Cyberpunk 2077: A $120m+ game that could be the industry’s biggest flop ever

Cyberpunk 2077 has been such a disaster that the game studio behind it (CD Projekt Red) has seen its stock fall 40%+ in recent weeks.


December 22, 2020

Cyberpunk 2077 (Source: YouTube)

Here’s a useful heuristic: If Keanu Reeves is the face of your project and it flops, then there’s something wrong with your project.

Well, Keanu is the face of the game Cyberpunk 2077 and things have been so bad since its Dec. 10 release that the studio behind it (CD Projekt Red) has seen its stock fall 40%+ since the start of the month.

Set in a dystopian future (think Blade Runner), the game was one of the most anticipated of the decade — with the project launching in 2012 and costing $120m+.

CD Projekt Red was founded by 2 high school friends…

… in Warsaw, Poland, during the 1990s (per the New York Times).

According to a former employee, the studio’s leaders have a reputation as “deft marketers” and “storytellers” but their vision often runs “ahead of their engineering and technical prowess.”

The vision-to-execution gap plagues Cyberpunk 2077

The gaming industry is so notorious for its hectic work schedules that there’s a word to describe the rush to make a deadline: crunch.

Over the years, the Cyberpunk project has been hit by delays and leadership churn; in 2020, employees have been crunching furiously to make a holiday 2020 deadline.

A major red flag came up in the weeks prior to Cyberpunk’s December launch. Studios typically send out advanced copies of games to allow media outlets to write up (hopefully positive) reviews.

CD Projekt mostly kept mum withs various publishers, raising many eyebrows.

Cyberpunk was glitchy from its release

Twitter and Reddit are awash with game clips showing inexplicable character behavior like walking through walls, suddenly disappearing and — it seems — an affinity for no pants.

It’s gotten so bad, Sony pulled the game from its store and is issuing refunds. The entire episode is shining a light on the high-stakes multiyear creation of expensive “triple A” games.

When they hit, they print money (e.g., the Grand Theft Auto franchise has made ~$6B worldwide). When they miss (e.g., Cyberpunk 2077), investors may hit them with lawsuits alleging “misrepresentation in order to obtain financial benefits.”

It’ll take a lot of Keanu to salvage this one.

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