A Broken Game Experiences a Revival

By Gabriel Cabello Torres, Technology Editor

Anybody who mentioned the name “Cyberpunk” to a gamer after its release would’ve probably been met with a wince or some other physical demonstration of agony. After all, it had one of the worst game launches in history. However, player numbers have recently started skyrocketing after “Cyberpunk 2077” made a re-appearance in popular culture. So, what gives? Why did a game that experienced such a calamitous release that was nothing like what the fanbase expected suddenly gain a resurgence in popularity?


First, it’s important to take a look back at what Cyberpunk 2077 was facing in the first place. Cyberpunk’s developers made a lot of promises to the gaming community: a wide range of realistic character customization, a compelling roleplay experience with numerous different paths that could be taken, and riveting gameplay with plenty of playstyle availability. However, it wasn’t just gameplay that was promised. Night City, the story’s lively city setting, was an intriguing vision of an immersive, futuristic world akin to the beloved Blade Runner franchise. Cyberpunk was like a Holy Grail for all sorts of gaming fans. A great story, next-level graphics, a unique RPG setting, and Keanu Reeves as a constant character? Who wouldn’t want to play this game? Cyberpunk garnered an incredible amount of hype and the internet was obsessed over new announcements. It’s safe to say that CD Projekt Red had a high bar to meet with this RPG. 


So what went wrong? The game first surfaced in 2012, with a teaser release the following year. Then, after years of Cyberpunk existing as a mere legend, an announcement was finally made at E3 in 2019 with an official release date. Anticipation for the release was high, but every time the release date inched closer, CD Projekt Red postponed the game’s release date in order to ensure that the game was as polished as possible. The game was first set to release on April 16, 2020, then was delayed to Sept. 17, then Nov. 19, then finally Dec.10th in the same year. 


During this time, fans were getting anxious. However, CD Projekt Red was determined to create a high-quality game. Developers were sacrificing their health by working long hours to get the game out faster. They did not want to release an unfinished product to their dedicated fanbase. Shareholders invested in the release were pressuring CD Projekt Red to release the game as soon as possible. The developers started receiving death threats from fans who were annoyed with the release delays. Even worse, leaks showing how unfinished the game looked began to come out, making gamers doubt that the game was worth all the time and excitement. Concerningly, gaming journalists and reviewers weren’t allowed to share a recording of their own gameplay. Instead, they were forced to do their review with the gameplay that CD Projekt Red provided to them. It seemed that CD Projekt Red was in full damage control mode.


When the game was finally released, there was pandemonium on player reviews, social media outlets, and comment threads. The vast majority of players were infuriated by how Cyberpunk 2077 failed to deliver a game that works. Current-gen consoles like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 could barely run a smooth game with all the glitches and framerate drops. The game didn’t deliver a lively Night City full of NPCs to complete the illusion of a heavily populated metropolitan area. Any immersion in cutscenes was taken away by bugs that would ruin the moment by affecting assets or simply freeze the character models in a t-pose stance. Glitches and bugs were rampant, even for players who had top-of-the-line hardware for their PC setups.


There were still people in the community who enjoyed the game, bugs and all. One of Cyberpunk 2077’s biggest strengths is that you get to choose how you start and end your story. It was a well-written story and there were numerous gold nuggets to be found in the game’s many side quests. Night City was chock-full of plots and characters that successfully made it seem a lot more expansive than it actually was. Despite all this, it was hard for many to get past the clunky gameplay. The number of players on Cyberpunk started dropping and many people turned their backs on it, simply giving up. 


CD Projekt Red immediately got back to work and tried their hardest to give the ambitious game a second wind by releasing free updates and promising free DLC. Eventually, they started fixing the game and it became way more enjoyable for many. Now players could feel truly immersed in that world. Even if it was nothing like what they expected, it was still something special. The game started flourishing again, but couldn’t recover from the massive flop at the beginning. It cost the game many fans who were initially excited to play. Then something unexpected happened.


“Cyberpunk: Edgerunners” is an anime released on Netflix based on the setting and culture of Cyberpunk 2077. It features the same grand Night City but breathes new life into it with an interesting story that takes place outside of the plot of the game. This was an opportunity to expand on the burgeoning sci-fi world presented in the game. An anime adaptation seemed to make the most sense, as this art style really brought out the tone of the gritty sci-fi setting. Other sci-fi anime set in crime-ridden cities include Ghost in the Shell, Akira, and Angel Cop. Rafal Jaki was responsible for this series. His work on the manga based on CD Projekt Red’s most famous game, The Witcher, had a great reception. 


The first few minutes of the first episode instantly encapsulate Cyberpunk’s action: raw, high-octane, and tech-fueled. The plot follows an average teenager’s journey from normal life to a life of crime. It explores many different aspects of crime throughout Night City, from average street thug activities to corporate espionage. If the series was meant to reel in old players and newcomers alike, then it succeeded. It gave new life to Cyberpunk 2077 by showcasing a world rich with great storytelling told through dialogue and environments. Cyberpunk now sits at around a healthy 100,000 players per day and is finally giving newcomers and first-day players a chance to live through a whole new story. The beauty of Edgerunners’ great reception is that it also presents how, regardless of your background, you can make a name for yourself in Night City.


Cyberpunk 2077 had nothing short of a nightmare release. While there are people who still consider the game mediocre, it continues to see great success. Cyberpunk 2077 served as a lesson to AAA Game Studios to not rush a game for the sake of making release dates. It also serves as a tale of perseverance. Behind this project, there were people who were passionate about making a new world for players to enjoy. After all the hard work and creativity that was put in, it’s safe to say that the workers at CD Projekt Red deserved to see Cyberpunk 2077 experience a rebirth.