Cyberpunk 2077 went from being the most talked-about game in gaming to being the most talked-about game in gaming in a span of a week, the only difference being the former in a more positive light and the latter being a harsh juxtaposition. Following the news that stock has seen an noticeable decrease since the perceived ‘failed’ last-gen launch of the game, a conference call at CD Projekt RED has gone public revealing no plans in place to actually deliver the promised refunds, and how the oversight happened with such a dramatic decrease in performance on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 systems, despite numerous promises to the contrary.
The call begins with joint-CEO of CDPR, Adam Kicinski, talking about the post-launch decline of the game’s standing with consumers. Joined by Piotr Neilubowicz, the studio’s CFRO, co-founder Marcin Iwinski, and board member Michal Nowakowski, the conference call covered an array of topics, including how there is no actual plan in place to deliver the promised refunds that the studio offered on Monday.
Regaridng how “it is even possible that it has come to this” regarding fan perception, the call opened up by saying:
Investors on the call were then able to ask questions, asking what happened to make sales decrease so much in a span of just four days, especially so for last-gen consoles. Nielubowwicz said that despite doing “good initial sales,” the fact that last-gen versions were seemingly left in the dust caused that dramatic pivot. Nowakowski added that “throwing more [developers] at it” would not have made the quality of the last-gen version any better, and the the team is still “collecting data” regarding all of the reasons behind the decline.
On Monday, the team apologized for the lack of transparency, a transparency missing when the studio seemingly hid the true nature of what the game runs like on last-gen and its restrictive nature of the game’s review embargo, and offered refunds. The problem with that is that those that tried to take the company’s offer up on refunds, they were running into declines from Xbox and PlayStation, saying that digital buyers should just “wait until January and February” for the promised fixes.
The CFO then added, “One has to understand: Microsoft and Sony have refund policies for every product that is released digitally on their storefronts. Despite several articles I’ve seen that things are being set up just for us, it’s actually not true – these policies are in place and have always been in place; they’re not offered specifically for us. Anyone who has purchased any title on the PlayStation network or the Microsoft storefront can ask for a refund, and if it’s made within certain boundaries, usually related to time, usage and so on, can ask for that refund. Our procedure here with Microsoft and Sony is not different than with any other title released on any of those storefronts. I want to state that clearly, as there seem to be certain misconceptions. In terms of financial participation, when our product is refunded, the share from the store that Microsoft took is refunded, and of course it’s something that is subtracted from the share of revenues that would normally be transmitted to CD PROJEKT. It’s, of course, not shared with us and is instead refunded to the given player – the given customer. I think that pretty much sums up the first one.”
The answer to why that disconnect is happening is simple: CDPR didn’t actually clear their plan of action with either Xbox nor PlayStation, therefore a promise was made that wasn’t entirely theirs to make. “We are not encouraging gamers to return the game; we hope they’ll give us a chance to improve it on old-gen consoles,” said Iwinski. “One fix was released last weekend; another one is coming in seven days – but there is an option, obviously, and the easiest way is to ask the retailer for a refund. If that’s not possible, we also provide help. As of today it’s too early to say; we’ve just begun the process and we sincerely hope that gamers will prefer to wait for updates since they had waited so long for the game, but – again – this is our humble hope. We’ll assess the situation in a couple of days when we have the numbers.”
Regarding external testing to ensure that the last-gen system versions were functional, the main reason behind the request for refunds, Kininski replied: “We have an internal QA department and we’re working with external companies as well. One thing that perhaps didn’t help us is COVID: internal testers are able to test the game working from home because we provide them with our own connected machines and so on, but external testers working for external companies were not able to test the game from homes – they have test centers and if they’re not there, they’re not able to work. So, we have seen a decrease in the number of testers, but I wouldn’t point to it as a major source of problems. The third one, about multiplayer – first and foremost, we haven’t confirmed any dates yet, and as I’ve said before, it’s hard to judge now. We’re in an unanticipated situation and we’ll have to reassess. This is planned for January. We’re now focusing on managing the single-player release, working on patches, communication and – as I said at the very beginning of this call – our focus remains on gamers.”
The biggest question during this call was how it could have been this bad with last-gen versions of the game. How did this go unnoticed, how did the team think they could hide it from the public, and just what could have been done to prevent this.
Nowakowski mentioned, “It is more about us looking – as was previously stated – at the PC and next-gen performance rather than current-gen. We definitely did not spend enough time looking at that. I wouldn’t say that we felt any external or internal pressure to launch on the date – other than the normal pressure, which is typical for any release. So that was not the cause. In terms of the certification process and the third parties – this is definitely on our side. I can only assume that they trusted that we’re going to fix things upon release, and that obviously did not come together exactly as we had planned. Regarding the third question – where we want to go with the PlayStation and Xbox – as stated in the statement made public today in the morning, we are planning to get the game in much better shape than it is now, of course, and a lot of that is going to be happening in December. Come January and February you’re going to see larger improvements – which we’ve stated already. We have also stated that if your expectation is that the game is going to be equal to, say, nextgens or PC in terms of performance, that definitely isn’t going to happen. Having said that, I’m not saying it’s going to be a bad game – but if you’re expectations regarding, say, visuals or other performance angle, are like this, then we’re openly stating that’s not going to be the case. It will be a good, playable, stable game, without glitches and crashes, though. That’s the intention.”
While no one expected new-gen performance on last-gen systems, many have reported that the game is near unplayable due to corrupted saves, wild bugs, and “PS3-like” graphics. A part of the shock about the latter part is that, during the call, Iwinksi admits that while they did show console footage, the footage seen was never true last-gen gameplay. The reason offered was that they were “still updating the game until the very last minute,” which is also the reason offered as to why they were blocking console codes from reviewers.
The call also confirmed that no major update for last-gen systems will be seen in time for the holidays, as to give the team a much-needed break (re: in relation to the conversation about crunch surrounding the studio’s culture), but that Janurary and February will see immense change.
While true this-gen version of the game are on the horizon, Iwinski says that those versions “just aren’t ready yet” but that the team will let investors and consumers know as soon as they are.