Nearly a decade of hype led to a troubled release riddled with glitches, a livid fan base, refunds for potentially millions of players and a possible class-action lawsuit.
When CD Projekt Red, the Polish studio behind the video game, announced the title in 2012, it was billed as a gripping, free-flowing saga that would immerse players in a lifelike sci-fi universe. Since then, fans have been treated to impressive teaser trailers, buy-in from celebrities including Keanu Reeves, Grimes and ASAP Rocky, and headlines heralding it as the most anticipated title of the year, if not the century.
The game is set in a dystopian future where digital nomads navigate a high-stakes world of corporate espionage (with Mr. Reeves as their guide) and augment their bodies with high-tech weaponry. Players, especially those using next-generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft, were promised a revolutionary experience, with extensive character customization options and an expansive world to explore. Eight million people pre-ordered copies, sight unseen, ahead of its December release.
In July 2018, as anticipation for the game neared a crescendo across Twitter, one user tweeted at the official Cyberpunk 2077 account: “Will there be memes in the game?” The account responded: “Whole game is going to be a meme.”
The tweet was somewhat prescient — but not in the way developers had hoped.
Since the release of Cyberpunk 2077 on Dec. 10, thousands of gamers have created viral videos featuring a multitude of glitches and bugs — many hilarious — that mar the game. They include tiny trees covering the floors of buildings, tanks falling from the sky and characters standing up, inexplicably pantless, while riding motorcycles.These videos depict a game that is virtually unplayable: rife with errors, populated by characters running on barely functional artificial intelligence, and largely incompatible with the older gaming consoles meant to support it. Fans are livid.
So many gamers demanded refunds from distributors this week that they overwhelmed Sony’s customer service representatives and even briefly took down one of its corporate sites. In response, Sony and Microsoft said they would offer full refunds to anyone who purchased Cyberpunk 2077 through their online stores; Sony even pulled the title.
Cyberpunk’s rollout is one of the most visible disasters in the history of video games — a high-profile flameout in the midst of the holiday shopping season by a studio widely considered an industry darling. It shows the pitfalls gaming studios can face when building so-called Triple-A games, titles backed by years of development and hundreds of millions of dollars.
But it is also a tale that insiders said they saw coming for months, based on CD Projekt Red’s history of game development and warning signs that Cyberpunk 2077 might not live up to its sky-high expectations.