Christmas was meant to come just a little early for some this past year. Renowned developer CD Projekt Red were about to triumphantly ring in the holiday season with the highly anticipated “Cyberpunk 2077.” But then, it came out. It didn’t work.
I was not one of the people that was ready to live or die by the game, but when the developer promised that this experience would define a generation of gaming, I bought in. I went so far as to change the time zone on my Xbox One just to play the game a day early. And it didn’t really work well.
And that is a major problem.
“Cyberpunk 2077” is a buggy, glitchy mess that barely runs on the last generation of consoles. Despite numerous patches and CD Projekt Red’s promise that they will do anything they can to save the game, it still sucks. But this is not a first in the gaming industry, or even for CD Projekt Red. As games become more and more like services rather than insular, standalone titles, the product delivered to customers is often a shadow of what is promised.
This game was supposed to allow the player to inhabit one of three different versions of V (the supercool “name a main character with one letter” trope is really lame) in the corporate-run Night City. The choices, big or small, were meant to matter, and would produce ripple effects in the narrative to make a truly unique experience. Instead, it feels more like being allowed to drive one of three predetermined pathways, with choices being more subtle than bombastic.
“Cyberpunk” is less RPG and more of an on-rails shoot ’em up, which is not at all what was promised.
Now that is not saying that every game coming out is as big of a stinky turd that “Cyberpunk 2077” is. But many are unfinished and not ready for players to explore. The most recent bomb to date that made big promises only to not deliver was Hello Games’ “No Man’s Sky.”
In the months leading up to its August 2016 release, director Shaun Murray went anywhere he was invited to tout just how unique and groundbreaking the title would be. The universe would be the player’s oyster, and the possibilities were supposed to be infinite for exploration. But then “No Man’s Sky” launched and it was a boring, procedurally generated shell of what was promised. And boy were people pissed.
“Cyberpunk” is going through sort of the same thing, but the situation is a bit more dubious. Currently, a class action lawsuit has been thrown onto the table. New York-based Rosen Law Firm made the claim that investors who sank money into securities have been misled, and now CD Projekt Red must pay the piper. With the game being about corporate greed and corruption, getting slapped with a class action lawsuit is a touch ironic.
Sony, the supposed harbingers of truth, removed the game from its store, and it is still unavailable. Sony, Microsoft and even the evil GameStop are offering refunds. The crazy part is that in CD Projekt Red’s quarterly sales report, the game shattered expectations. According to the report over 8 million units were pre-ordered, and as of December, 13 million copies had been sold. Maybe it was because of the shoehorning in of the beloved Keanu Reeves that helped with sales.
So does this mean this game, with all its promise and failure to live up to expectations, is too big to fail? When I think of “too big to fail,” I am reminded of the 2008 economic crash when that fun little phrase was buzzed more than a pissed-off hive of death hornets. But this mess of a title is undoubtedly a juggernaut. And that sets a dangerous standard moving forward.
And that standard spells out that games will come as they are, and we’ve just got to smile and swallow.
The past year has, without question, been quite fucked up. So fucked up that the gaming industry cruised past both the film and sports industries combined in revenue. According to a December piece from Business Insider, the gaming industry swelled profits to nearly $180 billion. So if games are a cash machine with no limit, and if we keep getting shit shows like “Cyberpunk,” is there any hope?
Maybe. The same team that coughed this troubled title up also developed one of the greatest games of all time: “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.” Now that game was a piece of shit when it came out. There were so many bugs it was nearly unplayable. But then something magical happened: They fixed it. Not only did CD Projekt Red fix the game, they made it better than ever. So good in fact that people usually forget that it was a garbage fire upon release.
But that does not make up for the new standard being set. Maybe by 2077 this game will actually work, but I am not going to hold my breath.