“Cyberpunk 2077” is a very good game. Don’t let any of the negativity that currently surrounds it in the press tell you any differently. It’s an astonishing cinematic creation that will be played and enjoyed for years to come, and it’s an utterly immersive world that players can get lost inside. Yes, it was delayed more times than anyone can count, but those delays are considered to be worth it by the many people who are currently playing and enjoying this fantastic new release from CD Projekt as you read this article. Almost everything about it is perfect, just so long as you happen to be playing it on a gaming PC, a Playstation 5, or an Xbox Series X – and therein lies the problem.
Strictly speaking, “Cyberpunk 2077” isn’t a new-gen game. The fully-optimized, enhanced version of the game for this latest generation of consoles hasn’t been released yet, and won’t be released until some point in 2021. It’s been built to work on the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One – which are already becoming the consoles of yesteryear – and we suspect that the bulk of the delays were caused by CD Projekt trying to make it work as well as possible on the aging hardware. That’s been their biggest mistake and one that they probably regret bitterly. Right now, the company should be basking in the glow of a well-received game that’s earned rave reviews from almost everyone who’s had the chance to play it as it’s supposed to be played. Instead, they’re handing out refunds to very unhappy customers – and it’s all because of the format that they chose for it.
Game developers are usually cautious with hardware when it’s brand new. For the first year or two after a new console or piece of gaming hardware is released, developers will ensure that they don’t come too close to pushing the limits that the machines appear to be capable of. As time goes on and more and more developers are willing to take risks, those capabilities get tested a little more. That’s why the graphics of PS4 games released in 2020 are, by and large, better than the graphics of PS4 games that were released in 2014. The system’s capacities haven’t changed, but developers have found ways to get more out of them without asking for more than the consoles can give. Finally, right at the end of their life cycle, CD Projekt has stepped over that line. “Cyberpunk 2077” works perfectly well when it’s played on a new-gen console. On the current (we’re still not used to calling them “previous”) generation, though, it struggles. The game lags, glitches, suffers from screen tear, and sometimes crashes altogether. It’s previous-gen users who are complaining, and with good reason; their hardware simply can’t cope with the game, and it should never have been expected to.
Given the fact that the game ultimately didn’t come out until December 2020, things didn’t need to be this way. CD Projekt could have admitted that they couldn’t make their game work the way it needed to on the old systems and announced that they were publishing it for the new generation only. People would have been disappointed, but they would have understood. There might have been a little bit of negative coverage, but nobody would be asking for refunds, and the game’s reputation wouldn’t be getting trashed the way it is in some circles. By trying to deliver a previous-gen version of the game, they’ve made a rod for their own backs, and they’re beating beaten with it brutally.
As an accidental consequence of this, Google Stadia might make gains because of the problems. Google has partnered with CD Projekt to make a very smart promotional offer – anyone interested in purchasing “Cyberpunk 2077” for the Stadia gets a free Stadia controller and subscription when they do so. This underlines the benefits of the style of the online slot of delivery that Stadia has. The big appeal of online slots websites to gamblers is that no specialist hardware is required to play slot games, and so system performance isn’t an issue. Unless your internet connection gives out on you while you’re playing, you’re exceptionally unlikely to come across any technical problems while you’re at an online slots website. The same is true of Stadia. As games are streamed across the internet from powerful hardware controlled by Google, the game doesn’t struggle. It runs smoothly, and the players are happy. Playing “Cyberpunk 2077” on Stadia is a much more pleasant experience than playing it on a PS4, and that’s some of the best free marketing that Google could possibly have asked for.
It would be a shame if the game’s reputation were irreversibly damaged by this controversy – which might prove to be the case – but there is a recent example of a game having a disastrous launch and then recovering from it. In 2016, Hello Games released “No Man’s Sky” in a half-finished state that bore little resemblance to the game they intended to publish. They, too, had to dish out refunds to unhappy players, and they, too, were ridiculed. They’ve quietly spent the past four years releasing free upgrades to the game, and now it’s become what they always intended it to be. Players are returning to the game in droves and finding that it’s almost unrecognizable compared to the mess that it was when it was launched. It’s even won a few awards in the past year, which would have been unthinkable during those early dark days. If “No Man’s Sky” can make a full recovery in time, there’s no reason to think that “Cyberpunk 2077” can’t do the same.
For now, the best thing for CD Projekt to do might be to admit defeat. If the game doesn’t work on previous-gen consoles, they should refund every purchase made for them and say that it should only be bought by people who have hardware capable of playing it correctly. They’ll take a short-term hit, but it would allow them a fresh start and a chance to focus on catering to new-gen players. Like we said at the beginning of this article, “Cyberpunk 2077” is a great game – but nobody will remember that if the current situation is allowed to continue.