More than six months after a cataclysmic, bug-riddled launch saw Cyberpunk 2077 quite deservingly removed from sale by Sony, the game is finally back on the PlayStation Store. But is this the triumph it appears to be?
It’s been a while since we last took a look at the disastrous Cyberpunk 2077, and this seems like a good opportunity to consider the game’s progress – and how far it still has to go. On the surface, Cyberpunk 2077′s return to the PlayStation Store seems like a win for beleaguered developer CD Projekt Red. They’ll want to spin it as testament to the work put into the game since launch, and that it must be representative of a significant improvement for the game… even though its PlayStation Store listing comes with a major caveat that warns players of “performance issues” and that buying the game for PlayStation 4 is “not recommended!”
Let’s not forget, before we go any further, that Sony doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to gatekeeping on the PlayStation Store. Some truly awful games have been released there and allowed to remain on sale even after being shown to be buggy, unplayable messes. That’s one reason why the decision to pull Cyberpunk 2077 was so shocking! Sony allowing the game back means it’s finally at the same level as PlayStation classics like Life of Black Tiger and Sword of Fortress the Onomuzim.
The general consensus, even from Cyberpunk 2077′s remaining supporters, is that the game still has a long way to go. There are still a lot of glitches and issues to correct, but most significantly there are underlying gameplay problems, more of which become apparent with every bug fixed. Cyberpunk 2077 was rushed out the door to meet an arbitrary deadline, and the result of that isn’t just the bugs and glitches. Many aspects of the underlying gameplay just aren’t all that good.
Non-player characters don’t react naturally to situations that transpire around them. There are many video clips you can find on YouTube of half a dozen characters performing an identical animation when the player takes out a gun or fires a shot. Night City’s police don’t exist dynamically in the world in the same way they do in games like Grand Theft Auto V – or Grand Theft Auto III, come to that. Instead, they spawn in when the player commits a crime – often within a metre or two of the player.
If the version of Cyberpunk 2077 that launched in December felt like an early alpha version, six months later what we have at best is the equivalent of a closed beta. It’s ready for play-testing by a large professional QA team who would report all of these bugs and glitches to the developers so they could be fixed before launch. In a game of this size, this phase of development could easily take six months or more. Being as generous as we can, Cyberpunk 2077 is still in dire need of months of development time to get to a state that’s anywhere close to acceptable.
And that’s before we get into new problems. CD Projekt Red and the development team are still reeling from a major hack that exposed the private data of many individuals who work for the company. That will undoubtedly have damaged morale. But to my great surprise, in recent interviews CD Projekt Red has already begun discussing its next game – which is assumed to be The Witcher 4.
They quite literally and demonstrably have not finished working on Cyberpunk 2077 and they’re already talking about moving on to new projects? Ouch. I think we can kiss goodbye to any Cyberpunk 2077 expansion packs or DLC! CD Projekt Red has also announced sales figures for the first quarter of 2021, and as you might expect given the state of the game, those numbers are catastrophically bad – Cyberpunk 2077 sold somewhere in the region of 800,000 copies. That’s less than 6% of the 13.7 million copies of the game that were sold in December 2020.
Then there are refunds to take into consideration. Many players chose to get refunds directly from Xbox, Steam, and other outlets where they’d purchased the game. This is a big part of the reason why Sony took the game down – there were so many refunds being requested, and Sony was concerned about their ability to handle all of them. CD Projekt Red directly refunded only around 30,000 players – but that doesn’t account for the vast majority who got their refunds from the shop they purchased the game from. The total number of refunds as of June – according to unofficial reports – may be in excess of two million.
Even if that number is inflated, a huge number of refunds have been paid out, and that’s had a massive impact on CD Projekt Red’s bottom line. The company has seen more than 50% wiped off the value of its share price in the last six months, and a recent investor presentation saw further falls as investors were disappointed at the lack of clarity about the company’s future – and Cyberpunk 2077 in particular.
I’ve spoken at length about how Cyberpunk 2077 has become the latest in a long line of “release now, fix later” failures, but the point needs to be re-emphasised: this is not how you make a video game. Players have a right to expect basic functionality and playability at the bare minimum, and even as Cyberpunk 2077 returns to the PlayStation Store, those basic expectations are still not being met. The game remains in a poor state, unworthy of being called a finished product.
As the old joke goes: if you can’t be a success in life, maybe you can still serve as a bad example. And that’s what Cyberpunk 2077 is right now: a warning to any other publisher that thinks they can get away with releasing a broken, bug-riddled, unplayable mess and promise to fix it later.
I had been hopeful that Cyberpunk 2077′s updates over the last few months would kick off a No Man’s Sky-style revival, with the game crawling its way slowly toward commercial success and critical acclaim. That’s still possible – though if CD Projekt Red are already considering their next game, I’m not encouraged by that. But as things stand, the updates and patches released so far haven’t succeeded at getting the game to anywhere near its promised condition.
Some of the bugs are gone. But each bug removed seems to uncover something else about Cyberpunk 2077 that’s disappointing – in a way, the game’s reputation for being unplayable due to bugs concealed what may come to be seen as its true failing: Cyberpunk 2077 is just not that fun to play. There may be a decent story, but in terms of gameplay, what’s there is a roleplaying-shooter that’s mediocre at best, with gameplay systems that other titles did better years earlier.
Considering the financial impact on CD Projekt Red, in a way I could quite understand the desire to move on. Cutting your losses and racing ahead to a new project makes business sense in some circumstances, and may even be helpful in the medium-to-long term for team morale. I wouldn’t be shocked to hear in the next few months that there won’t be any more Cyberpunk 2077 updates; that this is as good as the game will ever get.
BioWare did this twice in recent years – with Mass Effect: Andromeda and with Anthem. So before you dismiss the notion out of hand, keep in mind that it’s happened before. Games companies are notorious for cutting their losses and abandoning underperforming projects. And if we’ve learned one thing from the Cyberpunk 2077 clusterfuck it’s that CD Projekt Red, despite their earlier glowing reputation with players, behave just like every other major games company on the planet.
If you’re still playing Cyberpunk 2077 – or holding out hope for its future success – I’m with you. I don’t want this game to be forever bad; it had so much potential and I’d like nothing more than to see it succeed. I’m just not holding my breath any more. There have been too many underwhelming updates and too many strange noises coming from CD Projekt Red.
Cyberpunk 2077 is out now for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X. Cyberpunk 2077 is the copyright of CD Projekt Red. Some promotional artwork courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.