Since its release on December 10, Cyberpunk 2077’s performance on base PS4 and Xbox One has been heavily criticised by fans and the media, with a Digital Foundry analysis calling performance on base consoles “dire” and “a mess”.
CD Projekt has committed to fixing the “most prominent issues” players are experiencing on last-gen consoles and bring them closer to the PC experience, and even pledged to help players secure refunds.
In Monday’s conference call, which was listened to and transcribed by VGC, CD Projekt’s board members addressed Cyberpunk 2077’s launch issues and discussed its plans for the future. Questions were asked by assembled investors and financial journalists.
Participants included president and joint CEO Adam Kiciński, co-founder and joint CEO Marcin Iwiński, CFO Piotr Nielubowicz, SVP of business development Michał Nowakowski, and member of the board Piotr Karwowski.
Firstly, could you give us some more colour on the impact that you’ve had on sales over the first four days since the release from the last-gen consoles?
Piotr Nielubowicz: Definitely we saw initial good sales, especially on PC that was selling very well. Obviously, the current situation will make the console sales drop, but at this moment, on Monday, it’s far too early to give you detailed feedback on that. We are still collecting the data, especially from retail channels. I’m afraid I won’t be able to answer this question precisely. However, as we promised prior to this call, we plan to release sales number before the Holiday break.
Do you think you could have released this game on last-gen consoles in the way that you wanted to if you had more developers? Or was it a workflow issue?
Michał Nowakowski: In terms of delivering the game at a certain point, it’s really not about the number of people. I mean, it’s not like they’re thrown in in the last month. I don’t know if [an extra] 200 or 100 people or something of that kind would actually help. So the answer is no, it is not related to the fact that we could have thrown two, three or 500 more people into the battle and made things happen differently.
Thinking forward for your additional content that you’re planning to launch over the next two or three years, how do you feel about your ability to be able to release a couple of DLC’s next year and multiplayer in 2022?
Adam Kiciński: Actually, to be honest, it’s too early to judge at the moment. Please let us handle the situation and please let us make some more assessments. It’s still ahead of us, so we don’t know yet. We are now focused on improving Cyberpunk and will discuss it early next year.
I’ve seen that you’re offering refunds through the console platforms and also through retailers. Have you seen a flood of refunds coming in that you’re having to deal with, or are most people who’ve already bought the game holding onto it trusting you that you will make it more playable?
Marcin Iwiński: We are actually not encouraging gamers to return the game. We hope they’ll give us a chance to improve the game on the old-gen consoles. There was one fix last weekend, there’s another coming in seven days. But there is an option. We gave them an option… We tell them [to ask for a] refund and if that’s not possible, then we are also providing help with that.
As of today, it’s too early to say [how many refunds there are] because we just started it and we sincerely hope that gamers would rather wait for the update because they’re waiting so long for this game. But again, this is our humble hope and we will assess the situation in a couple of days when we are able to see numbers.
On last-gen consoles, do you think that you needed to have more external testing? Is part of the process here that everything has been too in-house?
Adam Kiciński: We have an internal QA department and we are working with external companies as well. Maybe one thing which didn’t help us is Covid-19, as internal testers are able to test the game working at home, because we provide them with all connections, machines and so on.
But external testers, working for external companies were not able to test the game from home because they have test centres and if they are not there, they are not able to work. So we had some decrease in the number of testers but I wouldn’t point at it as a major source of problems.
“We are actually not encouraging gamers to return the game. We hope they’ll give us a chance to improve the game on the old-gen consoles… But there is an option.”
On multiplayer, surely you won’t rush into that process, given what you’ve been seeing now. Should we really be thinking about 2023 at the earliest for the arrival of that?
Adam Kiciński: First and foremost, we haven’t confirmed any date yet, and as I said before, it’s hard to judge now. We are in a situation which was not planned and we’ll have to reassess where we are and that’s the plan for January.
Now we are managing the situation of the single-player, we are working on patches and communication and as I said at the very beginning of this call, to be focused, focused on gamers and then we will [look at] our further plans.
Should we take it that you felt that it was very important that the game shouldn’t be delayed until next year, or simply that you underestimated the extent to which the last-gen version was not going to be the way it should be?
Michał Nowakowski: It was more us looking at the next-gen and PC performance, rather than the current-gen. We definitely did not spend enough time looking at that, so I wouldn’t say that we felt any external or internal pressure to, you know, launch on the dates any other than a normal pressure, which typically coincides with really any release. That was not the cause.
In the certification stage, presumably, Microsoft and Sony always get games that still have bugs and decide that they’re going to be OK, partly on the basis of discussion with you that there will be fixes. Have I understood that correctly, or do you feel somehow that the certification process failed to identify just how underperforming the last-gen version was?
Michał Nowakowski: The first parties are definitely… this is on our side. If I can say anything it’s that I can only assume that yes, they were counting that we were going to fix the things upon the release and that obviously did not come together exactly as we had planned.
Are you confident that last-gen machines will be able to produce an acceptable version of this game?
Michał Nowakowski: As stated in the statement made public today, we are planning to get the game in a much, much better shape than this right now, of course. A lot of it is still going to be happening in December and come January and February, you’re going to see even larger improvements, which again we have stated already.
We have also stated that if your personal expectation is that the game is going to be equal to the next-gen performance or the PC, that definitely is not going to happen. Having said that, I’m not saying it’s going to be a bad game but if you know expectations say from visual, or some other performance kind of angle, then we’re openly stating that’s not going to be the case. This is going be a good playable game without glitches and crashes… that’s the intention.
Gameplay from the last-gen consoles wasn’t really shown before release. Can you explain why you decided to hold that back?
Marcin Iwiński: We actually showed the console footage, but we actually never showed it on the last-gen consoles. The reason for that is that we were updating the game on the last-gen consoles until the very last minute and we thought we’d make it on time.
Unfortunately, this resulted in giving it to you as just one day before the release. That was definitely too late, and we didn’t give the chance to media to review it properly and definitely we are the ones to blame. It was not intended, we were just fixing the game until the very last moment.
Could you give us an overview of how your teams are working right now? Are the Cyberpunk team still working on Cyberpunk? In terms of staff allocation, does this situation push back future projects like The Witcher 4?
Adam Kiciński: The Cyberpunk team was planned to continue working on patches. Probably it will take some more time, but of course, we are branching and we are working on future projects as well.
Of course, first and foremost, we’ll have some holidays. I mean, people are tired. So regardless of the situation, regardless of the patches, we will not just continue working… And then at least until February, we will have a strong team working on patches.
“We actually never showed it on the last-gen consoles. The reason for that is that we were updating the game on the last-gen consoles until the very last minute and we thought we’d make it on time.”
Could you explain again how refunds work, in relation to Microsoft and Sony’s storefronts?
Michał Nowakowski: One has to understand, Microsoft and Sony, for every product that is released digitally on Microsoft or Sony storefronts, have refund policies. I mean, despite various articles that have shown up [stating] that things are being [changed] just for us, it’s actually not true. These policies are in place and have always been in place and are not opened up specifically for us.
I mean, anybody who has purchased any title on PlayStation Network or Microsoft Store can ask for a refund and if it’s made within certain boundaries, usually related to time, certain usage and so on can ask for that refund. Our procedure here with Microsoft and Sony is not different than with any other title released on any of these storefronts. I just wanted to state that clearly because there seem to be certain misconceptions.
In terms of participation financially, if a product is refunded then the share from the store that Microsoft had is refunded, and of course, it’s something that is subtracted from the revenue share that would normally be transmitted to CD Projekt is of course not shared with us and is instead refunded to the given customers.
Are you considering giving some bigger DLC for free to players who are disappointed? Is that on the table?
Michał Nowakowski: We stated what our policy is in terms of what we are doing with players for now and that’s where we stand.
Could you comment on the recent Jason Schreier report regarding staff bonuses being changed in relation to review scores?
Michał Nowakowski: We’re not really making any comments to what somebody else has stated about what’s going on in the studio outside.
On refunds, will the market have some update about the volumes?
Michał Nowakowski: We don’t know yet. Actually, before Christmas we will release sell though numbers, but in terms of refunds, we are not sure whether we will share this information outside of the company.
Will you lower the price of the console version, considering it’s not fully comparable to PC?
Adam Kiciński: In terms of the shape of the game after the optimization, we pretty much shared it earlier in the call, meaning that the game will have no crashes, the main bugs will be eliminated, and we’re looking to improve both performance and the graphical fidelity. That’s going be spread out across various patches, and of course, pretty important updates are going to be happening still this month.
Actually, the game is playable even right now. That’s maybe an important thing to say, because it’s not like the game is not launching or is not playable. I fully understand that this experience is far from satisfactory to a lot of people, and we do acknowledge that. But it’s not like it’s not launching at all, which is not the case.
Versus PC, this is something we stated before. We’re not saying that the PC or next-gen performance will be possible with the last-gen versions. That’s definitely something we’re not saying.
On price, we’re not foreseeing lowering the price point. We’re focusing on fixing the game to make sure that people are happy with the product. But there’s no discussion currently about changing anything with the price.
Could you have released the game without the last-gen console version?
Adam Kiciński: In pure theory, if we decided one day before the launch, then yes. We could have just released the PC version. On next-gen, the answer is no: that’s a completely different version of the game, so it’s not like we could have decided at any moment recently that we’re just, you know, flipping the switch.
As you may have noticed, there is no native next-gen release. The game runs on next-gen and takes advantage of how next-gen consoles are performing with the game, but it’s not like we had a next-gen version in our hands and decided to keep it on the shelf.
“In pure theory, if we decided one day before the launch, then yes. We could have just released the PC version. On next-gen, the answer is no: that’s a completely different version of the game”
Marcin Iwiński: As you will have noticed we have not released a proper next-gen version. So actually, we don’t have it ready yet. What we did, however, was promise that every single gamer who bought the game on the last-gen consoles will get next year, a proper next-gen update and so this is obviously what we’re working on.
This is another – I sincerely hope – incentive to keep the game and not return it, because then they can put their PlayStation or Xbox version into the drive in the next-gen console and the game will auto-update to a full-blown next-gen experience without any additional cost. So I believe it does have quite some value.
We know console has been disappointing, but could you maybe provide some comments on the PC sales and player feedback?
Piotr Nielubowicz: As we mentioned, the initial sales were very good and that’s what we mostly see by now. We are still collecting the sales results, especially from physical retail channels, but the digital opening – especially on PC – was really, really good, as we reported on the premiere date.
As far as player feedback is concerned, the feedback for PC is by far better than what we got on consoles. But also when we read reviews on the PC version we see many comments referring to the console version, so the feedback is mixed among platforms and it’s not always easy to see.
Michał Nowakowski: The PC version is what the reviewers got and so you can check the reviews and the Metacritic score we got. And of course, you know, as PCs vary in terms of configuration, gamers also have certain problems. We are reminding everyone at launch about the very recently released Nvidia graphic cards drivers, which are crucial for our game because they were developed in coordination with us.
But I think I’m safe to say that a lot of general PC gamers are enjoying the game and we see very positive comments. So a lot of positivity and goodwill is coming from this direction. At launch, it’s a gigantic world, so there will always be some glitches and problems which can be solved and then the different configurations.
You mentioned there will be another fix in the next seven days. What kind of improvements will this make?
With regards to the console experience, we have already improved a lot of crashes with the last hotfix last weekend and this weekend again we’ll be looking mostly at crashes and game-breaking bugs. I sincerely hope that over Christmas gamers will be able to enjoy the game on consoles. Of course, the major big updates will come in January and February, so again, we’re humbly asking them to wait for it and they will be able to enjoy an even better experience then.
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Given that you now have probably four days of active gameplay data, could you comment a bit on how gamers are advancing through the game?
Adam Kiciński: For now, the sentiment is positive. With every day after release, we are getting more and more positive feedback… We started with a 70 percent score, now we have 79. If you filter those who play 10 hours and more, it’s 85. So the more you play, the more you enjoy it. And that’s the general feedback we have.
We are discussing all-gen consoles, including last-gen consoles and negative feedback. But we have tons of positive feedback from players playing on last-gen consoles as well, so it’s not like negative only. Of course, the first wave was negative, especially after the very strong campaign showing the game on PCs, but we have more and more happy players playing on last-gen consoles as well.
Will all the patches be purely focused on performance and fixing bugs, or are you also looking to improve the gameplay in some way? For example, I think there has been some criticism regarding NPC behaviours.
Michał Nowakowski: From the production point of view, AI and NPC behaviour are part of the bugs. So when we were giving you the answer I think it actually includes that as well.
How do you expect the revenue generated over the year of the game to compare to a more traditional launch, given that a lot of gamers might be thinking they’ll wait to get a next-gen console?
Michał Nowakowski: So first of all, we have publicly offered the free update, so everyone who bought the game on all-gen consoles can update to a next-gen version. So I hope this will not stop any gamers with their purchasing decision and waiting for the next-gen consoles.
On top of that, obviously, the update will be given once we prepare the next-gen version of the game, which is to happen next year. So we will have another opportunity to offer to all those who didn’t decide to buy it an opportunity to buy the game prepared, especially for the next-gen with all of the technologies that next-gen has to offer.