Management at CD Projekt Red have addressed a number of queries about console versions of Cyberpunk 2077, giving some insight into why it runs poorly on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Opening a conference call on Monday, December 14, joint-CEO Adam Kiciński recognised that despite strong sales and feedback on PC, Stadia and users on next-gen consoles, feedback from those on older devices was "way below our expectations."
Four members of the management team then faced questions from shareholders, mostly focused on the current issues with the last-gen console SKU, but also touching on other aspects of the game's development.
Many shareholders asked about how the negative feedback at launch and the need to fix issues with the console edition will affect plans for DLC, multiplayer and The Witcher 4, but management offered no comment at this time.
One caller asked for clarification on the recent report that CD Projekt Red had changed its bonus structure in light of poor reviews, but the company declined to comment on this as well.
No questions were raised about the presence of epileptic triggers or the fact the studio enforced mandatory crunch in the run-up to launch -- something that still did not prevent a further delay to the game.
"We were updating the game on last-gen consoles until the very last minute, and we thought we'd make it in time"
Marcin Iwiński, CD Projekt Red
Since Cyberpunk's launch last Thursday, much of the discourse has been focused on the bugs, glitches and poor performance on last-gen consoles.
Review scores are also suffering, with the PC version's initial rating of 91 on Metacritic now down to 89, and the early console scores considerably lower. At the time of writing, the PlayStation version has a Metacritic rating of 52 based on seven critic reviews, while Xbox is at 55 based on five review.
Cyberpunk 2077 was originally due to be released in April, before being delayed to September, then November and finally December 10. While CD Projekt Red's Michał Nowakowski, the board member responsible for publishing, denies there was any external or internal pressure to launch on that date, various members of management recognised the studio was mostly focused on the PC edition and how well the game runs on next-gen consoles.
"After three delays, we as the Management Board were too focused on releasing the game," Kiciński said. "We underestimated the scale and complexity of the issues, we ignored the signals about the need for additional time to refine the game on the base last-gen consoles. It was the wrong approach and against our business philosophy. On top of that, during the campaign, we showed the game mostly on PCs."
Earlier this week, the company apologised for only showing the game running on high-end machines. When later asked why, joint-CEO Marcin Iwiński said: "The reason is that we were updating the game on last-gen consoles until the very last minute, and we thought we'd make it in time.
"Unfortunately this resulted in giving it to reviewers just one day before the release, which was definitely too late and the media didn't get the chance to review it properly. That was not intended; we were just fixing the game until the very last moment."
One shareholder asked if the game's development could have benefitted from more staff, to which Nowakowski replied: "It's really not about the number of people."
He continued: "It's not like throwing in -- in the last month -- 200 or so people would actually help. So, the answer is no; this is not related to the fact that we could have thrown 300 or 500 more people into the fray and things would have happened differently."
"In terms of the certification process and the third parties -- this is definitely on our side"
Michał Nowakowski, CD Projekt Red
Kiciński added that the COVID-19 pandemic "didn't help" with the QA process. Internal testers were able to test the game working from home with devices provided by CD Projekt Red, but external testers could not. Even so, he said he "wouldn't point to it as a major source of problems."
Nowakowski also addressed shareholder misconceptions that the studio could have dropped the PS4 and Xbox One versions and released only on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S. He reiterated that the full next-gen versions of the game are separate SKUs and not due to launch until next year.
"It's not like we could have decided at any point recently to 'flip the switch' and change the old-gen version to the next-gen version and release only on next-gens," he said. "There is no native next-gen release. The game runs on next-gens and takes advantage of how next-gens are performing, but it's not like we had a next-gen version in our hands and decided to keep it on the shelf."
Management was also asked whether they believed Cyberpunk's problems on consoles showed shortcomings in the certification process at platform holders Microsoft and Sony -- something Microsoft has since promised to improve following the reports of epiletic triggers in the game.
But Nowakowski said the fault lies with CD Projekt Red.
"In terms of the certification process and the third parties -- this is definitely on our side," he said. "I can only assume that they trusted that we're going to fix things upon release, and that obviously did not come together exactly as we had planned."
He also disputed claims that the game is unplayable on last-gen devices, adding: "It's not like the game does not launch... I fully understand that the experience is far from satisfactory for a lot of people -- and we do acknowledge that -- but 'not playable' sounds like it doesn't launch at all, which is not the case."
He recognised that the console versions falter in a comparison with the PC editions, but adds: "This is something we have stated before -- you cannot expect PC-like or next gen-like performance on last-gens, and we're not claiming that."
The studio reiterated that its priority is fixing Cyberpunk 2077 on PS4 and Xbox One, with initial improvements already released and more on the way soon. These will be followed by large patches in January and February.
One shareholder asked whether the last-gen version would be reduced in price after the February patch, to which Nowakowski said there are no plans.
When asked if development of these patches affected CD Projekt Red's claims that Cyberpunk 2077 was already profitable, chief financial officer Piotr Nielubowicz said: "The cost of patching the game is irrelevant compared to what we have already spent."
Kiciński addressed questions as to whether this affects the number of people on other projects, including the next Witcher game, saying things are "normal outside of the Cyberpunk teams," which were scheduled to be working on patches at this time regardless.
"This will probably take some more time, but of course we are branching and working on future projects as well," he said. "We're also scheduling holidays; people are tired and -- regardless of the situation and regardless of patches, we will not simply continue working as before; our people need to rest a bit. We will have a strong team working on patches at least until February."
Elsewhere in the call, he added: "We truly hope that our efforts will let us rebuild the trust we have lost."