Are We Living Another Video Games Industry Crash? The Cyberpunk 2077 Case
The most awaited video game of 2020 is a collection of bugs and glitches. This is not something new in the video game industry.
Cyberpunk 2077 is probably the most awaited game from this pandemic 2020. A lot of expectation has been around this game since it was first announced back in 2012. In 2018 it was the sensation during the E3 (the most important video games fair in the world) winning several awards. The next year, in 2019 many lines were written discussing the pros and cons of this game. Initially, the game was announced to be released in April 2020 unfortunately, the Covid-19 delayed the release. Finally, the game was released on December 10th with a huge number of sales, hundreds of thousands of fans around the world playing like maniacs, and successful reviews from specialized media. However, fans are asking for reimbursement. Why?
An ambitious project with hilarious bugs
CD Projekt Red, creators of the worldwide acclaimed The Witcher 3 based on the books from Andrzej Sapkowski, are the authors of this huge project. More than 500 people worked in this game. The studio received 7 million dollars from the Polish government for additional hiring, converting this project into a demonstration of their technical superiority as a nation. The team worked with two scripts, the main one in Polish and its translation into English. Urban planners were employed to design Night City, the main scenario for the game. Finally, a tremendous marketing campaign was carried out including the film star Keanu Reeves as one of the characters in the game.
Everything in this project is amazing: the story, the scenarios, the graphics, the number of employed resources, the technology specifically designed for this game. It is difficult to not surrender to the overwhelming quality of this work. If everything is so spectacular why has Sony decided to reimburse Cyberpunk 2077 buyers? The answer is three words length: BUGS, BUGS, BUGS.
Walking around Night City is an amazing experience. Photorealistic buildings, a futuristic skyline, and one of the best gaming mechanics up-to-date. The experience is surprisingly immersive until you see a dead body falling from the skies with no reason, or cars hitting one after the other against the wall, or a pedestrian eating an imaginary sandwich because graphics rendering fails. These are just some of the many bugs you can find. See the video below to understand what I am talking about.
How is it possible that such a huge project, with such a huge budget, and all those eager players ready to have blisters in their fingers after hours of restless playing has these bugs? No matter how quickly hotfixes are released, users find more and more hilarious situations. Where you were expecting an experience between Blade Runner and Ghosts in the Shell, you find a surrealistic Monty Python sketch. It is funny that is for sure, but not what you were paying for.
All these problems come from the technical side. The game was originally intended to offer all its capabilities in the new PlayStation 5. However, extending the game to other platforms seemed to impose technical limitations. We have to remember that the high technical specs required by this game are not available for all platforms. There is a bunch of technical solutions that implies reducing FPS, using lower resolution textures, and other solutions that reduce graphics quality. Unfortunately, in this case not only graphical performance was reduced, but the game mechanics also resulted in some non-sense festival of NPCs (non-player characters) defying the law of physics and interacting with other invisible NPCs in some sort of surrealistic ritual.
The main question is clear. Did somebody test this game? And by testing, I mean testing it exhaustively. These are not the kind of bugs that only 0.5% of players may find. These bugs are there for everybody. I would like to think that there was some testing done. This release was probably forced by other factors such as marketing pressure, financial planning, or simply the incoming Xmas season.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and the crash of the video game industry
In 1982 Atari released a video game based on Steven Spielberg’s E. T. film. The film became a classic instantaneously, and the video game promised good sales in the recently born videogames market. The game was designed as an adventure game where E. T. has to find the pieces of a phone to call home. You can see gameplay in the video below.
As you can see the gameplay is confusing, it is impossible to know what is going on, and the graphics do not help. This is users’ frustration flying up like a rocket. This game has always been mentioned to be one of the worst video games in history. It actually, made Atari lose 536 million dollars and was one of the reasons that forced Atari to disappear back in 1984. An urban legend said that Atari buried all the game cartridges somewhere in New Mexico. Surprisingly, in April 2016 an excavation found the cartridges and reopened the story behind this video game.
Years later Atari’s developer Howard Scott Warshaw, claimed that he made the best he could for a six-week project before the Xmas season. This was the rule of thumb during that time. Tight schedules and pushing forward no matter what. In 1983 the videogame industry crashed with a 97% reduction of benefits. Some of the factors leading to this crash may sound familiar to you:
- A flooded console market. Each new console came with its own library of games.
- Too many titles. Initially, console manufacturers such as Atari developed their own games. Then, third-party developers started creating games for existing platforms. The number of vendors exploded and the market became saturated with companies searching for a piece of the pie.
- Lack of consumer confidence. Products such as the aforementioned E.T. video game damaged consumers’ confidence in Atari’s products. Atari paid around 20 million dollars for the rights of the film. Instead of recovering the investment, 3.5 million cartridges were returned.
The story repeats?
Creating a video game is an exciting journey that involves multidisciplinary teams. The video games industry is expected to generate 196 billion dollars by 2022 and productions become larger and larger. Some people compare these productions with Hollywood movies. It is true that both move massive amounts of money and employ thousands of people. However, this comparison is wrong from my point of view. Final products are completely different. While movies are a static product, video games offer a dynamic experience based on virtual interaction. This dynamism is open to the free-will of the user and requires artifacts such as testing, software fixes, and versioning. In a few words, video games are software products that are alive. They have to evolve during their lifetime.
As it occurred back in 1983, marketing and the search for benefits collides with the non-understood complexity of software development. Hopefully, the Cyberpunk 2077 case will be an isolated chapter of the successful career of CD Projekt Red and they will offer us new exciting games in the future. The industry must bet for development, testing, and quality and forget about creating inflated hypes that can be counterproductive for developers and final users.
Meanwhile, I will enjoy the hilarious bugs from this game :)
Thanks for reading!