It’s easy now to see the joke as somewhat prophetic, but in truth, no one could have predicted just how poorly critics and audiences received cyberpunk. So what happened?
The Polish studio responsible for the game, CD Projekt Red, had announced their intentions to develop it nearly a decade ago in 2012. They promised a gripping, wildly exciting saga set in a hyperrealistic future, featuring a cast including Keanu Reeves, Grimes, and ASAP Rocky. You were to play as a digital nomad trying to survive a dystopian future while going on corporate espionage missions. It was intended to be an incredible immersive experience, particularly for those with a top-level PC, PS5, or an Xbox Series X/S.
Eight million copies were pre-ordered, 74% digital. And hype for the game was nearly unprecedented. Throughout 2020, mentions of Projekt RED or Cyberpunk on Twitter reached anywhere from 1000 to 370,000 daily, peaking near its release date.
Within 12 hours of its release on December 10, Steam had over one million players. Thirteen million copies were sold in total. However, those Twitter mentions changed from excitement to befuddlement to outright anger. # cyberpunk2077 became # cyberbug2077. We analyzed twitter traction following the release. By December 12, mentions of # cyberbug2077 broke over 100,000. Just days ago, gamers are still talking; with the tag still reaching over 200,000 mentions.
Thousands of virtual videos appeared from players, all experiencing various glitches and bugs. The glitches would often render the seriously-themed game hysterical. Tiny trees would line the floors of buildings. Tanks would drop from the sky. Characters on motorcycles would be pantsless.
Fans were outraged. Sony’s customer service lines were overwhelmed with calls demanding refunds, which they had no option but to grant in full. Eventually, the game was pulled from their marketplace.
It turned out, some of the joke article’s claims turned out to be true. Back in Poland, developers were growing concerned throughout the years with the company’s rather bold promises.
Cyberpunk 2077 is not the first game to be hyped to unrealistic degrees, and it won’t be the last to disappoint. Perhaps more realistic expectations should have been set, or more attention placed on the rollout online. Regardless of the cause, the publicity that came alongside the issues, and the fact that negative tweets made up less than 10% of total mentions, most certainly created a buzz that is worth remembering, and for the better.