Many observers predicted that Cyberpunk 2077 would have a rough launch following the game’s multiple delays, but the situation has escalated to an unimaginable degree. After a whirlwind week that left PlayStation 4 and Xbox One owners racing to return a seemingly unfinished game on past-gen consoles, Sony has now pulled CD Projekt Red’s open-world game from its digital marketplace entirely.
There have been plenty of abysmal video game launches in the past decade — No Man’s Sky and Fallout 76 spring to mind as recent examples — but it’s no exaggeration to say Sony’s decision has solidified Cyberpunk 2077 as the most disastrous launch in modern games history. Because of the genuinely unprecedented nature of the situation, fans are left in a bit of a mystery box with what happens next. Here are some of the biggest questions (and answers) that Sony’s decision raises about the game’s future and the industry at large.
How often this happens — Quite literally never with games of this scale. The reality is that it’s extremely rare for a video game, even a terrible one, to be taken down from a service like the PlayStation Store. Buggy games are released all the time and that’s rarely enough to stop digital sales.
2013’s flop Aliens: Colonial Marines wasn’t removed from stores after launching with significant issues on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. Nor was No Man’s Sky after fans leveled false advertising complaints against Hello Games and Sony in 2016. Games only really get pulled from stores for content reasons or if a company’s license on an IP expires. Sony’s decision is historic.
When it will come back — It’s hard to imagine the game going back up anytime soon. CD Projekt Red’s current plan is to release two massive patches on last-gen consoles in January and February. Considering that Sony removed the game due to its shocking state on PlayStation 4, it’s unlikely it will come back before one or both of those patches arrive. That is, of course, if the patches release on time and actually fix the problems to a significant enough degree. There’s always a chance these updates could be rushed out, which might fix some issues while creating others. Unless Sony and CD Projekt Red strike some kind of deal, February 2021 seems like the earliest Cyberpunk 2077 could return barring a significant January patch.
Who made the decision — While the inner workings aren’t fully known, this is undoubtedly a high-level decision at Sony. Cyberpunk 2077 is a massive release and Sony stands to make a lot of money selling it online. The one thing we do know is how Sony played into the certification process that allowed the game to be sold in the store in the first place.
Developer Rami Ismail recently broke down how the certification process works, explaining that companies like Sony mostly check to make sure that games do not fundamentally break its systems when deciding if a game will pass inspection. “Certified” is not the same as “good.”
A game with clear issues can be greenlit if Sony waives certain requirements on the assumption the developer will fix the game in a timely manner. It’s likely that Sony issued waivers to CD Projekt Red during the certification process, but no longer believes the studio will address those issues to its satisfaction.
Representatives from PlayStation did not immediately reply to Inverse’s request for clarification on this matter, though we will update if they do.
Has this happened before — With a game of this size? Almost never. Even the closest examples have some sort of weird context to them that makes them an outlier. The biggest precedent was in 2015 when Valve removed Batman: Arkham Knight from Steam due to issues with the PC version. Even in that scenario, Warner Brothers pulled the release itself, not Steam. A retailer making the call itself is extremely rare.
How it will affect sales — This will have a major impact on Cyberpunk 2077’s future, both short- and long-term. On a fundamental level, the game is no longer available to players on two major platforms. The PlayStation 4 has sold more than 102 million units, so there’s potential for CD Projekt Red to miss out on tens of millions of sales.
The fallout from the situation could prove to be even more problematic, however. The negative press is likely to scare some players away from purchasing the game at all. There’s also a very real possibility that Microsoft could take Sony’s lead and pull the game from its own marketplace, though CD Projekt Red says it's not currently in talks with Microsoft about a withdrawal.
UPDATE: Whether or not it gets removed, Microsoft is now offering full refunds for the game on Xbox. A Microsoft representative tells Inverse, "We know the developers at CD Projekt Red have worked hard to ship Cyberpunk in extremely challenging circumstances. However, we also realize that some players have been unhappy with the current experience on older consoles ... To ensure that every player is able to get the experience they expect on Xbox, we will be expanding our existing refund policy to offer full refunds to anyone who purchased Cyberpunk 2077 digitally from the Microsoft Store, until further notice."
Even if CD Projekt Red manages to fix the game in a timely manner, this is a serious blow to fans’ trust in the studio as well as its credibility.
How many people bought the game — Despite the bad press, Cyberpunk 2077 had a massive launch. CD Projekt Red said it recouped all its development costs on pre-orders alone, selling at least 8 million units. The game rushed to the top of the UK sales charts, quickly making it the second biggest retail launch of the year.
But none of that really matters at the moment. Both Sony and Microsoft are now offering full refunds of the game and CD Projekt. It’s clear that no matter how many people bought the game at launch, many fewer will own it just over a week later.
This likely isn’t the end of the Cyberpunk 2077 drama, as all eyes are now on Microsoft to see if it ultimately pulls the game in addition to offering refunds. The best we can hope for at this point is that the situation will serve as a wake-up call for major studios and push the industry to change the unsustainable development practices that led to this mess.
CD Projekt Red declined comment to Inverse when asked about plans to change its labor practices for future Cyberpunk 2077 updates. The developer also declined to comment on Sony’s decision to remove the game from the PlayStation Store, referring to its social post as "our only official statement."