Report: Cyberpunk 2077 Devs Will Now Receive Bonuses No Matter How It Reviews

Report: Cyberpunk 2077 Devs Will Now Receive Bonuses No Matter How It Reviews
Screenshot: CD Projekt Red

CD Projekt executives said they accept responsibility for Cyberpunk 2077’s shortcomings in an email sent to staff earlier today, Bloomberg reports.

“We underestimated the lengths and complexity involved to make this a reality, and still you did everything you could to deliver an ambitious, special game,” CD Projekt Red studio head and game director Adam Badowski is said to have written.

Cyberpunk 2077 developers were expecting to receive bonuses for their work on the game depending on how it fared on review aggregator Metacritic — a terrible practice common in the video game industry — with an average score of 90+ initiating bonus payouts. The game currently sits at 90 exactly, but that number doesn’t take into account the noticeably inferior versions on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, which reviewers weren’t able to play before release.

Bloomberg’s reporting also provides an inside look at the bizarre bonus structure employed by CD Projekt Red’s leadership. Developers deemed to have done good work were given tokens emblazoned with the studio’s red bird logo, which they were told they could redeem for post-launch bonuses should Cyberpunk 2077 receive critical acclaim. It’s these bonuses that the company now says will be paid out regardless of average score, on top of the profit-sharing payouts employees already enjoy.

The report notes concern within the ranks of CD Projekt Red that pursuit of these bonuses pushed developers to work long hours over nights and weekends to prove themselves worthy of the red bird tokens. Bloomberg reported in September that, despite public promises to the contrary, Cyberpunk 2077 devs were asked to work six-day work weeks leading up to the game’s release on December 10.

“I take it upon myself to receive the full backlash for the decision,” Badowski wrote to employees in an email from that time. “I know this is in direct opposition to what we’ve said about crunch. It’s also in direct opposition to what I personally grew to believe a while back — that crunch should never be the answer. But we’ve extended all other possible means of navigating the situation.”

While I suppose it’s nice that Cyberpunk 2077 dev bonuses won’t hinge on critical reception, the patronising method by which those bonuses are doled out is emblematic of what we’ve learned of the toxic work culture fostered by CD Projekt leadership.

Comments

  • Sounds like they picked out employees who met certain KPI’s and rewarded them accordingly? Standard practice in most industries?

    • Except that’s not really what was happening. They awarded good work with the potential of a bonus that was reliant on factors fully outside of their control (metacritic scores). It’s like if a teacher grades your work based not on merit and substance but on whether or not another teacher takes their coffee mug in the morning.

    • Except a review score of a final product is a shirty KPI, your telling me their bosses/managers etc don’t know how their staff performed, especially with long hours and dradline commitments to leave their KPI to the mouth breathing public in the era of Review Bombing.

      Your KPI is based on your senior bosses not completely stuffing it up and releasing it with game breaking bug, or worse. A small number of individuals not doing their job and breaking the release (especially something that could be fixed in a week or two) could cost hundreds/thousands (they are long credits) a bonus.

      Oh our KPI is to get a score over 90… only sends out two review copies IGN and Gamespot.

      • I mean, that’s literally not what’s written in the article, which describes how individual employees are singled out and given ‘red tokens’ depending upon their performance, which is obviously measured by a metric.

        But I’d rather go by what’s being done in the here and now, which is everyone being paid, which is an excellent outcome. Most companies don’t do this, and at least CDPR are 🙂

  • Good. Especially since it seems like the game is going to make fucking bank.

    I’m not a fan of bonuses in the first place, but I feel like the underlying philosophy is, “Reward for success.” The primary indicator of success is obviously money. But that becomes a little unfair if your marketing is shit or you launch into a shitty environment (ask Battleborn). In THOSE cases, I sympathize with the argument that it’s fair to tie bonuses to the quality of the product, even if it wasn’t necessarily commercially successful. If you bust a gut creating a gem and marketing fucks it, you still deserve recognition for the gem.

    End of the day, though, it feels like it should always be a secondary ‘fallback’ indicator. Lowest bar, if you will. If a ‘popcorn’ game makes fucktonnes of money but reviews are average, who gives a fuck, the success is there, let the devs share in it. It’s unconscionable seeing a game make bank but the devs missing a bonus because the reviews were one point too low.

    • Agreed. They should always go by the actual success of the game, not by the damn reviews. How many games have come in at a 6 or 7 out of 10, yet actually sold a ton of copies? How many did New Vegas, for example, sell over time, yet they missed out on their bonus???

  • There is still the issue that the “bonus” is a phantom carrot on a stick that is waved in front of the employees for years to justify crunch.

    Take Borderland developer, their first two games bonuses were on sales and was famously touted 6 figure buy a house money for employees… apart of the companies recruitment strategy and justification for sacrifices made by staff, then just before Borderlands 3 was released Randy Pitchford told staff the promised bonus was substantially smaller due to “budget, staff and sales”… but it still had a record sales numbers, high review scores, epics exclusive bag of cash… and it all went to senior executive bonuses instead.

  • Just so people don’t get confused,

    This is not the 10% profit share the devs get of the game. This is a bonus on top of that for the employees who put in the extra effort.

  • ‘… the patronising method by which those bonuses are doled out is emblematic of what we’ve learned of the toxic work culture fostered by CD Projekt leadership’

    Hmm, don’t get this comment from the Author. From what I read here, employees who did good work were provided the opportunity to get a bigger bonus. What’s patronizing about that?

    Yes, tying the extra bonus to a review score can be problematic, but they are fixing that issue according to your own report. CDPR is already providing a profit share bonus to their employees.

    What’s the Author’s expectation? All employees get paid the exact same salary and bonus despite differences in experience, contribution and skills? I know unions like their 19th century method of paying by senority, but that seems a poor approach to me. I know motivated employees get deflated when they work in an environment where good employees get the same a free riders.

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