Warsaw, Poland – Polish developers CD Projekt, the studio behind the momentous (and infamous) sci-fi open world title Cyberpunk 2077 and the Witcher series of games, suffered a ransomware attack in February of 2021.
The company’s internal systems were breached by the hackers who stole source-data and information from their servers. CD Projekt refused to pay up, and the story went cold until early June 2021, when footage from this attack began to surface on the internet. The footage in question was of an unreleased blooper reel of in-game bugs and glitches which has caused further anger at CD Projekt for releasing the game in an unfinished state.
While this is relatively common practice of game developers to produce comedy reels of bugs encountered during the development process, some are pointing to this footage as further evidence that CD Projekt knowingly release Cyberpunk in an unfinished and compromised condition.
Refunds and lost sales of Cyberpunk 2077 in the wake of its release have already cost the developers over $1 billion in direct sales lost and refunds, with the game being pulled from the PlayStation online store in the wake of a public backlash around its poor performance on the base model PlayStation 4. With a game like Cyberpunk there is plenty that can go wrong because of the complexity of the game development process.
This is naturally a challenge all game studios must contend with, irrespective of whether they’re building a Triple A console game, online casino title or a mobile app. With a game as vast as Cyberpunk though, this is compounded by the sheer scale of the production. Cyberpunk 2077 had a staff of 5,000 working for over 10 years at a cost of over $300 million. What’s more the development team estimated the game wouldn’t be ready for a further 2-3 years, but pressure to release the title led to it going on sale before it was ready.
Though with talk that a full 6 years into Cyberpunk’s development, the game had barely left the planning stage of design, and that the gameplay footage unveiled at 2018’s E3 was in fact fake, frustrated fans and critics alike are still searching for answers.
In a further sign that the sharks are circling CD Projekt of late, Abri Advisors, a UK based investor in CD Projekt has gone on record in an online article for Bloomberg stating they want to see the top brass of CD Projekt step down in the wake of the Cyberpunk fiasco.
They cite that the mismanagement of the production and release of Cyberpunk directly led to half of CD Projekt’s stock market value being wiped out, a full $6.2 billion, or 22.6 billion zloty. While it may prove wishful thinking to force out the top management of CD Projekt Marcin Iwiński and Michał Kiciński who collectively hold a 34% majority stake in the company, it should come as notice that there is deep unease about the present direction of Poland’s largest game studio.
While many bug-fixes and patches have been released in the interim with the aim of improving stability for players, a full six months after Cyberpunk’s release the game is still not listed in the online PlayStation store. Sony has major reservations that the game will ever be able to run to a satisfactory standard on base level PlayStation, and accordingly cannot in good conscience sell the product in its first party store.
This is an additional challenge to modern game design that developers must now contend with, that of designing a single game to work across a wide variety of platforms. Each hardware and software configuration presents unique challenges, workarounds and obstacles in order to optimize gameplay. Cyberpunk is currently available on Microsoft Windows, the Xbox Series X and S, all the various models of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, as well as the PlayStation 5 and cloud gaming services such as Stadia and Nvidia GeForce Now.
This alone would suggest that Cyberpunk would have required extra development time in order to iron out all the potential challenges that would arise from porting the game to so many platforms. But a combination of hype, greed and unrealistic expectations appear to have been the driving force behind Cyberpunk debuting well ahead of its completion date.