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A&E >  Entertainment

Game On: ‘Cyberpunk 2077’ hits another snag

UPDATED: Wed., Nov. 4, 2020

After a series of delays spanning nearly the whole year, “Cyberpunk 2077” is set to release Dec. 10 on PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One and Stadia.  (CD Projekt S.A.)
After a series of delays spanning nearly the whole year, “Cyberpunk 2077” is set to release Dec. 10 on PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One and Stadia. (CD Projekt S.A.)
By Riordan Zentler For The Spokesman-Review

We’re well into the fourth quarter of 2020, and this eventful-yet-uneventful year has me wondering: Which will come first, the release of “Cyberpunk 2077” or a COVID-19 vaccine? It seems like a strange comparison, but hopes are high for both despite being hampered by endless delays and setbacks.

As of Tuesday, “Cyberpunk 2077” has been delayed three times. In June of last year, the revealed release date was April 16. Later, it changed to Sept. 17. Then Nov. 19. Fast forward to today, and we’re looking at a Dec. 10 release. It’s somewhat poetic – this is no doubt the most anticipated game of the year, and we all know 2020 has been host to many disappointments.

To my knowledge, this number of delays in such a small span of time is unprecedented. I’ve seen titles delayed for years at a time without concrete release dates – notably “Team Fortress 2” and the ironically titled “Duke Nukem Forever” – but the rapid-fire delays of “Cyberpunk 2077” feel like some sort of elaborate April Fool’s Day joke. Is 2077 the year it’ll actually be released?

I’ve been following the development of “Cyberpunk 2077” with mild interest – it’s an upcoming role-playing game developed by CD Projekt Red, a Polish team best known for “The Witcher” series. It was announced in May 2012, long before even the 2015 release of “The Witcher III: The Wild Hunt,” the game that took the studio from popular to superstar status. Accordingly, the team developing “Cyberpunk 2077” increased to 500 employees, from 50.

It’s an ambitious, open-world RPG where players can make all manner of moral decisions to influence the main story. To be honest, I’ve heard such bombastic claims made on countless occasions across the 20+ years I’ve been gaming and been disappointed nearly every time. Usually, these variable plot beats are self-contained with no real consequences aside from a guide character scolding or praising you depending on your actions. Yippee.

Suffice to say, I’m skeptical “Cyberpunk 2077” will live up to expectations. But CD Projekt Red is a very talented and very large studio – if anyone can pull off a title this ambitious, it might just be them. Word is they’re working hard, and the company implemented mandatory six-day work weeks for the majority of its developers starting in September, according to Bloomberg.

It was a controversial announcement because the company had previously taken a public stance against the “crunch culture” that intermittently plagues the lives of many video game developers. The employees at CD Projekt Red are all paid overtime for their efforts – a luxury many salaried game designers across the globe do not have – but it’s a bad look when a studio takes a public stance against crunch time, reneges on it to meet a deadline and then misses the deadline anyway.

To clarify: I’m not chomping at the bit to play “Cyberpunk 2077.” I’d love to give it a spin, but it’s unlikely to be the highlight of my year. I’m less concerned about playing it right away and more concerned about CD Projekt Red’s apparent inability to set realistic deadlines and the stress that must put on its employees. I have never once heard of a video game “going gold” – that is, having the master copy of the game ready to be copied en masse and distributed to sellers – three weeks before hitting another delay.

According to the recent delay announcement, “The biggest challenge is shipping the game on current-gen, next-gen and PC at the same time, which requires us to prepare and test nine versions of it.” It makes sense, but how could CD Projekt Red not have anticipated that obstacle?

The whole drama makes me feel glad I have not bothered to pre-order “Cyberpunk 2077” or a new gaming console – the Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5 hit shelves on Nov. 10 and 12, respectively – because out of the dozens of games touted for the next-generation consoles, CD Projekt Red’s troubled masterpiece still seems like the most intriguing of the bunch.

Is there a takeaway from this story? Maybe not. But after the disappointing launch of “Destiny” in 2014, I vowed to never preorder a video game ever again. I haven’t regretted that decision once in the years since.

Riordan Zentler can be reached at riordanzentler@gmail.com.

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