The Cyberpunk 2077 Hype Is Just Too Much

The Cyberpunk 2077 Hype Is Just Too Much
Image: CD Projekt Red / Kotaku

In less than one week, everybody in cyberpunk future year 2020 will be playing Cyberpunk 2077. Or at least, that’s the impression I get, based on the fact that it’s all anybody is talking about. Such is the nature of the hype surrounding the robo-armed role-playing sensation: Hardly anybody has played it yet, but they’re certain that it’s going to be a life-changing experience. On this week’s episode of Splitscreen, we discuss the uglier sides of the gaming community that the Cyberpunk 2077 reality distortion field has brought out, as well as the (often disastrous) history of hype in the gaming industry.

To kick off the episode, Ash, Fahey, and I do our best Defector impression and Remember Some Games that were hyped to heck and back, only to land with dull thuds and immediately fade into obscurity. Remember EA’s Dante’s Inferno? How about that weird Ubisoft shooter, Haze? And of course, who could forget Homefront, aside from everyone? Not us! After that, we move into a discussion of Cyberpunk 2077 and why it, in particular, has hitched its cart to what might be the most out of control hype train in video game history, as well as the broader ramifications of that.

Lastly, we ride that energy right off a cliff, into the land where dimly remembered marketing disasters dwell. Who thought that promoting Homefront by releasing hundreds of red balloons over San Francisco, essentially showering an eco-conscious city in garbage, was a good idea? And how about that one Sony PSP ad that, back in 2006, people thought was pretty racist and is, in hindsight, incredibly “How did literally even a single person greenlight that” racist? We talk about all of that and, of course, more.

Get the MP3 here, and check out an excerpt below.

Ash: At first I kind of succumbed to the Cyberpunk hype a little bit because they got the Keanu Reeves and the “You’re breathtaking” thing with him. He’s just a nice guy, and he’s really pretty to look at. And if there’s an idea that I can play this game and hang around with him for most of the 120 hours it purports to be, then you know what? That’s a pretty damn good game. I could get into that.

But as time went on, everything came out about CD Projekt Red saying, “We’re not going to crunch, but oh actually, we’ve been crunching this entire time,” and they kind of fumbled that message around “Are they crunching, or are they not crunching” and then “Actually, crunch is good because we’re paying everybody; sorry to your spouses and kids you’ll never see again.” It’s just, like, I don’t care anymore, guys. And then there’s the whole issue of attendant fanboys around it, where if you say one negative thing about it, they’ll come with pitchforks and try to burn your house down. It just turns me off the entire thing. I’m so sick of it. I’m really sick of it!

Fahey: As you were describing that whole process, I felt this strong sense of weariness just fall over me. It was, like, slowly crushing me.

Ash: Because this is gonna be our lives now, for at least the next month. I mean, even though we’re not the people who are working on it, we’ll be working on it. It’s still gonna be something that’s just gonna absorb all of our working lives because it’s the thing everybody’s gonna click on and want to talk about.

Nathan: I think it’s important to dig into how we got here, how Cyberpunk arrived at this point. Because on paper, it doesn’t seem like the kind of game, necessarily, that has previously garnered this kind of hype. While it shares some qualities with those sorts of games, just look at, like, the Deus Ex reboots. Even they didn’t command this level of unbridled, feral fervor. I’ve been trying to pin down exactly what turned this game into a full-blown sensation, and it’s hard. One big thing that we were actually talking about among Kotaku staff in general the other day was that the game was announced almost a decade ago. It’s weird to think about, but the first time we saw it in any form was a cinematic trailer in 2013, but even before that, CD Projekt announced it in 2012. The trailer was pretty controversial at the time, because it featured a scantily clad woman cyborg fighting cops — perhaps even more charged imagery in this day and age than it was back then. But even at the time, the discussion around sexism in games was at a fever pitch, and the trailer wound up getting a lot of attention, in part, because of that zeitgeist.

But that wasn’t the moment Cyberpunk 2077 took off. Back then, The Witcher 3 wasn’t even out yet. There was a small contingent of people who really loved CD Projekt, but it wasn’t like it is now. So I think the main factors that kind of coalesced into this perfect storm were The Witcher 3 coming out and CD Projekt becoming this, like, “gamer’s developer” that doesn’t do microtransactions and releases 30-hour-long DLC episodes and is attached to a DRM-free store in GOG — all of which resulted in this “can do no wrong” reputation. Then, on top of that, we got the Keanu Reeves moment, which was just perfect timing. I don’t think CD Projekt knew it was going to happen. I think they just had Keanu Reeves attached, and right as his star was rising again, he had that super viral, zeitgeist-y “You’re breathtaking” moment at E3. And that was it. That was the spark that just blew up the whole powder keg.

Fahey: From there on out, everything has been yellow, with that Cyberpunk logo, and it’s making me vomit. I’m so tired of seeing the yellow Cyberpunk thing. I got swept up in the Keanu craze. I was excited about him. He is, as Ash said, nice to look at.

Ash: He’s just a cool, chill guy. He’s one of those people where it would seriously damage your idea of humanity if something came out about how he was actually an arsehole.

Nathan: That unto itself is really interesting too, right? He’s not who you’d commonly associate with a big action video game. So on one hand, you have this big action game that, I think, based on what’s been shown so far, feels a little typical. But you also have this very atypical person attached — this guy who has become an action movie star despite his persona seemingly not lending itself to that at all. But I mean, he’s kind of the man of the hour. He’s the guy for our current age of wanting our celebrities to be both larger than life and very down to earth.

Fahey: He’s the perfect fit for a Cyberpunk game. He starred in Johnny Mnemonic, one of the biggest cyberpunk movies ever. He was in The Matrix. He was in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Cyberpunk Adventure. And he was in…what was the one?

Ash: A Scanner Darkly.

Fahey: A Walk To Remember, yes.

Nathan: Oh yeah, he played Jesus in that movie. It’s a good joke if you know what A Walk To Remember was about.

But anyway, I do think there are a lot of little subtle things that CD Projekt has done to court hype in ways that have been both good for them and damaging for everybody’s sanity. I think they knew pretty quickly that they had a game that could be massive on their hands, so they started doing all these events and things. They have their ongoing Night City Wire series, which is basically a long infomercial on Twitch, and they have cosplay competitions and stuff like that for this game that is, again, not out yet, which is wild to me. They’ve reached this point where people are on one hand hyped, but on the other, there’s already built-in brand loyalty. They’ve turned being a fan of Cyberpunk into an identity. And that’s where you get, like, people just going insane if anybody says anything potentially negative about the game, or an army of people who want to defend crunch or transphobic tweets, which is, again, just bonkers.

Fahey: I’m someone who played Cyberpunk back in the day — the pen-and-paper role-playing game. And now I’m completely sick of it. I’ve been put off by a thing I love because it’s so in my face at every given time. It used to be a nice little niche thing.

For all that and more, check out the episode. New episodes drop every Friday, and don’t forget to like and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Stitcher. Also if you feel so inclined, leave a review, and you can always drop us a line at [email protected] if you have questions or suggest a topic. If you want to yell at us directly, you can reach us on Twitter: Ash is @adashtra, Fahey is @UncleFahey, and Nathan is @Vahn16. See you next week!

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Comments

  • I was born in ’82.
    My favorite movie since I was 4 years old has always been Blade Runner.
    You guys say hype, I say it’s a fervor.

  • Sadly I think so many people have spent far too long thinking of what the game should be, I am unsure how CDPR could possibly match such a limitless scope of fantasy.

    That said, I finished my uni exam (it was due two days after) so my hype levels are now through the roof.

    • I’m sitting it out until the PS5 upgrade is available. Day 1 PS4 is just too damn noisy these days.
      I feel like CDPR has earned outbhype. Their track record is strong and they’ve taken some painful delay decisions.
      Check out the lore book if you haven’t already. It’s pricey but very well done (imo).

    • I actually had to consciously check my expectations the other day. I was watching Alanah Pearce’s discussion with Tom Marks and Phil Hornshaw when I realised that I had developed this idea of what I wanted the game to be and what I had taken from all the sizzle reels and synthesised it into something that didn’t really resemble what I should be expecting. That’s not to say I’m expecting to be disappointed–I’m very excited for whatever it is CDPR deliver– but had I not taken a bit of distance, the actual experience probably would have been a bit jarring to my expectations.

        • True. I’m just usually pretty good about keeping my hype in check so it’s not something I’ve had to deal with too often. Not so with Cyberpunk, however.

  • That whole article just read like a bunch of people who don’t realise they’re adults and can choose not to get caught up in something by… being adults about it? Seriously…

    • Introspective and identity focussed content is massive with the U.S contributors unfortunately. I wish there was a bigger focus on games and industry content.

    • Of course, they were reflecting on their on complicity in the hype train. How is that not a reasonable conversation to have?

  • Perhaps some of the issue here is fear. We fear that the hype will not deliver and that is why we get sick of it. We are worried we won’t like the game and we have not been able to play it yet and the emotions have subsided in some way in us while in others they are still high. As a result, we don’t like others to be so excited about something we have lost interest for or potentially afraid will not deliver. We just don’t want to be disappointed when we play it.

    There is nothing wrong with any of that. But maybe that is the thing to say. If others want to be excited and live with that right up to when they play, have at it!

    If CDPR have a done a great job marketing, then hats of to them. And if the game turns out to be great even more so.

    What difference will this hype make if the game is great? No much right. Let’s admit then that perhaps the big issue is we just fear being disappointed. And maybe we can temper that with thoughts about the reality that every game will be flawed in some ways and yet can still be a great game. That Cyberpunk 2077 is delivering something in a genre that many people love and could be the start of a wondering series. And maybe that deserves some hype.

  • My thoughts on the different points.

    Crunch: I don’t understand how anyone can be so stupid as to think that is ever going to go away. It happens in every industry, whether you’re in marketing, and you need to make 11th-hour changes, or you’re in some retail shop, and you are dealing with end of year shit. It’s just always there. Everyone has deadlines, and everyone has to deal with the preacher of them. The only thing with Vid games is that its a unique form of crunch, as its the rapping up of a project, and when you have only a few months to finalise and make sure that everything is just right, then yes, there is going to be a crunch. It’s not something you can just say ‘we won’t do’. That was the REAL mistake CDPR made on that one. It was not realistic at all. You only need to look at how a weekly TV show is run to understand that there are worse ways you could work.

    On Comparing this to Des Ex Reboots: When it comes to comparisons to other games, I think it’s important to note that people are not just hyped due to the game itself any more, or if that’s ever really been the case. Who is making the game has a large part in that? You only need to look at reading Dead Redemption 2, GTA 5 or, going to a failed game, SPORE, to see that a lot of the hype is less about the game itself, and more related to the creator and the rep.

    EA used to be one of THE devs that people went ‘They make some great stuff, I can’t wait to see what’s next’ and now, all we can think about is ‘Oh cool, a new EA game. I wonder if the micros will be shit or not’.

    The same applies to CDPR. Since Wither 2 and GOG they have been slowly building a rep for being pro-consumer, and it shows in everything they do. Have they made mistakes? Yep. But then everyone dose. Its HOW they have reacted to those mistakes that make them a good company. And they are yet to make any blunders of, say, Diablo 3 level where items in the game where GOD DAM REAL MONEY MARKETS.

    “Nathan: They’ve turned to be a fan of Cyberpunk into an identity.”

    Is that the case though? The way Nathan talks about CP2077 makes me think he just has a disdain for anyone who likes it remotely to some degree and is then is making his own bias for it. Sure there are Youtubers out there that have made it their thing, but then Youtubers do that. Its how they make a living. You have people who ONLY do Minecraft or Fortnight or, now, Among Us, as that’s the ‘in thing’ to do. It’s nothing new.

    The other thing that bugs me is they’re calling it an action game. CDPR has been pretty clear all along that its an RPG that happens to be in First Person. Sure, it HAS action in it, but after watching IGN, and others videos recently after they let people have 16 hours on it, that has been made even clearer.

    I think the biggest problem that Journos have right now when it comes to this, its that its there job, and they’re sick of doing their job. As a normal jo blow gamer, I have not been tasked with looking at CP2077 all the time. And I think they need to take a few months off from being critics and just play games for the sake of playing games again.

    • I don’t understand how anyone can be so stupid as to think that slavery is ever going to go away. You only need to look at how salt mines are run to understand that there are worse ways you could work.

  • Perhaps some of the issue here is fear. We fear that the hype will not deliver and that is why we get sick of it. We are worried we won’t like the game that we have not been able to play it yet. The emotions have subsided in some way in us while in others they are still high. As a result, we don’t like others to be so excited about something we have lost interest for. We just don’t want to be disappointed when we play it. There is nothing wrong with any of that. But maybe that is the thing to say rather than complain the hype exists.

    If others want to be excited and live with that right up to when they play, have at it! If CDPR have a done a great job marketing, then hats of to them. And if the game turns out to be great even more so. What difference will this hype make if the game is great? Not much right. Let’s admit then that perhaps the big issue is we just fear being disappointed.

    And maybe we can temper that with thoughts about the reality that every game will be flawed in some ways and yet can still be a great game. That Cyberpunk 2077 is delivering something in a genre that many people love and could be the start of a wondering series. And maybe that deserves some hype.

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