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Cyberpunk 2077: Can Polish developer regain reputation after PR disaster?

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Warsaw, Poland – It has always been seen as something of a stereotype, albeit one based on some truth, to say that Americans are much more litigious than Europeans. At times, it feels like no lawsuit is too frivolous to make its way to American courtrooms. In light of that, it probably did not shock the leading Polish video games developer, CD Projekt Red, to learn recently that it would be facing not one, but two, class-action lawsuits filed in American courts this month over the release of Cyberpunk 2077. To be fair to America’s lawyers, CD Projekt is also facing the prospect of a lawsuit in Poland.

What is the source of this potentially expensive raft of lawsuits? Cyberpunk 2077 – the video game that everyone is talking about, albeit for the wrong reasons. Cyberpunk 2077 was several years in the making, and arguably one of the most eagerly-awaited game releases of the 21st century. CD Projekt, who created The Witcher series and helped Poland become a video games powerhouse, promised something special, and everyone thought that it could deliver.

PlayStation Store delisted Cyberpunk 2077

After a series of delays, Cyberpunk 2077 finally got its release in mid-December 2020 – just in time for the pre-Christmas glut in sales. Soon after, the bad news started rolling in. The game was beset with bugs, particularly in the PlayStation 4 console versions. One week after its release, Cyberpunk 2077 was pulled from the official PlayStation Store. CD Projekt might be trying to fix the issues, but it is nothing short of a PR disaster for a company that was assumed to be a safe pair of hands. The company’s reputation might never recover.

To understand the outcry over Cyberpunk 2077 – and those lawsuits against its creator – one needs to understand and appreciate how the buzz built up over the years for the game. Such was the sense of anticipation (and clever marketing by CD Projekt) that the game won several major gaming awards before it was ever released. Pre-orders were through the roof. Indeed, the Polish video game developer reportedly made back all its development costs and marketing for 2020 through presales alone. In short, Cyberpunk was – is – a big deal.

But much of the ire is directed towards CD Projekt, not for the failings of the game itself. The developer assured gamers that the game would be ready, and that previous delays were just about making small improvements – perfecting the product. We know that clearly wasn’t the case, and that’s something bolstered by reports (denied by head of studio, Adam Badowski) that members of the development team believed the game was not ready for release in 2020.

Cyberpunk still has many positives

Can CD Projekt get its reputation back? Well, it’s important to note that Cyberpunk 2077 isn’t a complete failure. While it arguably did not live up to the massive hype, it is still considered a very good game by many critics. Metacritic, for instance, gives it a score of 86%, whereas IGN gave it 9/10 (for the PC version; it wasn’t so kind for the buggy console version).

It’s also worth noting that CD Projekt can make more improvements in the game beyond fixing the bugs. In modern times, a video game is a fluid entity that can grow over time. We saw, for example, that Grand Theft Auto added an update – the Diamond Casino Resort – where you could discover a wide variety of casino games available here, alongside pursuing the other delights and vices offered by San Andreas and the city of Los Santos. The point is that Cyberpunk 2077, which has similar scope with Night City, can get bigger and better.

CD Projekt will also see an opportunity in the fact it held back the release of Cyberpunk 2077 for the next-generation consoles, PS5 and Xbox Series X. We expect that release at some point in 2021. Of course, the onus will be on the developer to ensure that the launch goes without a hitch. If so, the Polish studio can start to build back some of the goodwill it had enjoyed with gamers.

After all, the reason that Cyberpunk 2077 was so hyped was mainly down to the fact that CD Projekt was considered the hottest developer in gaming.  Bugs and marketing mistakes should not detract from the consideration that the Warsaw-based developer was regarded as the great storyteller of the gaming world. Hopefully, that crown will not slip.