Things are going from bad to worse for CD Projekt RED (CDPR) and the highly-anticipated Cyberpunk 2077, which for many was the biggest and most exciting launch of the year. Thanks to their success with The Witcher 3, CDPR were riding high atop a wave of love and were valued at around $8-billion, making them worth more than even Ubisoft. They were the darlings of the game industry, and somehow in less than a week they’ve burned it all to the ground.
Sony have officially announced that they are offering full refunds for anyone that bought Cyberpunk 2077 from the Playstation store. Furthermore, Sony have taken the drastic step of removing Cyberpunk 2077 completely from the Playstation store, meaning that you cannot purchase it or indeed find it on PSN. If you already own the game you can obviously continue to play it if you so choose.
This huge decision means that CD Projekt RED have currently lost access to their biggest console market, essentially making Cyberpunk 2077 exclusive to the Xbox on console unless Microsoft decide to follow Sony’s example. The last time I can remember something like this occuring was Batman: Arkham Knight where the game was removed from Steam entirely and remained off of the store for months while the developers attempted to fix their mess.
So, how did we get to this, and what else could it all mean?
In CD Projekt RED’s attempt at an apology they tried to say that customers could get a refund if they really, really wanted and weren’t willing to please, please, pretty please give CDPR a chance to fix it. I already covered most of that and you can read it by clicking the above link. However, a day later they held an emergency investor meeting where CDPR proceeded to whip out their gun and and aim it squarely at their foot while still wincing from having shot themselves in the other foot the day before. What became quickly apparent is that despite telling people they could get the game refunded, CDPR had not actually talked to Sony, Microsoft or anybody else about this. So while they were chattering about refunds, Sony was busy denying those refunds because their own refund policy is strict but clear, and basically reads as, “No.” This left Sony in an awkward position as they had people demanding refunds and then getting angry at Sony when they were denied because CDPR told them they could get one, but nobody had told Sony. Meanwhile, CDPR had promised to “help” get a refund if you Emailed them, but what this help actually is remains a mystery.
CDPR tried to explain the refund thing in the investor call, stating that, “One has to understand, Microsoft and Sony, for every product that is released digitally on Microsoft or Sony storefronts, have refund policies. I mean, despite various articles that have shown up [stating] that things are being [changed] just for us, it’s actually not true. These policies are in place and have always been in place and are not opened up specifically for us.”
“I mean, anybody who has purchased any title on PlayStation Network or Microsoft Store can ask for a refund and if it’s made within certain boundaries, usually related to time, certain 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 these storefronts. I just wanted to state that clearly because there seem to be certain misconceptions.”
Certainly, CDPR did not at any point claim that they Sony or Microsoft were granting any special rights, but by publically telling people that they could get a refund it seems quite obvious what would happen; people would take them at their word, seek a refund and then hit a brick wall in the form of Sony and Microsoft’s refund policies. Actually taking a moment to speak to both Sony and Microsoft, as well as the various retail stores, and try to get something in place before telling people refunds were possible would have been a sensible move by CDPR.
CDPR also threw Sony and Microsoft under the bus a little when they were asked how and why Cyberpunk 2077 made it through certification.
“In the certification stage, presumably, Microsoft and Sony always get games that still have bugs and decide that they’re going to be OK, partly on the basis of discussion with you that there will be fixes. Have I understood that correctly, or do you feel somehow that the certification process failed to identify just how underperforming the last-gen version was?
Michał Nowakowski: The first parties are definitely… this is on our side. If I can say anything it’s that I can only assume that yes, they were counting that we were going to fix the things upon the release and that obviously did not come together exactly as we had planned.”
Now, the cert process is a weird thing because despite what people might think, neither Sony nor Microsoft refuse to certify buggy or glitchy games. Really, certification is more just to ensure that they game literally does work (I.E. Starts.) and that it doesn’t do something like set fire to your console. It has also been long known that both companies will waive certain things if the developer assures those things will be fixed etc. This varies based on how much the developer is trusted, details they provide and so on.
Normally, though, the certification process isn’t widely talked about publically, and by mentioning it and how Cyberpunk 2077 got through, Sony and Microsoft are bound to feel a bit…annoyed. This might seem like a minor thing, but when you take this and add it to everything else CDPR are doing and have done it’s hard not to think that they are burning bridges with absolutely everyfrom, from the gamers to the critics to Sony and Microsoft. Nobody is happy with CDPR right now.
During the investor call CDPR also tried to backpedal on the severity of the problems, mostly to try to ensure that from a legal perspective they weren’t liable to be held as having said the game was fundementally broken. “Actually, the game is playable even right now. That’s maybe an important thing to say, because it’s not like the game is not launching or is not playable. I fully understand that this experience is far from satisfactory to a lot of people, and we do acknowledge that. But it’s not like it’s not launching at all, which is not the case,” said Adam Kiciński of CDPR in the investor call.
You can download and read, or listen to the full audio recording, the entire investor call HERE. It contains numerous insights, including how CDPR once again confirmed that they spent too much time looking at the PC and next-gen versions of the game, despite the PS4 and Xbox One being the primary consoles during the majority of the game’s development.
I don’t think Sony have removed Cyberpunk 2077 due to its glitches or problems. Sony have numerous games on their store filled with issues and haven’t shown any signs of removing those. Rather, I believe they’ve done this because CDPR have put them in the awkward position of refusing refund requests and thereby earning the ire of customers. By not talking to Sony first, mentioning certification and putting out a messy game I think CDPR just pissed Sony off, to put it bluntly, and this is the result.
Now, what will Microsoft do? They are in awkward position, too, because they are CDPR marketing partner. If you visit Xbox.com the first thing you’re greeted with is a massive advertisement for Cyberpunk 2077. They’ve invested heavily in helping market the game, and now Sony has come out and put out the message that the game is broken, albeit without actually saying that. Still, that’s how people will see it, and rightfully so. So what should Microsoft do? Do they follow Sony and abandon that partnership? Or do they weather the storm and possibly even lean into it by being the only console that currently has Cyberpunk 2077 on its store.
Adam Kiciński told Reuters: “We are not in such discussions with Microsoft at the moment.” in regards to the game being removed from the Xbox store.
We also need to consider what this could do to brick and mortal retailers. Currently, you can still buy a physical copy of Cyberpunk 2077 for PS4 from GAME or your local ASDA or whatever, but those stores are in a weird position where Sony themselves have essentially branded the game unsuitable for sale on their own digital storefront. So what does ASDA do? Does this leave Sony in a tricky legal minefield?
Personally, I’m strongly considering whether to get a refund on Cyberpunk 2077 and pick it up on PC, which still seems to be the best version of the game. I still want to review it, but on a purely personal level I do still want to play it and therefore want to give myself the best experience. Indeed, should I even review it on PS5 if you can’t buy the game from PSN?
I can’t remember ever seeing quite such a implosion before. In the span of what feels like hours, CDPR has managed to burn its excellent reputation to the ground and in the process has presumably done signifcant damage to its professional relationships, too. Doubtless we have yet to see the end of this mess.