CD Projekt SA Chief Executive Officer Marcin Iwiński made a public mea culpa this week about the disastrous rollout of the video game Cyberpunk 2077 in December. He took personal responsibility and asked fans not to blame the team.
In a somber five-minute video address and accompanying blog post, Iwiński acknowledged the game “did not meet the quality standard we wanted to meet. I and the entire leadership team are deeply sorry for this.”
Iwiński’s apology, the second within a month, was an attempt to restore the Polish company’s reputation with scores of fans – and investors – who had waited eight years for the game, only to discover it was riddled with bugs and performance issues when it was finally released. Uproar over the botched debut caused a 30% drop in CD Projekt’s shares from Dec. 10 through mid-January.
Interviews with more than 20 current and former CD Projekt staff, most of whom requested anonymity so as not to risk their careers, depict a development process marred by unchecked ambition, poor planning and technical shortcomings. Employees, discussing the game’s creation for the first time, described a company that focused on marketing at the expense of development, and an unrealistic timeline that pressured some into working extensive overtime long before the final push. CD Projekt declined to comment on the process or provide interviews for this story.
The Polish company will spend the next few months working on fixes to Cyberpunk 2077 instead of planning expansions to the game or getting started on the next installment of its other popular franchise, The Witcher. The first new update will be released toward the end of January and a second “in the weeks after,” Iwiński said.
This wasn’t how the development team envisioned starting 2021. Now, instead of celebrating a successful release, they will aim to turn Cyberpunk 2077 into a redemption story. It will be an uphill battle. Unlike competitors such as Electronic Arts Inc. and Ubisoft Entertainment SA, CD Projekt only releases one major game every few years, so the company was relying on Cyberpunk 2077 to be a significant hit.
Cyberpunk 2077, a role-playing game set in a sci-fi dystopia, had a lot going for it. Warsaw-based CD Projekt already was well-known for an earlier blockbuster title, The Witcher 3, and Cyberpunk benefitted from a massive ad blitz and a leading role from actor Keanu Reeves. Thanks to pre-launch hype, the game sold 13 million copies at $60 apiece in the first 10 days after its release. CD Projekt was, for a while, the most valuable company in Poland.