It’s hard to overstate how aggressive this move was from Sony. Cyberpunk 2077 is arguably the largest video game launch of the decade, with hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising and development costs behind it. Meanwhile, Sony is fresh off the launch of the PS5 and executives want games on this platform. Cyberpunk 2077 broke player records on Steam and elsewhere, and it’s a massive draw for new and veteran players. Removing it from the PlayStation Store is the nuclear option, and the fact that CD Projekt RED seemed surprised by this move speaks to a serious breakdown in communication between the companies.
But really, CD Projekt RED shouldn’t be too surprised. Early glimpses of Cyberpunk 2077 running on eighth-generation consoles were worrisome, but publicly, the studio brushed off concerns. Just two weeks before the game’s launch, CD Projekt joint-CEO Adam Kaciński told investors that Cyberpunk 2077 ran “surprisingly good” on PS4 and Xbox One.
Internally, though, it seems clear that CD Projekt RED wasn’t confident in the console version of the game. The studio didn’t provide console copies of the game to reviewers, instead sending out PC versions, and then only to a small handful of outlets.
Even on PC, Cyberpunk 2077 is hit-or-miss. Reviewers and players have reported serious, game-breaking bugs on every platform, though the issues are most pervasive on PS4 and Xbox One. At best on these consoles, the game looks like a cheap parody of the version that was advertised; and at worst, it simply breaks down.
Four days after launch, CD Projekt RED published an apology to PS4 and Xbox One players, saying, “We should have paid more attention to making it play better on PS4 and Xbox One.” Executives outlined a plan for updates and asked for patience from frustrated fans, but also said players could opt to refund their copies through Sony or Xbox directly.
Two days before Sony delisted Cyberpunk 2077 this week, Kaciński told analysts the following, as transcribed by Business Insider: “After three delays, we were too focused on releasing the game. We underestimated the scale and complexity of the issues. We ignored the signals about the need for additional time to refine the game on the base last-gen consoles. It was the wrong approach and against our business philosophy.”
CD Projekt RED saw the problems with Cyberpunk 2077 on every platform. To address these concerns, it delayed the game three times and implemented crunch, requiring developers to work extra-long hours for a few months at least, even though it had promised to avoid the practice.
In hindsight, the studio had other, better options. CD Projekt RED could’ve scrapped the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game long ago and adjusted its marketing plans to focus on the necessary power of the next console generation. It could’ve released Cyberpunk 2077 in early access and asked for fan feedback in a welcoming, transparent manner. Instead, executives decided to publish a game that simply didn’t work on certain consoles, and lie about its performance to players and investors.
In response, Sony took the unprecedented step of removing Cyberpunk 2077 from the PlayStation Store. The game is still available on Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, though today Microsoft expanded its return policy to offer full refunds to Cyberpunk 2077 players. This is another big blow to CD Projekt RED’s bottom line.
Cyberpunk 2077 was supposed to be the beginning of a new series from a studio with years of experience in building beautiful imaginary worlds, but instead, it’s become a meme. At least one of CD Projekt RED’s promises came true.