It's been a tumultuous time for the folks at CD Projekt RED, the developer/publisher of Cyberpunk 2077. After the game's poor reception — particularly on consoles due to its technical problems — the discourse surrounding it has been mostly negative. Fans are upset, and we're sure CD Projekt isn't happy either (along with shareholders). We don't need extrapolate on why this is bad for consumers and the developer, but what is worth mentioning is that Cyberpunk 2077 has negatively impacted more than just those two groups.
Before the game even launched, critics who received early copies were tasked with evaluating a buggy game with many issues and they knew they'd get heat from the community if their opinions didn't line up with theirs. (Which is silly because fans hadn't played the game since it wasn't even out yet.) While many reviewers ended up giving it positive reviews based on the PC build, journalists like Kallie Plagge of GameSpot weren't so hot on it.
Plagge gave the game a 7/10 — which even in hindsight is a generous score — resulting in being bombarded with backlash from “fans.” Though, Plagge wasn't the only one to receive tremendous hate from the community. Game Informer's Liana Ruppert also got torn apart for shedding light on the game's epileptic triggers, which at the time had no warning and was very unsafe for those prone to seizures. Releasing a game in this shape is obviously bad, but when there's so much hype around it, critics and reporters are left to take the brunt when their opinions don't align with the game's community.
For those that are prone to epileptic episodes, we wanted to offer a PSA on some of the epileptic triggers seen in Cyberpunk 2077. If you choose to play, here's what you can do to keep yourself safe: https://t.co/BMWF33itXN pic.twitter.com/Y2QACjSGxW
— Game Informer (@gameinformer) December 7, 2020
Not only is the game hurting reviewers/critics, but it seems to have impacted small retailers who are now sitting on a stack of copies that aren't selling. Small businesses like Pink Gorilla, a brick and mortar store in Seattle, is now “in the red” due to ordering so many copies of a game that was expected to perform well.
The company's co-owner, Kelsey Lewin said on Twitter said CD Projekt RED “didn’t do anything for us little local retailers who are already well in the red on unsold copies of Cyberpunk we can’t return.” It's unclear how many copies were ordered, but the point is that the game is not selling as well as expected due to the poor optimization on consoles.
And they especiaallllyyy didn’t do anything for us little local retailers who are already well in the red on unsold copies of Cyberpunk we can’t return
— kelsey lewin (@kelslewin) December 16, 2020
Following the game's poor reception on consoles, CD Projekt RED issued a statement about the optimization and assured the community that refunds would be issued if buyers wanted them. Consumers were instructed to “use the refund system of PSN or Xbox” to get their money back on digital copies. The problem is that returning a digital product isn't a simple process and in most cases, are being rejected due to being outside the parameters. In particular, those who purchased on PlayStation aren't having any luck getting refunds, despite CD Projekt telling the community they could get their money back.
— WaywardAstro (@WaywardAstro) December 14, 2020
This has led to a massive influx of requests and outraged fans who have lashed out at customer service reps working on behalf of digital storefronts like PSN. You can imagine if a massive publisher tells the community to contact the digital distributor for a refund, the requests will likely go through the roof and that's exactly what happened.
Now, those responsible for dealing with the requests are getting ripped apart by consumers. This is unfair because those representatives are simply doing their jobs. They have no special agreement with CD Projekt RED and it was irresponsible of the publisher to suggest that refunds would be issued. All of this could have been prevented if the product that shipped wasn't in such poor condition. There's a difference between simply not liking a game's style or gameplay mechanics, but when it's fundamentally broken in many regards, that's a different situation entirely — and one that will be tough to rectify.