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Xbox users who bought ‘Cyberpunk 2077’ can get a full refund after disastrous launch for popular game

Geekwire logo Geekwire 12/18/2020 Thomas Wilde
(Cyberpunk 2077 Image) © Provided by Geekwire (Cyberpunk 2077 Image)

Microsoft is expanding its Xbox refund policy specifically to accommodate consumers looking to return digital copies of the recently-released action RPG Cyberpunk 2077, which has been plagued by bugs and poor performance since its launch last week. Until further notice, anyone who’s bought Cyberpunk on the Microsoft Store can apply for and expect to get a full refund.

The news came on Friday morning via Microsoft’s verified Xbox Support account on Twitter. This follows up on yesterday’s surprise announcement by Sony, which went one step further than Microsoft by pulling Cyberpunk from the PlayStation Network’s digital storefront.

This move by Microsoft and Sony is enough to officially elevate the launch of Cyberpunk 2077 from “troubled” to “disastrous.” It’s not uncommon for a modern video game to initially hit the market in a rough or buggy state, but Cyberpunk is unique in that both its PlayStation 4 and Xbox One SKUs run so badly on their respective systems that they’re effectively unplayable. While the versions of Cyberpunk on PC and Stadia have their own issues, like physics glitches and non-functional AI, at least they work.

(PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S owners have reported being able to play Cyberpunk on their systems via backwards compatibility with the previous generation’s editions of the game, which suggests the issue with Cyberpunk on PS4/XB1  is down to poor optimization. The actual PS5/XBX versions of Cyberpunk aren’t due out until some point next year.)

In response to consumer complaints, Cyberpunk developer CD Projekt Red announced that PS4 and XB1 fans should request refunds. Until now, though, many of those fans wouldn’t get them due to the refund policies on both Sony and Microsoft’s digital storefronts, which have now been relaxed.

This may seem like a common sense move to much of the mainstream audience, but it’s unprecedented in the modern video game industry. A lot of games have shipped in broken or visibly unfinished states over the years, and while that usually gets them raked over the coals by fans and critics alike, that typically hasn’t been enough to get this kind of reaction from console makers. Sony usually doesn’t pull a game off of its storefront at all unless it’s for strictly legal reasons, such as a product losing its license. It’s safe to assume that something went dramatically wrong behind the scenes in order for the PS4 and Xbox One versions of Cyberpunk to have reached digital storefronts in this state at all.

This means Cyberpunk has come in just under the wire to have the single most disastrous launch week of any game in the eighth console generation, and did it despite the fact that the generation is ostensibly over. Forget Fallout 76, forget No Man’s Sky; Cyberpunk is now in the unenviable position where the console versions of the game were so busted at launch that both Microsoft and Sony carved out unique policy exemptions in order to offer full refunds for it. It’s a black eye for CD Projekt Red, which has announced plans to offer two major patches in January and February that will stabilize the PS4 and XB1 versions of Cyberpunk.

( Cyberpunk 2077 Image) © Provided by Geekwire ( Cyberpunk 2077 Image)

Based on the long-running tabletop role-playing game by the Kirkland, Wash.-based publisher R. Talsorian, Cyberpunk 2077 initially got gaming enthusiasts’ attention by being CD Projekt Red’s follow-up to its fan-favorite Witcher trilogy. Those games, an adaptation of a series of Polish fantasy novels, are massive, narrative-heavy action-RPGs aimed at an adult audience. The third game in the series, 2015’s Wild Hunt, was a massive international success, and led to the creation of a popular live-action Netflix series starring Henry Cavill. Upon Cyberpunk‘s initial announcement, fans were immediately interested in seeing how CDPR’s design sensibilities would translate into a science fiction setting.

CDPR promptly got the rest of the world’s attention when, at last year’s E3 trade show in Los Angeles, it revealed that the player’s constant companion throughout Cyberpunk, the tabletop game’s signature character Johnny Silverhand, would be played by movie star and beloved Internet icon Keanu Reeves. As a result, Cyberpunk quickly became the single most anticipated game of 2020, with CDPR saying earlier this month that it had received over 8 million pre-orders.

(By way of comparison, many of the games that are considered the biggest successes of this generation of software didn’t crack 3 million total sales. Cyberpunk‘s 8 million pre-orders means it knocked the #10 best-seller of the year to date, Final Fantasy VII Remake at 5 million copies sold, out of the top 10 before it had even released.)

Cyberpunk also became controversial over the course of the year, however, primarily due to repeated reports that CDPR was relying heavily on what’s known in the video game industry as “crunch culture” in order to ship Cyberpunk. This isn’t only an endemic problem in mainstream game development, where developers are required to work long hours and on weekends in order to finish a game, but actively contradicted CDPR co-founder Marcin Iwiński’s claims in 2019 about his studio’s labor policy.

Cyberpunk was reportedly already profitable at launch due to strong digital pre-sales. However, its release has renewed a long-running conversation in the games industry about the management decisions that lead to crunch, the personal problems that it poses for employees, and the sick dread that, in order to patch Cyberpunk up to a playable state, many of CDPR’s employees have gone right back into the same crunch conditions they were in before the game’s launch.

It’s one of those sick bits of irony that, if it showed up in fiction, would be way too on the nose. One of the classic themes of cyberpunk as a genre is the dehumanizing effect that technology can have, which is very effectively demonstrated by crunch culture, which was used to make the video game Cyberpunk, and the result has produced one of the most famously broken games of the last decade.


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