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Cyberpunk 2077 – How the Game Release Could Have Been Done Better

Let’s take a look at some of the methods CDPR (CD Projekt Red) could have employed to improve the overall experience at launch.

Bogdan Iuhas, QA Manager

Cyberpunk 2077

Game development is hard. The end product is usually a result of hard work and dedication from a very diverse group of individuals across multiple disciplines: programmers, testers, designers, artists, marketing, PR, infrastructure, and the list goes on.

Cyberpunk 2077 set out a very ambitious goal for the company that built it, CD Projekt Red, and its employees – building a First Person Action RPG based on the Cyberpunk IP, drawing inspiration from Blade Runner, as well as games like System Shock and Deus Ex.

The release of the title caused a lot of noise in the community due to various issues that could have been averted – be it game breaking bugs or glitches on the PC version, or the poor performance of the title on the now last-gen consoles PS4 and XB1.

Let’s take a look at some of the methods CDPR (CD Projekt Red) could have employed to improve the overall experience at launch.

  1. Stagger the release across multiple platforms.

Not uncommon in the industry – Rockstar did it with GTA V and Red Dead Redemption 2 – sometimes it’s better to focus the efforts on one platform to deliver a polished product rather than spreading and stretching the development resources across PC and Console. CDPR could have released PC first and then taken the time to bring the console version up to standards.

  1. Get the community involved.

One of the best ways to make sure that your game is well received by the community is to involve them in your development process. Players love being given a voice and an opportunity to contribute to a game before it hits the market. On top of the obvious added benefits of developing a title you know they will play, gamers will also rally behind the company that listens to them and act as their ambassadors in the community.

Running an Open/Closed Beta before global release could have yielded valuable feedback and real-world data to CDPR that could have been used to inform important decisions as the game was nearing launch.

  1. Understand the issues and their potential impact.

CDPR knew about the state of their game and what the issues were, yet they decided to release the product as it was and fix it post launch. This is not an uncommon practice in the gaming industry, especially in recent years as we’ve seen with so many early access games hitting the market, however this may not have been the best way to go with an AAA title.

The issues that Cyberpunk launched with could have been overlooked in an indie game with a $30 price tag, but it did not seem like the best choice given the hype that was created and the expectations that were set for a new game from the makers of The Witcher.

CDPR could have taken a step back and tried to understand the impact of the bugs they decided to ship with, and how those issues affected the overall experience of Cyberpunk. All games release with bugs, as it is next to impossible to find and fix every single issue in a game within the confines of the development timeline. However, not all bugs are created equal, and some end up having a much worse effect than estimated when they reach gamers.

  1. Account for the pandemic in your plans.

Developing games is hard – the pandemic made it harder. The creative process around making games is enhanced by human connection and the sense of working together to achieve a goal – working from home made that more complicated.

CDPR wanted to push through all of these new challenges and made slight adjustments to their release plans by pushing the launch out, but this did not seem sufficient. From a business perspective, delaying releases is not ideal, however games don’t always follow business logic.

The gaming community was not happy with the news that the highly anticipated release would be delayed, however they understood the reasons behind it and ultimately supported the decision. It was much harder for them to support the release of an unfinished, unpolished game, and that was seen in the severe decrease in returning players the first week after launch.

One can’t help but wonder how the launch reception would have turned out if CDPR had decided to postpone the release until the console version was on par with PC.

Ultimately, the decisions that go into developing and releasing games are not as easy and as clear-cut as they seem from the outside. And there’s no magic formula or checklist that can guarantee the success of a game. But there are some best practices, such as the ones mentioned above, that can maybe help game developers bring better gaming experiences to us, the gamers.