One Year Later: Reflecting On The Insanity Of Cyberpunk 2077’s Launch

One Year Later: Reflecting On The Insanity Of Cyberpunk 2077’s Launch

Cyberpunk 2077 has now been available for an entire year. Can you believe that? It feels like only yesterday we were breathlessly refreshing the headlines every 20 minutes to see what new calamity had befallen the game. This was an entertainment scandal so huge it engulfed the entire video game industry. It was a failure so massive that it spilled over the walls of the games community and enthusiast press, and into the lives of people that don’t even play games at all. On its first birthday, let us all take a moment to reflect on those insane first few months.

Cyberpunk 2077

It began with one last delay.

And then, before we knew it, the promised time was at hand. Release week loomed. The final trailers looked good. Really good.

Then the previews began to trickle in, first from the US, and then from Europe.

The coverage kicked off, some of it was positive, some of it decidedly not. We saw console trailers assuring frame rates of 60fps. Players discovered the game contained a truly surprising number of naturally-occurring dildos. And then, a shocking twist: Liana Ruppert, then an associate editor at Game Informer, suffered a seizure while previewing the game.

It was all just a little bit too murky. The obfuscation from the studio and publisher was becoming rather glaring. Word got out about the crunch-heavy review process, and, quietly, a reassessment began.

Cyberpunk 2077

Launch day arrived. Cyberpunk 2077, the biggest game of 2020, was now swamped with players, and its problems were laid bare before the world.

PS4 and Xbox One players, only a few hours into the game, charged onto social media to confirm the sinking feeling in their hearts: that the previous-gen version of the game was in dire shape and things weren’t going to improve.

People tried to help. They adjusted settings. They tried it via the Cloud. But the dicks just kept clipping through people’s pants.

The Steam reviews began to dive. And dive.

A critical consensus began to form about the game’s tone and tenor.

That was just the first day.

Cyberpunk 2077

On December 10, CD Projekt Red fixed the part of the game that was inducing seizures. Scrutiny on the CD Projekt Red board C-suite began to mount as people looked to explain the state of the game. The executives in question quickly assured the world that they took responsibility for the condition of Cyberpunk 2077. They also assured themselves they would be paid their bonuses no matter what the reviews said.

On December 14, it was announced that, despite the furore, Cyberpunk 2077 had already recouped its development costs. News of players refunding the game en masse broke the same day. Others held out hope, checking in with every new patch CD Projekt Red released in the vain hope that a simple update might magically fix it all.

The refund drama thrust a secondary problem into the limelight: millions of people realised, all at once, just how difficult it was to secure a refund on digital games. Explainer pieces were published. Such was the frustration, that CD Projekt Red began publicly promising to help people cut through refund red tape (for a limited time only).

CD Projekt Red then backpedalled the very next day, insisting that it didn’t want anyone to return the game, actually. An emergency shareholder meeting got rather spicy.

Something was finally done about the game’s astronomical wild dildo population.

CD Projekt Red backpedalled its refund rhetoric again, abruptly telling players to cease chasing refunds from the PlayStation Store.

News items on the game’s multitude of bugs remained extremely popular.

On December 18, Sony Interactive Entertainment pulled Cyberpunk 2077 from sale on its digital storefront and promised increasingly confused players full refunds.

At 8 pm AEDT that night, Alex Walker posted the Kotaku Australia review of Cyberpunk 2077.

Internal backlash at CDPR spilled over into the public arena the next day, with development staff demanding answers from the executive branch. Reports of crunch and horrid working conditions at the studio continued to proliferate.

Xbox, major retailers, and CDPR itself began to expand the options for obtaining a refund. Aussie players took a moment to reflect on how lucky we are to have consumer protection laws that guarantee us a damn refund. Local retailers JB Hi-Fi and EB Games both published explainers on how to quickly refund the game.

Players began to discover that crafting too greedily and too deeply would corrupt their saves.

On December 24, a patch went live that resolved an issue with save file sizes on PC.

On Christmas Day, 2020, the Kotaku Review of Cyberpunk 2077 by Riley McLeod went live.

On Boxing Day, 2020, Cyberpunk 2077 investors now filed legal proceedings over the messy launch.

As the new year began, player interest began to waver. Those who battled through to the end of the campaign had completed it. Those who’d wanted a refund had mostly secured such. A general feeling of having been had settled in, and most turned their attention to games slated for the new year, like Hitman 3.

By mid-January, CDPR was issuing sombre video apologies and promising to do away with crunch practices.

From the ashes of its launch, small shoots, little signs of life began to appear. A modding community banded around the game to start working in fixes of their own. This was swiftly followed by official mod support. And a patch to fix the last patch, which had broken more things more than it had repaired.

In February 2021, CD Projekt Red was subject to a hack that saw the source code for Cyberpunk 2077, The Witcher 3, and Gwent stolen and held for ransom. The internet reacted initially with jokes about the game’s hacking minigame, but then settled into a more contemplative mode. Why kick these devs when they were already down? What was punishing them by stealing their work going to achieve? And who the fuck writes “pwned” in the year of our lord 2021? The source code for Cyberpunk 2077 was reportedly auctioned on the Dark Web.

It was discovered the game had misspelt “Australia.”

After a short delay due to the cyberattack, Cyberpunk 2077 Version 1.2 launched at the end of March. At the time, the game’s biggest and most consequential patch, it solved many issues but left many more still unaddressed.

It was revealed that, despite the drama and 30,000 copies directly refunded by the CDPR, Cyberpunk 2077 had still made $400 million.

Australian MP Craig Kelly clutched his pearls about the game, months after the fact.

By the end of May, Cyberpunk 2077 had still not returned to the PlayStation Store.

By the end of June, it was back (with a strict caveat from Sony that only players with a PS4 Pro or PS5 should attempt to play it).

By July, the first of the critical reappraisals had begun.

And then, at last, things went quiet. After more than six months of rolling drama, the dust around Cyberpunk 2077 now began to settle.

In late November, Cyberpunk 2077 went 50% off in the Steam holiday sale, where it briefly topped the sales charts. The wave of new players, a year removed from its disastrous launch, began leaving positive reviews in droves, driving the game’s score upward for the very first time.

Here, at last, Cyberpunk 2077 has proof of life. Despite it all, despite every awful thing that came from the game’s production, the failings of CDPR management, and the game’s inability to meet the expectations it had sold itself upon, interest remains. The vision of a game that Cyberpunk 2077 sold was a potent one. So potent, that even now, a year on, people are still waiting to hear if the game is “good” yet. If it’s safe to play it. They want to, quite badly. Players still want it to become the game they believed it was.

Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t.

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