Cyberpunk 2077: The most disastrous game release since Atari’s E.T.

Graphic by Daniya Siddique

After eight years of development at CD Projekt Red, Cyberpunk 2077 quickly shifted from a likely Game of the Year candidate to an international pariah in the video game world. Littered with technical issues, game-breaking glitches, and graphical failures, Cyberpunk 2077 has sparked fan revolt, internal turmoil, and cross-corporate controversy. 

Set in a dystopian future where digital nomads navigate the high-stakes world of corporate espionage, Cyberpunk 2077 is an open-world role-playing game based on a 1988 tabletop game. 

Notable for its choose-your-own-adventures style, CD Projekt Red promised a revolutionary gaming experience for console players. However, when cars are suspended in mid-air or enemies don’t die after relentless close-combat hits, players have no choice but to mark the game half-baked and unplayable. 

CD Projekt Red only circulated PC versions of the game for review before the game’s official release. While Cyberpunk 2077’s PC gameplay is remarkably smoother than its console gameplay, the company was only delaying the inevitable backlash from players. 

Fans are outraged; although, many fans are making memes and having a laugh about the whole situation. 

One YouTube user commented on a video about the game, saying, “I think the real problem here is that people don’t want to admit that this is the reality of what 2077 will be. Given how quickly the world is going to shit, by 2077, it will be a common occurrence to phase across a city in the blink of an eye, die from tripping on some garbage on the street, have people straight up phase in and out of existence and having cars suddenly defy all laws of physics.”

However, the outcry from fans and critics lead to an apology from CD Projekt Red less than a week after the game launched, offering refunds to those who purchased the game. While CD Projekt Red does not have the authority to give refunds to those who purchased through digital game stores, Sony removed the game from the Playstation store and offered refunds.

While the release of Cyberpunk 2077 will be monumental in video game history, the reasons behind its failure are only beginning to surface. 

CD Projekt Red is an independent Polish studio known for its incredible success in The Witcher franchise, receiving Game of the Year in 2015 for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Establishing itself as a competitor in the Triple-A games market, the company was expected to release another outstanding game With Cyberpunk 2077. 

Triple-A games require severe attention to detail and patience. The game was delayed three times in an effort to perfect the game before its launch; however, corporate executives would not let the game developers push back the launch date any further and instituted a mandatory six-day workweek that involved long hours and overtime. 

This tight timeline and unhealthy office environment is the main reason why Cyberpunk 2077 failed to meet its expectations. CD Projekt game developers knew the game would receive backlash, but there was nothing they could do. Critics suggest that executives wanted to capitalize on the high-spending nature of the holiday season and release the unfinished game in December. 

Surely, Cyberpunk 2077 will go down in history as one of the most disastrous video game launches ever. Yet, it does not compare to the embarrassing launch of Atari’s E.T. video game that is said to have been the demise of Atari.

In 1982, Howard Scott Warshaw, a gifted programmer at Atari, was chosen to collaborate with Steven Spielberg on developing an E.T. video game after his recent success with designing Atari’s Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Warshaw drafted an adventure game involving the player helping E.T. to phone home by dodging government agents and scientists and collecting parts of an interplanetary telephone. After pitching this idea, Spielberg said he wanted a Pac-Man knock-off, but Warshaw was able to convince Spielberg. 

Atari’s ordered an initial run of four million copies of E.T. and budgeted $5 million on what is considered the biggest advertising campaign for a video game. Atari needed E.T. to be successful as they were losing their consumer market to the emergence of home computers that could do more than run video games.

Scheduled for a holiday release, the game was rushed and launched with “opportunities where you could suddenly wind up in an odd situation,” says Warshaw. Consequently, only 1.5 million copies were sold, causing stocks in both Atari and their parent company, Warner Communications, to plummet. 

Atari buried truckloads of the unsold E.T. game in the New Mexico desert which was confirmed by a documentary crew in 2014 who excavated the supposed burial site, thus unearthing Atari’s demise. 

Perhaps Cyberpunk 2077 and CD Projekt Red will also be buried for their failures, but this is unlikely. The company continues to work through the game’s bugs, promising game patches in the near future. Cyberpunk 2077 and CD Projekt Red do not deserve to be exiled to the digital dumps just yet.

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