CD Projekt Red & Cyberpunk 2077

 So much goodwill squandered...

Well, it's finally time I feel. It's finally time that I talk about one of the biggest gaming controversies of the last few months: Cyberpunk 2077. I initially didn't know if I wanted to make an entire blog post about the situation or not. On the one hand, it's an interesting situation. A situation that I personally kind off saw coming. On the other hand, Cyberpunk 2077 isn't a game I can actually play, nor one that I'm actually interested in playing even before all its problems came to light. What changed? Well, I got back into the Witcher 3 recently, CD Project Red's biggest success story, and that has made me think about that franchise and its future. A future that will no doubt be affected by the unfinished state in which Cyberpunk 2077 launched and the trust in the company it threw away. Also: video game journalist Jason Schreier currently from Bloomberg has come out with a well-researched piece about Cyberpunk 2077's development and there's quite a bit of info in that piece that confirmed my suspicions. I thus feel like I'm in a stronger position to talk about those suspicions now then I did before.

So, let's dive into the entire mess that is Cyberpunk 2077 see where it all went wrong.

Development History

Let’s begin by the beginning. In 2012 CD Projekt Red announced that it had started work on their next project, a game based on Mike Pondsmith's Cyberpunk role-playing game franchise. At the time, the studio was still working on their upcoming game, the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The importance of this fact I’ll get to later. The thing remained quiet about Cyberpunk 2077 for the first few years after that with only a small trailer for it dropped in 2013. CD Projekt Red and gamers were more focused on the Witcher 3 at that time. It was during E3 2018 when the Witcher 3 was out and completed that the studio lifted the lit on Cyberpunk in a more formal manner. A longer, cinematic trailer showing what the game was all about. The game was set in a futuristic city full of violence, flying cars, cyborgs etc.

The following E3 was yet another important one for Cyberpunk. More details and footage released in regards to the game’s setting and plot were revealed. Even better, superstar Keanu Reeves was also announced to play a large roll in the game as Johnny Silverhand. If expectations weren’t high already, they were definitely now. The Witcher 3 is regarded as one of the best videogame ever made so a new game from the same studio? Yeah, that sure to make people thrilled. Attach someone like Keanu Reeves to the project and Cyberpunk 2077 officially became the most anticipated game on the planet.

That same E3 also saw the game’s release date. May 2020. However, as faith would have it, the game got pushed back to the end of 2020 due to a variety of reasons. For ‘polishing the experience’ to the pandemic making things difficult. When it came out this past December, well, I’m pretty sure we all know the story. There are so many technical problems that Cyberpunk is virtually unplayable on the PS4 and XBOX One. Even the PC release has considerable problems. Companies have put up warnings for when you buy the game, Sony removed it from the PlayStation store, refunds have been promised/given and CD Projekt Red is even under investigation for misleading marketing and misleading its investors.

Where it all went wrong

Many people have been asking how it could have gone so wrong for the studio that brought the, for its time, also ambitious and expansive the Witcher 3. Well, if people dug a little deeper in the company, what it promised for Cyberpunk 2077 and what is even possible to do with current technology I think that we could have seen this entire situation coming. Something Jason Schreier’s research proves in my mind.

Keanu Reeves as Johny Silverhand in all of his glory.

Let’s first start with what type of company CD Projekt Red is. CD Projekt Red is a Polish video game developer, publisher and distributor founded in 1994. In the first decade or so that the company existed, it was solely a distributor though it started to help out other companies in game development around this time as well. When one of the games they were working on, Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance, was cancelled they decided to use the code they had written for it to make their own game. This would eventually become the Witcher and the game series based on Andrzej Sapkowski novels we all know and love today was born. The Witcher, while very successful for the company, has really been the only IP CD Projekt Red worked before Cyberpunk. One of the reasons why they started working on Cyberpunk 2077 was that they wanted to do something different. Wanted to diversify their portfolio and not just be known as ‘the Witcher company’.

Wait, you might think. If they’ve been solely working on Cyberpunk 2077 for 8 years, how can it be that the came launched in the state that it did? Well, as that article of Jason Schreier revealed CD Projekt Red didn’t work on Cyberpunk for 8 years. As I said just a paragraph ago, CD Projekt Red business philosophy is to only work on one project at a time. While Cyberpunk was announced in 2012, CD Projekt Red was still knee-deep into the development of The Witcher 3. The company and this is something (ex)employees confirmed to Jason Schreier, didn’t start full development of Cyberpunk 2077 until 2016 when the Witcher was finally done and over with. In short: Cyberpunk 2077 wasn’t in development for 8 years, but for 4. Bit of a perspective change, no? And this is something we could have seen coming much earlier with how CD Projekt Red themselves have been clear in their 1-game business model. We could have asked ourselves if they were really working on Cyberpunk before 2016, breaking their business model. But we didn’t. No one ever asked that question. Or at the very least, I’m not aware that they did.

A project with runaway ambitious

Another point in which I think some of us could have seen the problems with Cyberpunk coming is just how ambitious the project is. This is something I’ve talked about before. I feel that the game industry is moving to fast when it comes to their technology when it comes to what a game can be and what audiences can expect. They promise these vast and breathtaking experiences, that I feel, are unrealistic. Not doable with current, main place technology. At the very least these are experiences that, at this time, can only be brought by an immense amount of effort and money. In the case of Cyberpunk, even the staff working on the game were very sceptical about implementing everything the higher-ups promised. They had, reportedly, bets going on for when the game would be delayed again. They knew they wouldn’t be able to implement everything the marketing department promised in the game and that the game was far from finished. For example, the game’s E3 trailer showed the player taking part in a car ambush. In the final game, this feature was not implemented. Another problem the staff was facing was the size of its team. In total, around 500 people worked on Cyberpunk. That seems a lot but compared to the size of development size of other studios with similarly scaled games, it isn't. Not surprisingly, development crunch was something that happened throughout the game’s development. Not just the last few weeks as CD Projekt Red themselves admitted late last year.

But, I digress. Talking about all the reasons why Cyberpunk 2077 went wrong doesn’t make things any better for CD Projekt Red. They got this mess on their hands now and it’s up to them to clean it up. From what they have said, it appears they’re trying to get Cyberpunk 2077 up to snuff and pull a (what I call) No Man’s Sky. To quickly recap for you all, No Man’s Sky was a game that came out a few years ago that was in a similar position as Cyberpunk is now. A highly anticipated game that at release was not far from what consumers were promised. The studio behind the game kept working hard on updates and patches. After a year or two, the game had not only implemented nearly everything that was initially promised but became a genuinely good game. CD Projekt Red has pushed the development of the (paid) DLC back in favour of focusing on bug fixes and patches. The first major patch should be out by the time this post goes live in early February, so most of you will know how many (if any) issues that resolved.


I sure hope that they manage to turn things around. While I’m not interested in Cyberpunk 2077 myself (and don’t have any means to play it), a lot of hardworking people worked on Cyberpunk 2077. People who have had no say when it came to all of the game's problems and done their best to try and make this game the best that they could. I also hope that CD Projekt Red will learn from the mistakes they’ve made and work towards a better, more efficient, work environment. That CD Projekt Red fixes Cyberpunk 2077, becomes a better studio that will turn out many great games in the future.