CD Projekt’s Emergency Cyberpunk 2077 Board Meeting Had Tons Of Spice

CD Projekt’s Emergency Cyberpunk 2077 Board Meeting Had Tons Of Spice
The Night City skyline of Cyberpunk 2077, seen here running on an Xbox Series X. (Screenshot: CD Projekt Red)
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Given the public apology and subsequent response from platform holders and retailers, and how much CD Projekt Red’s stock price has soared this year, it’s natural that the state of Cyberpunk 2077 was going to trigger an emergency conference call. Unsurprisingly, investors lobbied plenty of spice at the board.

After a brief statement from co-founder and joint CEO Adam Kiciński, a representative of Morgan Stanley kicked off proceedings by trying to get some detail on the current sales for last-gen, and how exactly the game’s PS4/Xbox One version launched in the state it did.

The CD Projekt board declined to offer any sales figures, but they did shoot down the idea that adding more developers into the mix would have rectified problems. (It’s an extension of Brooks’s law, which says that adding people to a software project late in development will slow things down further.)

The next question then resulted in CD Projekt slowly walking back their own statement earlier in the week regarding refunds. “We are not encouraging gamers to return the game; we hope they’ll give us a chance to improve it on old-gen consoles,” joint CEO Marcin Iwinski added.

Of course, Sony, Microsoft and every other retailer has their own policy for refunds. But the point is more that those platforms are going beyond those stated policies. Some Steam users reported getting refunds after having 8 or more hours played, despite Steam’s policy capping out at 2 hours. Microsoft and Sony have been exceptionally generous too, although everyone’s mileage has varied. Kiciński then blamed COVID for affecting their outsourced QA partners — while CD Projekt Red has their own internal QA, their partner companies weren’t able to test Cyberpunk 2077 — although that also wasn’t “a major source of problems”.

The next question then came from an investor at Jefferies Group, who was also a base PS4 owner, and boy did they have questions.

Should we take it that you had found it was very important that the game shouldn’t be delayed into the next year, or simply that you had always wanted to deliver the game and not delay it – and you just underestimated the extent to which the last-gen version was not going to be the way it should be? Was it more about “the launch is important” or more about “we underestimated how bad the last-gen version was”? And secondly, and related to that, at the certification stage – presumably, Microsoft and Sony always get games that still have bugs, and decide they’re going to be ok – partly on the basis of discussions with you that there will be fixes. Have I understood that correctly? Or do you feel somehow that the certification process is kind of only one side or the other, and failed to identify just how underperforming the last-gen version was?

Perhaps I should add a final question to make it three; everyone has three – are you confident that last-gen machines will be able to produce an acceptable version of this game? And I say this as a PS4 owner, so I hope so. But – is it something that’s simply too demanding, and – in hindsight – no amount of fixing is going to generate an acceptable experience? Thank you.

Imagine copping that at a board meeting.

Michał Nowakowski started by saying the fault lay completely with CD Projekt Red for not “us looking … at the PC and next-gen performance rather than current-gen”. “We definitely did not spend enough time looking at that,” Nowakowski said.

“We have also stated that if your expectation is that the game is going to be equal to, say, next-gen [consoles] or PC in terms of performance, that definitely isn’t going to happen. Having said that, I’m not saying it’s going to be a bad game – but if you’re expectations regarding, say, visuals or other performance angle, are like this, then we’re openly stating that’s not going to be the case. It will be a good, playable, stable game, without glitches and crashes, though,” Nowakowski added.

The Jefferies investor was, well, not completely convinced:

Okay; that last sentence, I think, is the key one. I don’t expect next-gen performance on last-gen, but I would like to be able to play through the game. Thank you very much.

Ooft. It’s also worth remembering some of CD Projekt’s previous statements about the game’s PS4 performance. Here’s a comment from Kiciński during the third quarter financial briefing on November 30:

As for PS4 – yesterday we released gameplay trailers both on PS4 and PS5, so you can see the difference. Of course, PS5 is great, but PS4 is still very good. We had those extra 3 weeks and we achieved a lot within this final stretch, so we believe the game performs great on every platform.

That footage was for the PS4 Pro, not the base PS4. When someone followed up later on specifically about the base PS4 and base Xbox One, Kiciński said this:

Of course a bit lower than on pro consoles, but surprisingly good, I would say, for such a huge world. That’s the answer.

And earlier on October 28, when Cyberpunk 2077 was delayed by three weeks to December 10, here’s what the board said again about the base console performance:

I wouldn’t say there is a “problem” because there’s nothing wrong with Xbox or PS4 versions – there is optimisation to be handled, also because of how we were approaching things from the get-go in terms of development; so – there is no problem with Xbox or PlayStation 4, to be honest. Now, in terms of issues – I don’t think there’s much point in going there. Yes, there are some issues that are similar – I’m not going to go through a full bug report here; that’s probably pointless – but let’s put it like this: there are some issues which are common to both platforms and some issues which are slightly different; it’s a mixed bag, really. It’s something that can be handled, can be done and something that we’re currently working on. 

CD Projekt advertised the console experience in interviews, too. Back in 2019, the studio’s Alvin Liu said the game’s graphics would be “quite amazing for what you’re going to get from Cyberpunk 2077 on consoles and low-end PCs”.

Now compare that with this latest remark overnight, when the board was asked about why Cyberpunk 2077 shipped only on new-gen consoles and PCs if the last-gen experience was so sub-par.

In terms of the shape of the game after optimisation: we pretty much said it earlier in the call, i.e. the game will have no crashes, the main bugs will be eliminated, and we’re looking to improve both performance and graphic fidelity – that’s going to be spread out across various patches and, of course, a pretty important update will happen this month. Actually, the game is playable right now; that may be an important thing to state because it’s not like the game does not launch or is unplayable; I fully understand that the experience is far from satisfactory for a lot of people – and we do acknowledge that – but “not playable” sounds like it doesn’t launch at all, which is not the case.

It’s worth remembering, too, that CD Projekt Red still has a season pass in the works for Cyberpunk 2077. The original plan was to start marketing that before the game’s release, but during the Q3 earnings call the company said “we decided to wait for [Cyberpunk’s] release” after the game was delayed to December.

During the emergency meeting overnight, Kiciński offered this insight into player feedback based from last-gen consoles and hours played. “We started with a score of 70, but now it’s 79. If you filter those who have played 10 hours or more, the score is 85 – so the more you play the more enjoyment you feel,” the CD Projekt joint CEO said.

The board also made an interesting remark about how the console version of Cyberpunk 2077 was being referenced in reviews of the PC version:

As far as players’ feedback is concerned, the feedback for the PC edition is by far better than what we’re getting on consoles – but when we read reviews of the PC version we see many comments referring to the console versions, so there’s a bit of a mix among platforms and it’s not always easy to distinguish them.

It’s almost as if the player base (and reviewers) aren’t prepared to overlook the fact that the base console footage was completely hidden from release. Or, as CD Projekt Red put it, deliberately not shown because they were updating the game “until the very last minute”:

For the second question – with regard to not showing the console version – we’ve actually shown console footage, but never on the last-gen consoles. The reason is that we were updating the game on last-gen consoles until the very last minute, and we thought we’d make it in time. Unfortunately this resulted in giving it to reviewers just one day before the release, which was definitely too late and the media didn’t get the chance to review it properly. That was not intended; we were just fixing the game until the very last moment.

I’d still argue that five or six days to review the game on PC wasn’t enough either.

It’s hard to tally up all the statements made by CD Projekt over the last couple of years, back when the game was scheduled to launch twice in an environment where the Xbox Series X and PS5 didn’t exist, that they didn’t spend enough time focusing on the last-gen consoles. The majority of console users own a base PS4 or Xbox One, not the mid-gen PS4 Pro or Xbox One X refreshes. And that aside, the game isn’t shipping with any next-gen performance optimisations. If they were focusing on PC and next-gen console performance all this time, why weren’t those patches ready for launch?

It’s a giant mess, and one that CD Projekt Red will be spending all of 2021 rectifying. The studio said they will have another patch before Christmas, and they’ll make an official announcement on the game’s sales figures, although a full breakdown won’t be released until early next year.

Comments

  • I find investors complaining amusing… Since they are largely the reason things like this release earlier than they otherwise probably should have.

    • On the other hand, the investors aren’t usually the ones who set the time frame, they usually just agree to the plan laid out to them and then ensure it’s met.

      • Yeah, which can and absolutely does result in developers releasing things earlier than they should have been.

        It’s like someone mentioned on another article… Complaints about it being delayed, now there are complaints that it was released too early. You’d be kidding yourself to think investors weren’t pushing along the same line, and are now regretting it.

        • Yeah it’s a two way street of balancing risk and return.

          The complaints comment about delays and early release was indeed a funny one but it’s not a fair assessment about the state of things, both the delays and release have been met with a wide range of reactions and feelings.

    • How is it their fault? Were they programming the game? Did they set the release dates?

      Even CDPR have publicly stated that it’s completely their fault. Take that as you will.

  • Sounds like investors were calling CD Projekt Red out on their bulls*** only to get the same blame deflection techniques they use on the media & players. Typical “It’s not our fault” or “when you take out the negatives” mindset from another egotistical developer/company.

  • I was idly wondering what it would cost to buy some CDPR stocks just to be able to get a seat at that questions table for funsies, but wow, it’s a bit more than I expected. Even with the ‘plummeting’ price (by which I mean: at the same price that it was in June), it’s a bit over 70 euros per unit. Better to buy now than when it was at its 103 high, but still that’s not a super cheap joke. 😛

  • Was planning to sit out all this outrage but oh wellz…

    I’d like to take abit of time to remind everyone that the internet all wanted Sean Murray’s head when No Man’s Sky was launched, and that game recently won the best ongoing game at the Game Awards 2020.

    So lets all just relax and give them a bit of time to fix things…probably why I never pre-order anything ^_^

  • I was never really hyped by the game, I just wanted to play something that would push my rig, but i read the previews, interviews and watched some videos.

    They lied. Again and again and again. I’m not angry but it’s really changed my view of the company. Why would anyone believe anything they say now after they wasted everyone’s time for so long with these statements that were just, completely untrue? So many of the things they said were just lies.

  • This should never have been diluted to console. It’s a PC crpg first, foremost & last. I’m just pissed off that if all those man hours wasted on mouth-breather platforms were spent on testing & polishing the pc master race version, oh what a gem (with relatively minor bugs) we could have had! But, greed is good, apparently.

    • That’s a joke right? We’re past that embarrasing PCMR rubbish aren’t we?

      ‘mouth-breather platforms’ Jesus Christ

      • the phrasing is a little on the nose but the sentiment is correct. CDPR shouldnt be judged on how poorly the last gen version performs, they should be judged on the fact they released it on those platforms at all. its a waste of time better spent on the games primary platform, the PC.

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