However, The Witcher 3 had its fair share of bugs on launch as well, and it took quite a bit before CD Projekt Red finally worked them out. So how does the buggy Cyberpunk 2077 launch compare to The Witcher 3, and is there hope for the future of the game?
Cyberpunk 2077 development won’t end with release
It should be obvious to anyone who has played Cyberpunk 2077, or just seen a few gameplay videos, that Cyberpunk 2077 is going to need to be worked on for at least a few more months. Perhaps what sets Cyberpunk 2077 apart from the typically expected post-release development cycle is just how significant the game’s bugs are.
Launch bugs are simply a part of modern gaming, with games like this often being too large for studios to ever fully test and debug a game in a reasonable amount of time. So it’s not really a surprise that there were bugs, but even accepting this as a trait of modern gaming Cyberpunk 2077 seems to go too far.
When compared to its predecessor, The Witcher 3’s bugs seemed to fit the category of being silly, quirky, or only mildly setting the player back. What’s crucial is that these bugs did not usually hold the player back. While a lot of them were immersion breaking, players were able to push past them with a laugh and move on with the game.
Bugs in Cyberpunk 2077 retain their immersion breaking qualities while having other significant issues, including while very frequently creating frustrating, or even game breaking, problems for the player. These bugs can range from merely being thrown hundreds of meters away to simply causing the game to suddenly close without warning.
But when will these problems get cleared up?
For The Witcher 3, the most significant patch the clean up much of the game’s bugs and performance issues (patch 1.04) came just a week after the game’s launch, but further patches improved the game much later alongside its planned DLC. The last expansion to The Witcher 3 released a year after the base game, and the final patch for PC came on September 12, 2016 for PC, with later console patches improving the game to take advantage of new hardware.
What’s important is that, despite having its fair share of bugs on launch, The Witcher 3 had very few bugs that made the game unplayable, and most of those were cleaned up within a week of the game’s release.
Additionally, those early patches managed to improve the game’s overall performance significantly, bringing the game from a playable state to a smooth and comfortable state in a very short time.
With Cyberpunk 2077 we won’t really know how long CD Projekt Red intends to work on it until much later, but given the sheer scope of bugs and performance issues it’s likely that it will take quite a bit longer before players can play the game with the same expectation of quality as they were able to with The Witcher 3.
On top of all this, Cyberpunk 2077 has a host of non-critical issues which can also leave players with a poor experience, such as noticeable texture pop and NPCs seeming to appear and disappear at will.
So why not delay the game again?
The assumption that Cyberpunk 2077 was pushed out the door to take advantage of the holiday season seems to be the best possible explanation for what happened, but even then there are a number of other considerations.
First of all, the very same fans that were outraged when early reviewers pointed out how severely buggy the game was had previously been outraged at the developers for not releasing the game sooner.
However, CD Projekt Red is helmed by industry veterans who (hopefully) aren’t so easily swayed by a few obnoxious voices on Twitter and Reddit. Their primary concerns were likely much more pragmatic. Cyberpunk 2077 was subject to an intense level of accumulated excitement, or hype, and there were real consequences to letting that hype either build or dwindle.
Hype can sell a game, but it can also lead to greater disappointment when players find out that the product doesn’t live up to its hype. If they delayed the game and the hype built up they could have risked a more disastrous release. Likewise, if the hype died down, CD Projekt Red might feel like they cost their company money by not capitalizing on early excitement.
Developer morale is another serious consideration. The weeks leading up to a game’s release are often accompanied by intense work, long hours away from home and family, and the steady accumulation of stress. This period, often known as crunch, is one of the worst parts of game development and is responsible for a lot of developer burnout.
Every time Cyberpunk 2077 was delayed, it meant those developers who endured one crunch period would then have to look forward to another one down the line. At a certain point, it can feel better to just release the game and endure the backlash than to exist in a perpetual cycle of crunch and delay.
So what should players do?
Cyberpunk 2077, for better or worse, is out. It’s released, it’s still being worked on, some people are upset, some people don’t care, a handful must be happy. Cyberpunk 2077 does do some very good things, it can be an incredibly fun experience, but the process of getting to that experience can also be a chore right now.
But at the end of the day, that doesn’t matter. Play the game, or don’t. Many players have already chosen to wait a while for CD Projekt Red to release a few patches to improve the game, but over a million players have decided to just put up with the bugs and crashes and play Cyberpunk 2077 as is.
Regardless of what gets done, however, it’s fair to say that this situation, as unfortunate as it is, doesn’t entitle fans to harass and abuse the developers, reviewers, players, streamers, artists, voice actors, and fellow fans.