Ask any avid gamer to tell you the biggest disappointment of 2021, and the most likely answer is that it has something to do with Cyberpunk 2077. Arguably the most anticipated game of the last five years, Cyberpunk 2077 finally hit the shelves last December after several previously delayed release dates. Nevertheless, fans were keen to get their hands on this gaming gold, and the game’s maker, CD Projekt Red (CDPR), assured them that delays were only about putting polish on the finished product – not a sign of deeper problems.
But what happened next was more or less a disaster, at least from a PR perspective, for CDPR. Not only was Cyberpunk 2077 given a mixed reception by critics and players (more on this later), but the game was also beset by bugs, particularly on the PlayStation 4 version. The problem got so much attention that Sony removed the game from the PlayStation Store just seven days after the release.
13 million copies sold in 10 days
Things haven’t been all bad – Cyberpunk 2077 sold over 13 million copies in its first 10 days. But the reputation of the game and its publishers, CDPR, really took a hit. Can it get that back this year? After all, the game is set to launch on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, and, you would expect that CDPR can iron out the bugs on other platforms.
To appreciate the issue fully here, it’s worth remembering just what a big deal Cyberpunk 2077 was – is – to gamers. The title won awards years before it was released; simply on the strength of the demo versions and trailers. CDPR, who had massive success with The Witcher Series, was seen as the bespoke games developer, which focuses on quality over quantity. It kept fans updated on the development process, drip-feeding information and snippets of the game. Fans and the media believed CDPR when it claimed something special was coming.
And, to be fair, many gamers and critics love it, especially the PC version, which didn’t suffer the same issues with bugs. GamesRadar+, VG247 and several other leading publications gave Cyberpunk 2077 five star reviews for the PC version. Metacritic gave it 85%, IGN 9/10 – these are positive reviews. But it didn’t blow the roof off in the way CDPR hoped. If it can get rid of the bugs, which it surely will, the console scores will certainly come up by the time it is released for the next-generation PlayStation and Xbox.
Cyberpunk 2077 can still expand
Indeed, it’s worth remembering that modern games can ‘grow’ over time. We saw Grand Theft Auto Online was regularly updated, even adding The Diamond Casino Resort to the gameplay. The Diamond Casino is similar to a real online casino, although it doesn’t offer the same scope. Nevertheless, it was a fun addition, and it’s the kind of thing you might see added to Night City in Cyberpunk 2077.
Moreover, gamers are still discovering new features of Cyberpunk 2077 as it stands. Just this week, Forbes talked about its brilliant NPCs, calling it one of the “best NPCs of a generation”. Cyberpunk 2077 is not meant to be a game that you finish with in a few days; CDPR spent years developing it, and it hoped that gamers would be playing it for years to come.
It is clear, however, that CDPR took a hit to its reputation. Perhaps it fell afoul of the pressure to get the game ready for the Christmas rush. Maybe it would be more prudent to wait until it was sure that the game was ready. But it does leave one question unanswered: Could Cyberpunk 2077 ever live up to its massive hype? In that sense, it was always going to be a disappointment.