The CyberPunk 2077 Dilemma
A (very abridged) recap:
For those who don’t already know, studio CD Projekt Red has been under fire recently. Their newest open-world RPG was released with enough bugs to warrant a call to the best exterminators in town. Now, for the past several years it has not been uncommon for games to release prematurely with a few hiccups. Games studios forecast a release date which will almost certainly be delayed…and delayed again, and again. Then, under pressure from stockholders and consumers, the game is put out into the world with a this will have to be good enough while we continue to work on bug fixes attitude.
In the case of Cyberpunk 2077, a game roughly nine years in the making, people got pretty impatient. In short, CD Projekt Red released the game with so many problems that the people were forced to speak out. And speak out they did. With so many complaints piling up, the studio issued a formal public apology, assuring buyers that bug fixes were actively in the works and that refunds would be issued to anyone who would like one…aside from those who bought the game digitally through the Playstation Store like yours truly.
Then Sony made a move that officially moved this whole situation into severe territory. Not only did Sony come out and offer a refund to everyone who purchased the game digitally, but they flat-out removed it from the Playstation Store. Yep, it just disappeared. And even after Cyberpunk’s first large update has been released, as of this writing it still resides in Playstation’s cyber purgatory.
But why all the whining?
Let me make one thing perfectly clear: If you pay for something, it damn well better work. God help those responsible for selling something that is broken out of the box. That said, are we perhaps being a little too picky about this? Having played the game in all it’s buggy glory on PS4, the issues, while certainly apparent, were not enough to make me scream on the Internet about how terrible it was. In fact, I rather enjoyed my time with it. Sure, the graphics were sub-par, guns were sometimes invisible, people looked like lego blocks for a while before popping back to normal, but if I’m being honest I kind of expected it. It’s a huge game. There’s so much going on. And when our gaming culture has turned into one of I want it and I want it now, can we really blame the studio for doing its best to get it out to us promptly while everyone and their family were screaming at them to stop delaying? In a way, I want to high-five the fine people at CD Projekt Red for essentially telling us, You really want it? Here, take it! and smashing it into our greedy little faces.
Now don’t get me wrong, I fully understand why people are upset. The issue is, at its essence, a company selling us a broken product. However, any gamer knows the patches are coming. It’s an interesting dynamic when the consumer is indirectly responsible for notifying the seller of problems that need to be fixed within the current batch of already-released products, but it’s been this way for years. Whenever I buy a game of this magnitude, I expect a few bugs here and there. And I believe this is a case where the hype surrounding the game directly influenced the reaction of consumers when it didn’t meet their expectations in a way they weren’t expecting.
It may not be the case for everybody, but the game works. It is playable. And in my experience, the story overshadows most of the gameplay problems everyone is whining about. The fact that some people are able to just enjoy it for what it is right now kind of makes everyone else look bad. Especially when refunds are being offered to everybody and updates are promptly on the way (the first big one is already out).
The big issue here is expectations on all sides. Studios expect to have a game out by a certain date and it rarely works out that way. Gamers expect perfection on day one, despite knowing that the studios are already crunched for time and being pressured from all sides. If the consumers could do their part it making it known that we prefer delays to bugs, then maybe we could avoid things like this. And if studios could do their part and add, say, 90 days to their anticipated release date, and make that date public, they’d have less pressure. I don’t have the answers. All I can offer is an opinion and suggestions. However, I do believe with more effort on both sides we can get back to a place where designing and playing video games can be fun again.