Video game developer CD Projekt Red couldn’t have given Cyberpunk 2077 a more terrible initial launch. The game was so buggy and filled with glitches that Sony pulled it from the PlayStation Store, the developer announced that they would be issuing refunds to anyone who purchased the game, Microsoft and Sony both announced that they’d extend their refund policy for the Xbox and PlayStation, and investors are currently looking into suing CD Projekt for “misrepresenting a product to make a profit.”
Cyberpunk 2077 was touted as one of the most ambitious video games to release in the last decade. Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V and Red Dead Redemption II don’t even compare. Skyrim? Nope. Fortnite? Maybe.
The Cyberpunk team had been working on the game since, quite literally, prior to 2013. Hell, the PlayStation 3 was the latest-gen console at the time. In fact, Cyberpunk 2077 was actually first announced in January 2013.
We all know the negativity the gaming industry faces. Politicians have raved and screamed for years that violent video games are to blame for violence in the real world, when that couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, for many video games are an escape from reality. But for the workers on these games, the opposite is true.
CD Projeckt developers were asking the company’s leadership some questions regarding crunch and the game’s rocky launch. One employee asked why the board said the game was “complete and playable” in January when that obviously wasn’t true. Another mentioned that it was hypocritical for CDPR to make a game about corporate exploitation when they expected their employees to work overtime.
For years now, gamers have shown their frustration with the industry as a whole. A huge concern for many is that publishers are charging a lot for games when the result is often mediocre. This could have a lot to do with players’ heightened expectations.
In retrospect, the $70 game price tag is inevitable. Under the last generation of games — PlayStation 4 and Xbox One — new big-market games would cost $60. With the PlayStation 3, most were $40 or $50. Soon enough, the PlayStation 5 could drive that cost up to $70 and we could see that as soon as next year.
But why are video games still going up in price when the product continues to decede expectations? For one, our expectations of video games and the finished product is high. That doesn’t mean that Cyberpunk 2077 wasn’t released prematurely — it was — and we’ve come to expect too much from games. Combine that with crunch on developers and the results aren’t pretty.
Because our expectations are so high, studio budgets have continued to rise. Some games can cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars, or maybe even more.
Even games like Red Dead Redemption II, Skyrim, or Assassins Creed— each with massive success — have shown to face their fair share of criticism. Despite Red Dead having a massive storyline with realistic gameplay design elements, some critics thought its lack of freedom along the storyline only made the game not as incredible as it really was. These are valid points, but how can we know when what we’re asking for is too much?
Is this problem fixable? It depends on the issue.
A main concern across gaming for developers is job stability and longevity. In 2017, 24% of developers reported that they’ve worked for 3–5 employers in the last five years. It’s not certain that this sort of problem could be fixed unless systemic change is brought about. The issue has existed almost as long as the industry has.
Game developers are also concerned with job location changes. Coupled with having to crunch for employers, or even stress about deadlines when your company doesn’t crunch, can be very hard and strenuous. It’s an issue even more prevalent with games like Fortnite — free to play but regular updates make constant, round-the-clock deadlines an absolute nightmare.
It’s not surprising that one of the most ambitious and widely-anticipated video games of the last ten years had a horrible launch. Fallout 76, SimCity’s 2013 relaunch, even World of Warcraft’s initial launch in 2003…all of these games had horrible failures. Though, it’s not easy to say that any of these are worse than Cyberpunk 2077’s release was.
Some cynical gamers have pleaded for years and years to ignore preorders. They’re overrated, and if you preorder on the PlayStation Store, you might not even be able to return it.
If Sony wants to sell a digital-only PlayStation, their digital store needs a refund policy
PlayStation’s return policy is nearly non-existent. That’s not fair to consumers.
It might be a good idea to listen to cynicism.