Cyberpunk 2077's Controversial Launch Strategy (5 Business Lessons)

Jul 15, 2021

For the best visual experience, I definitely recommend watching the video below.


Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the most ambitious video games ever created. And in 2020, it’s launch broke digital sales records making over $550 million dollars according to Forbes. However, it’s launch was mired with controversy. An incomplete version of the game was released. And there were multiple bugs and glitches that were noticed by players on the very first day of its release.


In this article, I’ll share some business lessons you could learn from the Cyberpunk 2077 product launch strategy. 


But, before I start, I just want to say that Cyberpunk 2077 isn’t all bad. It’s actually outstanding in many areas such as the graphics, character designs, world design, voice acting, and many elements of the story. But there were obvious problems with this game’s launch, and I’ll discuss what you can learn from this launch for your benefit.

Let’s dive right in.


1. Make Sure Your Capabilities Can Measure Up To Your Product Requirements

As most people watching this know, CD Projeckt Red developed this game. Before developing Cyberpunk 2077, the most advanced game that CD Projeckt Red developed was Witcher 3, which was the company’s most successful game by a wide margin at the time of its release.


But from a development and technical standpoint, the transition from Witcher 3 to Cyberpunk 2077 was a significant and ambitious jump.


Their team was acclimated to the formula they used for Witcher 3 where everything in the game world was stretched out on flat terrain. When they started developing Cyberpunk, they had to address entirely new constraints. They needed to create a world where there were a multitude of custom objects, interacting systems, and mechanics all condensed in one big city. They also had to make improvements to its proprietary game engine and fine-tune low-level elements like rendering systems, shading systems, and physics systems.


It’s normal for game companies to fine tune low-level elements as a game is being developed—kind of like flying an airplane as you’re building it. But unfortunately, CD Projekt Red committed to a massive undertaking that was well above their physical capabilities at the time. Even the largest game studios in the world with the biggest budgets would find it difficult to develop this game in way that satisfies both critics and fans.


When you take on a project that far-surpasses anything you’ve ever done, make sure that you can gain the needed resources, whether it’s tools or human capital, as early in the development process as possible.


2. Identify Potential Risks Before They Happen

The knowledge you have at the start of a project can be categorized in 4 ways:

  • Known Knowns
  • Known Unknowns
  • Unknown Knowns
  • Unknown Unknowns


Whenever any company develops a new type of product, there’s an increased chance of encountering those last three categories.


To help counteract against this, it helps to develop what is known as a risk register. This is a document used in project management where you identify potential risks that may occur and develop plans for addressing those risks.


But, obviously, a global shutdown occurred in 2020, which was near impossible to predict. Because of that reason alone, they had a reasonable and understandable excuse to delay the game by another year.


3. Set Realistic Deadlines

The deadlines set for this game weren’t achievable based on its scope, the fact that CD Projeckt Red were developing an entirely new type of game for their company, and the fact that this game was extremely ambitious by every stretch of the imagination. All of this increased the risk of things going wrong throughout the process. And based on the performance of patches close to the middle of 2021, this game launch may have needed to be delayed by another year.


Project managers often use what is known as the PERT Estimation Technique to estimate when a task will be completed. This technique involves deriving three estimates: optimistic, most likely, and pessimistic. It seems as though optimistic estimates were favored toward the end of this game’s development cycle, which led to the release of an incomplete game.


4. Make Sure Your Marketing and Your Product Are Aligned

Their marketing team did a phenomenal job of hyping the game up week after week before it’s launch. That marketing team probably did a better job at hyping up the game than what you would see from considerably larger game studios and companies. But it seems like there was a disconnect between their marketing team was saying and the actual product performed.


Not only that, the game was announced extremely far ahead of its release date (around 7 to 8 years ahead to be exact).


As a rule of thumb, it’s probably a good idea to only announce a game of this scale after it surpasses 50% completion.


5. Simplify Your Distribution Channels, If Possible

CD Projekt Red probably launched this game on too many systems at one time and stretched themselves thin. In this case, they needed the game to run on personal computers and 5 different consoles at launch. This may have been too much of a burden to take on considering the issues they were already experiencing at the time. And as a result, the game barely worked at all on old generation consoles like the Playstation 4 base console and Xbox 360 due to bugs, glitches, and other factors. These problems were apparently overlooked during QA testing.


In cases like these, it’s probably a good idea to break your distribution into phases after a product launch instead of meeting that commitment all at once. Another alternative is simply delaying the product altogether.


Regardless of the mistakes made during this game launch, CD Projekt Red has two outstanding game franchises and hopefully this company learns from its mistakes. I look forward to future releases that this company has in store for us.



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