crunch, bugs, marketing and the full stop of the video game industry

On July 2, 2018, in what was billed as a fun and gentle discussion on Twitter, the social media team at CD Projekt Red, producer of Cyberpunk 2077, answered the question of a user who wondered if there were memes in the game. “The whole game is going to be a meme”, they promised sarcastically.

The history of this launch has as many edges as overtime has had to be done – and still does – the workers of a studio that, after hearing from one of their bosses that they were committed to respecting their time outside of work, had to see how they changed the discourse and ordered them to keep working hours of six days a week.

But leaving the crunch aside for the moment, let’s focus on the immediate, on the reason why Cyberpunk 2077 has monopolized all the headlines of the specialized and general press after its launch. He December 10, the game finally went on sale after numerous delays that moved its initial date (April 16, 2020) to this month. This launch, planned for the already old generation of consoles (PS4 and Xbox One), promised an update for the current generation (PS5 and Xbox Series X | S) in 2021. The problem comes from seeing that the version for PS4 and Xbox One is far from playable.

Criticisms on social networks did not take long to appear. Far from being users who were looking for easy retweets, such as those who blew smoke from their vape on their Xbox Series X to simulate that they were burning, they were masses of players who did not give credit to errors -o ‘bugs‘- of the game, with characters not loading, invisible objects, blue screens and, ultimately, overwhelmingly bad performance.

The days passed, the patches began to arrive, but little or nothing changed. Game users in PS4 y Xbox One They began to ask Sony and Microsoft for explanations, from whom they asked for their money back seeing the state of the game. Also to CD Projekt Red, who issued a statement apologizing for the performance of their game and promising to be working – just missing – to fix it.

The video game store chain GAME He assured that the physical copies of the video game would not be returned, following the request made by the distributor of the game in Spain, Bandai Namco, that it would only accept those copies of the game that had not been unsealed.

Finally, after the incessant criticism from its users, Sony Interactive Entertainment published a statement announcing that retired Cyberpunk 2077 from your digital store, PlayStation Store, and that it opened a process to reimburse the money to the affected users who claimed it.

At that point, CD Projekt’s shares plummeted, losing almost half of their market value. Its shares have risen steadily since the company’s announcement in March that the game will come out despite the coronavirus pandemic. The delays curbed enthusiasm, which was reignited with the marketing that has flooded social networks and practically all possible shop windows.

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You just have to remember the incredible stir that was formed when Keanu Reeves appeared at E3 2019 revealing his participation in the title as one of the leads. Well, that moment collides with the closed policy that CD Projekt has had to teach the game to the media, who have not allowed to see the result of the game on PS4 and Xbox One until practically on launch day.

Going back to crunch, many consider the launch of this game as a turning point in the widespread practice in a large part of the industry to carry out a lot of overtime in a systematic way to get the game out on the stipulated date. In this crunch, many factors come into play, with investor pressure being the most common symptom.

Other games have suffered from a release in which things were not quite seen well, such as No Man’s Sky, Fallout 76 o Red Dead Redemption 2, but never before has there been such a unanimous response to a company that has squandered the good name it achieved with The Witcher 3, considered one of the best video games made to date.

These are the main controversies of a game that has also faced criticism for including a scene that repeats the patterns that cause epileptic seizures or for indefinitely moving a multiplayer mode that perhaps is now missing more than ever. Now, we begin to know the testimonies of workers who alerted their superiors of this disaster.

As the Bloomberg journalist tells Jason Schreier, one worker asked the directors of CD Projekt if they didn’t feel it was hypocritical to play a game about corporate exploitation while waiting for their employees to work overtime. “The answer was vague and evasive“he adds.

This has been, for now, the launch of a video game that promised to change the rules established so far and mark a new point in the industry. Perhaps he has succeeded, but not as he had planned, but as that meme with which he ironic two years ago and that, in his guts, includes another that sums up the feelings of many: ‘We have been deceived‘.

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