible for creating GOG.com, one of the first online infrastructures that openly asked for a DRM-free internet. With all this love from their fans, many were excited about their Cyberpunk 2077, especially when the company announced they hired Keanu Reeves as its main attraction for what was meant to be the first next-generation RPG. Truly, everything about Cyberpunk 2077 looked legendary.
Except it wasn’t.
Cyberpunk 2077 might go down as one of the worst games ever released, given everything that’s happened in just a two-week timeline. A problem which I personally blame one hundred percent on the game’s executives. Particularly, CD Projekt Red’s joint-CEO Adam Kaciński, who has now gone on record about ignoring signs from his development teams and then outright lied to investors about the state of the game’s readiness. All of this is now being called to question under a lawsuit. Internally, atop of this, hate on leadership after a failure to launch had reached an all-time high, especially in regards to bad decision making such as tying employee bonuses to high review scores and forcing a December deadline. To make matters worse, many early review scores were easily in the 90s, as reviewers were only given PC copies along with resources shared and screenshotted from high-end machines. CDPR knew how atrocious the game would operate on older generation consoles and lied about it. Given the company’s pre-order sales, it’s also obvious profit margins are likely the reason why, as the game essentially sold a broken product to cover its costs in just the first day of its release. Even with refunds taken into account, the game is selling short of expectations, albeit still selling very well.
If that’s not enough, then there are the most severe infractions for Cyberpunk 2077. The game has been critiqued for its anti-transgender insensitivities and misrepresentations. Or how the game had induced seizures for those with epilepsy due to a lighting technique used by doctors. A well-known visual issue for those who ever watched Pokémon, though a topic which the game neglected to do homework about despite a period of development lasting eight years. Atop of this, death threats were issued by CDPR’s most die-hard fans outraged against the delays, as well as fans against these critiques, against the reviewers, and really, just anyone talking about the game in a way they didn’t agree with.
But That Was Just The Beginning
Then by week, two apologies were issued. It quickly became evident just how glitched and buggy the game was on older generation consoles (which I reviewed) but also on higher-end systems. As a result, refunds were promised though never actually agreed upon with the game’s second party sellers, as Playstation unexpectedly pulled the game from their digital shelves. People then argued the media hype was to blame, as eight years of development and a high profile actor set up unrealistic expectations. To which I argue, is this not just general mass marketing? To top it all off this week, a game-breaking bug was revealed that could potentially corrupt and delete your save file, making the game quite literally unplayable if you logged in for too many hours or crafted too many items.
Look, you don’t have to be a genius to see how toxic things can get when you have a crunch culture meets sudden executive billionaires meets expectations as one of the country’s largest businesses. There was too much riding on this game, with blame and finger-pointing now being placed everywhere. Yet despite this and the lawsuits, CD Projekt Red has now sold 13 million copies in less than two weeks. Which is a lot. Yet also, somehow under projections.
But I Honestly Don’t Think It Matters
But here’s the truth. When it works (with the best specs available), it honestly does look as amazing as trailers meant for it to be. Atop of this, CD Projekt Red has never actually made a great initial release and have always needed an endless amount of patches for just every single game they’ve ever created. Heck, I thought even Witcher 3 was pretty garbage with its glitches, item management, and combat mechanics, which, while challenging, often did feel pretty stoic and outright awful at times. Yet, in the end, I got used to it. Because it was the well-crafted stories and characters that really pulled me in. And while Cyberpunk 2077 is no Witcher 3, it does have Keanu, which has to count for something, along with its decades of RPG board gaming history to pull material from. To make matters even more complicated, with all these memes about glitches, errors, and refunds, I personally don’t know anyone who’s actually getting a refund. And with two months of heavy patching between now and February, I’ll also argue that I think the gameplay can only get better. With expected online play to likely make up for any sort of shortcoming losses, sort of like GTA V online.
Sometimes I think the negative response actually is helping the game because fans seem to genuinely enjoy it. Which, despite all the hate, is sort of unintentionally hilarious and amusing for the holiday. Because Cyberpunk is turning into something I don’t think anyone really expected. It’s like a poor man’s Grand Theft Auto of an unintentionally backwards compatible future. Or better yet, the Fallout prequel that nobody asked for… minus all the nukes and 1950s allure.
So, yeah, Cyberpunk 2077 in two weeks has been a nightmare. Arguably the most entertaining and broken spectacle in gaming history. Still, it’s a lot of dumb fun for the holiday break. And I, for one, am surprisingly still playing it, despite originally wanting to get a refund, albeit with lowered expectations.