Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles There was some degree of runaway expectations. I think there was also some degree that they weren't extremely forthcoming with the state of the game. The Cyberpunk 2077 story is very much kind of a story of everything they can and will go wrong in game development. What is this bug? Jack, his AI flipped out. It wasn't there before. Where's my gun? I can't shoot. The release of Cyberpunk 2077 in December of 2020 will go down as one of the most disastrous game launches in history, and it instantly rewrote the narrative of it's celebrated developer, CD Projekt Red. Larger studios with bigger budgets weren't able to create the same quality of open world game. The inside story of the making of Cyberpunk depicts a process marred by unchecked ambition, unrealistic timelines, and a focus on marketing at the expense of development. When CD Projekt stock was at its high it was the largest stock in the Polish stock market. Cyberpunk was supposed to be the biggest game of 2020. This was a game that was starring Keanu Reeves. This is a game that was from the makers of The Witcher Three. This was supposed to be the big temple release of last year, and for it to become such a disaster for so many people, I think will have pretty far reaching consequences. CD Projekt's origins are somewhat unique in the games industry. In the West and Japan, the late eighties and nineties were dominated by games for the home console market, and characters like Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog were becoming household names. The same was not true in a post Soviet and economically depressed Poland. Most gaming was done on PC's and most games were copied and sold in small markets around the country. You could go to the market down the street and buy and sell CD's, and these two guys of and Marcin Iwiński and Michal Kiciński decided they were going to start selling CD's and they wound up striking a deal with the people who made a game called Baldur's Gate, which was kind of like the Seminole role-playing game in the late nineties. It was never a business. It was kind of lifestyle. So we're actually pretty bad with counting money. So you can kind of think of it almost like Nike, you know, where Phil Knight was selling shoes out of the trunk of his car, you know. You can kind of think about it the same way. It was, you know, just selling physical goods and then evolving that into a much broader enterprise. CD Projekt, named for selling CD's, would move on from just reselling games to localizing Western and Japanese made games into the Polish language, but it wasn't until 2002 that the company would make its own game, The Witcher. The Witcher is a huge, huge series, huge fantasy series in Poland, and so it was a pretty big deal that these guys got the raise to make the video games. The Witcher book series as a source of national pride in Poland and as CD Projekt released The Witcher Two, the video game series would become an important economic symbol for Poland, as well. CD Projekt Red had become this behemoth of an institution in Poland and they were really big in the Polish technology scene because they were getting more worldwide attention than most Polish companies do, and making a lot of money, and in 2011, when Barack Obama came to visit Poland, the prime minister actually gave him a copy of The Witcher Two. I confess I'm not very good at video games, but I've been told that it is a great example of Poland's place in the new global economy. But it would be the launch of The Witcher Three in 2015 that would elevate CD Projekt Red from representing the best of Poland to representing the best of the games industry. I mean really, the thing people look for first and foremost, I think, is that the game is just good, and Witcher Three was just a phenomenal game. There's a level of just storytelling, an emphasis on making every side quest count, on top of the atmosphere, the dialogue, the character interactions, the different ways stories can end. They nail that. Other open-world games felt empty and forced, and the developers of them gave excuses as to why there couldn't be more rich story or interactions. And The Witcher Three blew them out of the water. CD Projekt Red was beloved. They were seen as a studio that was willing to make what the player wanted and to truly put in the love and effort required to make a high quality game that really connects with the people playing with it. And the winner for Game of the Year 2015 is The Witcher Three. The Witcher Three would go on to win over 250 Game of the Year awards, but along with being a critical success for CD Projekt, it was also a financial success. Estimates put the sales of Witcher Three at around 28,000,000 copies in 2019, a huge step-up considering by 2014 The Witcher and The Witcher Two had only combined to sell 8,000,000 copies. And with two large expansions for The Witcher Three, CD Projekt also helps separate themselves from other AAA publishers at the time. And the Game Award goes to, oh man, I have to pay a microtransaction to unlock? That's so stupid that this has to, hold on, I got this guys, here we go. Other games, and the most notorious, you know, one to do this was EA's Star Wars Battlefront Two. They got really aggressive on microtransactions in a game that already costs at least $60. You could have paid more if you bought the premium editions, but not only was it that they were being very aggressive and trying to get you to spend money, but you could actually get items that helped you win. Well, gamers kind of draw the line in the sand there and they don't like that. CD Projekt had done this phenomenal job of marketing themselves as a gamer friendly company. We've said this a million times and I'll say it again. We're gamers, first of all, and we all like to be treated fairly, so it only makes sense that as developers we apply the same principle to everything we do here at CD Projekt Red, so giving everyone a bunch of free DLC was an absolutely no brainer. They said, "We're not gonna sell you DLC, that's like horse armor packs than other nonsense. We're gonna just give you free stuff and then we're gonna sell big expansions as part of The Witcher Three." And not only were they really good, they were offered at a fair price. And this is a company that was seen as just like a company that really cared about quality and cared about its customers, and would not do anything to kind of screw fans over the way that fans see that EA and Activision and all the other big publishers do. With a critically and financially successful game, as well as the Goodwill from the gaming audience, all the focus would shift to CD Projekt's next release, Cyberpunk 2077. It's actually funny. They first announced it through like a press release, and then they showed off a trailer at the beginning of 2013 that was like the CGI trailer of like a woman and it was all sorts of cool cyberpunk stuff, flying cars lots of stuff, but it wasn't really until after The Witcher Three that Cyberpunk began really like building up this feverish level of hype. CD Projekt Red, though, wouldn't put out another trailer for Cyberpunk until 2018 at the E3 Trade Show. And they showed off a, it was like a two minute trailer of Cyberpunk, looked pretty rad. And then they showed behind the scenes for E3 attendees, for press, and anyone else who could score an appointment in there. They showed this forty-five minute demo and it blew people away. Welcome to the gameplay demo walkthrough of CD Projekt Red's upcoming title, Cyberpunk 2077. The gameplay you're about to see is from a work in progress version of the game. Everything you see is potentially subject to change. Holy . This, if they can live up to what they showed me, it's game over. It all looked incredibly impressive. They had enough action, enough narrative beats with just the right amount of tension. They touted how each of these NPC's, there are thousands of them, each one with their own daily routines and everything. We've greatly enhanced our crowd and community system to create the most believable city in any open world game to date. So, yeah, so people were certainly blown away by this demo. It won E3 Awards and just people left the theater just in awe. What they didn't know, of course, is that the demo was completely fake. Fake demos are common at E3. Studios put together builds of games that show off what they intend the game to be like, rather than the actual state of the game. What was unique about this demo was that it was impressively long. It kind of plays into this idea that CD Projekt is very much a marketing driven company, and so demos were really, really important to them. So it was really important that they make this demo blow people away, which it did, but that might've come at the cost of like some time they could have been spending on the game. A year later at E3 2019, fans would get another big surprise. Whoa, no way! Oh, what! Please welcome Keanu Reeves. Of being there, of walking the streets of the future is really going to be breathtaking. You're breathtaking! You're breathtaking. The Cyberpunk trailers showed gorgeous cities, beautiful lighting, really cutting edge technology when it comes to the rendering of the game itself. People were very excited to be immersed in this gorgeous cyberpunk world. They saw over 8,000,000 pre-orders, which is a ridiculously large amount for any title to sell, let alone pre-sell. And you saw the stock price start to go up and up and up and the right, you know, pretty much in a straight line. If you just look at like the Polish stock market, like the WIG Index, when CD Projekt stock was at its high, it was the largest stock in the index. And that was around the time that they announced that the game would be coming in April of 2020. Behind the scenes people were pretty shocked that they were saying April. I don't think a single a person who worked on that game actually thought they had a chance of coming out in April of 2020. So in April of 2019, I published an article for Kotaku about the making of a game called Anthem, which is a game from BioWare that was disastrous in many ways and the article kind of ran through why that was. And then afterwards, I started hearing from other developers who had stories to share that they said sounded a whole lot like Anthem's, "The deadline is unrealistic, the direction keeps changing, things are floundering, we're going through a lot of problems, this sounds exactly like what you wrote about Anthem." Around that same time, perhaps coincidentally, I heard from the CEO of CD Projekt Red who wanted to reach out to me specifically to talk about Crunch.