Cyberpunk 2077 vs CD Projekt Red
It was quite apparent that there was trouble on the horizon when CD Projekt Red first announced Cyberpunk 2077 way back in the olden days of 2013. The last game the developers had finished was The Witcher 2 (2011), and they were still two years out from launching their biggest IP to date, The Witcher 3.
Now where were the signs at this early on? Could they have been in the fact that CD Projekt Red was known for mostly third-person, action-RPG fantasies? Maybe it was the fact that they were tackling their very first-ever first-person adventure? Or quite possibly that Cyberpunk 2077 started out as an intriguing idea, and quickly grew into an IP that far exceeded the realm of possibilities for the team? It may have been all three of those reasons. Including a fourth incoming missile, that in 2020 would be unforeseeable and completely unavoidable for the entire world.
Cyberpunk 2077 was quickly becoming a beast of a game that I have a feeling the leads at CD Projekt Red knew was too large for them to tackle.
Now CD Projekt Red isn't the new kid on the block; they've been around since 1994. For a development studio that's a long time. Sadly, they received little to no notoriety until The Witcher 2 had launched on PC and Xbox 360, even though the original The Witcher game was well received by reviewers. The Witcher 2 was a sales hit for a franchise that few people knew about back then; even garnering the coveted Game of the Year award from some media outlets.
However, Cyberpunk 2077 was a completely different track the development crew willingly veered toward. And the game was steadily growing into a beast of a game that I have a feeling the leads at CD Projekt Red knew was too large for them to tackle. From observation, it's easy to assess that CD Projekt Red were trying to create the next sci-fi Skyrim. But from a studio who were known for a linear action-RPG (until The Witcher 3 changed the linear angle), they were already off to a rough start. What they needed to do was build a team who had experience with the first-person genre in open-world settings; they did have a team specifically for Cyberpunk 2077, but it isn't clear where their comfort level was set at. They needed team leaders who have understood the ins and outs of creating worlds of this magnitude-- of the size and scope of what they had invisioned, and most importantly they needed to make sure the technology to build it existed outside of the studio and was readily available and affordable to customers.
Then all hell broke loose. Cyberpunk 2077 was promised to run on last-gen hardware (Xbox One and PS4) eight months before its eventual launch and early into current-gen. On Monday December 14, 2020 the official Cyberpunk 2077 Twitter account acknowledged this. Admitting that they were so focused on the future, they forgot the present (official Cyberpunk 2077 account tweet below).
But before all that it was clear just on the footage consumers had received that this ambitious project was going to struggle on last-gen hardware. I'm sure any logical person could assess that the game would struggle a bit, maybe lose a few details here and there, but this game is coming from the people who got The Witcher 3 to run on Nintendo Switch-- anything could be done after that feat, right? Correct answer: no. So why weren't the developers clear with us, the consumers? PS4 Pro and Xbox One X are niche consoles that Cyberpunk runs acceptably on-- but the majority of consumers are still on their first PS4s and Xbox Ones. These are percentages that are easily obtainable through Sony and Microsoft if CD Projekt Red was at all concerned-- or to a lesser extent confused.
Last, the unforeseeable; but not the excuse.
When COVID-19 hit it shut the vast majority of businesses down-- especially the entertainment industries including movies, theme parks and video games. This was quite possibly the proverbial missile's grand finale. CD Projekt Red were forced to work from home and finish the game without a team always on-hand, or an environment that these works of art are efficiently produced in.
Instead of the moral support and backup from other team members, they received extra crunch time to complete the game on time. But inevitably, like all of us in the year of COVID, CD Projekt was thrown for a loop and was forced to delay the game not once but three times before it launched in early December 2020. This doesn't excuse them; a game isn't a shell for the first six years only to launch as Cyberpunk did because development wasn't on par the last year. The assumption that the game was too ambitious for their team stands tall.
I feel bad for the consumers who patiently waited by to get their hands on Cyberpunk 2077. I feel bad for CD Projekt Red, because behind the game are still people who were under bad leadership. They likely had the best intentions, but took too many wrong turns and cut to many corners to get to the end. They should have been more clear to the gamers early on, told us this title would not be acceptable on standard last-gen hardware and saved its exclusivity for current-gen and PC only. I do commend them for allowing refunds and making those accessible to everyone who needs one. For the most part, CD Projekt Red haven't had any major stumbles in their 26 year history (besides the crunch debacle). So maybe they can use this time to stand back, assess what they are good at, and understand the playing field that they'd like to build on.
After they fix Cyberpunk 2077 on all consoles, of course.