Cyberpunk 2077 was supposed to be the high watermark for video games in 2020, an open-world RPG full of ambitious ideas that promised an experience that few games before it have achieved. But weeks after its release, would-be fans are still furious, the studio is apologizing, and Sony pulled it from the Playstation Store altogether until it reaches an acceptable level of quality.
This has left everyone reeling and wondering what in the hell just happened.
On the surface, the issues with Cyberpunk 2077 come down to technical performance, especially on the PS4 and Xbox One consoles. There are a number of glitches, ranging from hilarious to game-breaking, that were obvious throughout the game on Day 1. Graphics didn’t look nearly as good as what had been promised, and it didn’t help that the game wasn’t quite as innovative as some had hoped.
Is Cyberpunk 2077 Really That Bad?
While it runs much better on the PS5, Xbox Series X and gaming PCs with the latest GPUs, most people didn’t buy the game for these platforms because next-gen consoles and PC GPUs have been near-impossible to find. Instead, most people have been buying this game on the last-gen consoles, which has only compounded the magnitude of gamer rage.
And it has since been revealed that the developer CD Projekt Red knew the game wasn’t running well on the last-gen PS4 and Xbox One consoles and decided to forge ahead with the release.
This was the final straw for many fans and critics, who have been extremely vocal about the game’s shortcomings.
While the frustration and disappointment is understandable, the sheer vitriol behind the public response to Cyberpunk 2077 feels like it’s more about CD Projekt Red not properly managing expectations for the game and less about the game itself.
After all, this isn’t the first $60 game that turned out to be a dud. If CD Projekt Red had charged $150 for the base version of this game, the hysterics might be a little more valid.
And sure, you can point to the fact that this game was uber-hyped, promised the world to gamers, and had executives who apparently pushed the game out knowing that it still needed work. You could also find fault with the fact that they didn’t show off any footage from the last-gen console versions and only gave out copies of the PC version to reviewers. But still, there had to be some expectation that this thing wasn’t going to run great on a seven-year-old console.
What Have We Learned?
The Cyberpunk 2077 debacle is not without precedent.
In 2016, No Man’s Sky also received tons of hype after it offered the promise of letting you fly through the universe and explore an infinite number of unique planets. It then had a legion of angry gamers railing against it when the game didn’t meet expectations. However, over time, developer Hello Games dropped update after update and dramatically improved the game to the point where it’s now widely beloved by gamers.
Consider the No Man’s Sky experience in your response to Cyberpunk 2077. We are at least a decade past the point where a game would ship without a need for patches and updates. Yes, Cyberpunk 2077 is definitely undercooked, but you also don’t have to buy it right now. Considering the devs have already released multiple patches to try and fix the biggest problems, is there any reason to believe they won’t continue to refine the game like so many developers have done in recent years with other botched games? Is there anything stopping consumers from just waiting for the updates to arrive and then trying it again?
None of this to say that the developers are without fault here. Clearly, CD Projekt Red shit the bed. At the highest levels of the industry, there is a certain level of greed involved in releasing a game that still needs a lot of work. And while all of the criticisms about the studio’s management practices in the lead-up to Cyberpunk 2077’s release are valid, getting mad at a game studio for forcing its employees to crunch and the release of a low-quality game are two different problems, even if they often go hand in hand. One is a question of labor practices, and one is a question of entertainment.
Speaking purely in terms of the end product here, the biggest sin committed by the team behind Cyberpunk 2077 is that it overpromised and underdelivered, even if there’s still the possibility that it will ultimately deliver. This game will (and should) become a cautionary tale for any game developer, but what needs to be put into perspective is that in the same way that people pay to go see a bad movie or buy a bad book, sometimes you waste your time playing through a bad video game.