CD Projekt Red Wrecked their Reputation in One Fell Swoop

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 4 min read
CD Projekt Red Wrecked their Reputation in One Fell Swoop

I don’t write about gaming a ton on this site, but the circumstances around CD Projekt Red and Cyberpunk 2077 are too unique to let pass by without comment.

I think Cyberpunk 2077 is a decent game with a really great aesthetic. It had impossible expectations, and the fact that it got anywhere close to those expectations is impressive in it sown right.

But I also think CD Projekt Red sacrificed their reputation, a reputation they flaunted for years and now looks pretty classless, with Cyberpubk 2077. Let me explain why.

The Issues

First, for years of marketing, the project had what seemed like an unnecessary, but unending transphobic content.

Despite publicly promising numerous times that they would not enter “crunch” with their teams, CD Projekt Red had months of crunch this year, and given the state of the game right now and their promises to fix everything in no time, it seems reasonable to expect there is crunch going on through the holidays as well.

The game was allowed to be reviewed a few days before release, which is good, but there were two abnormalities:

  1. Only PC codes were handed out, there were no console versions available to press until they could download it from the stores like everyone else.
  2. Reviewers were not allowed to publish any footage of their gameplay in their reviews. Instead, they had to use perfect footage provided by CD Projekt Red.

Over the past year, CD Projekt Red had actually shown one or two videos of the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game, but it was later revealed that all of those videos were recorded from the games running on PS5 and Xbox Series X. Are you effing kidding?

When users expressed anger at the quality of the console games, CD Projekt Red directed them to get refunds from the platforms, something neither platform offers for something like this, so many gamers were upset that they could not get a refund even thought “CD Projekt Red told me I could.”

Then CD Projekt Red said they would help with getting refunds out of their own pockets, but only through December 21, 4 days before surely hundreds of thousands of copies of this game would be given to people under the Christmas tree. They have since extended that date.

Recently, Sony announced that they would process a refund for anyone who wants on, and they would also be removing the game from their platform until further notice. They did not ask CD Projekt Red to remove the game, nor did CD Projekt Red suggest it, Sony kicked off the most anticipated game of the year (decade?) because it was so bad. This has literally never happened before, and it’s a pretty shocking rebuke of the game from Sony.

But even if we move past the bugs, Cyberpunk 2077 has some major problems.

First is that fact that the game lacked a warning about having sequences that could induce seizures, even though there are numerous times in the game where you experience a real-life machine in first person that is explicitly designed to give people seizures. There were numerous reports of people having seizures during these sequences, and Game Informer got the ball rolling on this getting fixed, but the fact that this shipped in the first place is shocking.

My Takeaway

I think Cyberpunk 2077 is a decent game on PC right now, but it absolutely has tons of issues. For example, I have a bug where tiny microchips that the characters routinely put in and take out of their heads, are replaced by gun models instead. This ruined a major scene early in the game that was supposed to be emotional, but just looked ridiculous as a main character emotionally pulled an assault rifle out of their head and asked me to take it and keep it safe.

I’m also very put off by the brash marketing and “hollier than thou” attitude the company has had for years. After making fun of other companies for doing crunch with their employees and releasing games with prominent bugs, they have released a game that was not done, made their employees crunch for months, and have been kicked off the PlayStation store, an absolutely devastating statement from the biggest console platform holder.

As of today I can not recommend this game. I don’t plan on trying to get a refund from the Epic Games Store, but I do feel conflicted about supporting CD Projekt Red right now, and I haven’t played it at all in a week as it just doesn’t feel quite right to me.

From the flaunting of their “untouchable” reputation, to the dishonest multi-year marketing campaign, to the draconian review restrictions, to the poor treatment of their employees, and to the overall quality of the product they ended up delivering, I find it very hard to get behind anything this company does in the future. They may have had a “we’re not like the other guys” mystique before, but they have been reveled to be just like all the other AAA studio out there, and in some ways, even worse.

Ending note: I don’t hold this against the rank-and-file employees at CD Projekt Red, this is directed squarely at the board and management of the company. By all accounts, as upset as we are about this game and this company’s behavior, the employees inside are even more upset.