Yesterday, Cyberpunk 2077 was delayed until December (despite already going gold) to ensure that current-gen versions of the game come closer to the high standard that the team has for the PS5 and Xbox Series X iterations. Shortly after the news, an official tweet surfaced from the day before, supposedly confirming no more delays. This mixed messaging set the internet in a frenzy. How could something so important be confirmed one day, and then incorrect the next? The answer is: When that initial response went live a day before, it was true at the time. The wider team at CD Projekt Red didn’t find out about the delay until the day it was announced.
When the news broke, I spoke with several CD Projekt Red developers who confirmed they didn’t know about the delay until they received an internal email shortly before the announcement went live on Twitter. When that knowledge became public, the online backlash was almost instantaneous, sparking criticism of the studio’s internal communication practices and how messages are conveyed to the community. Since then, I’ve spoken to several more CD Projekt Red developers on both the Polish and U.S. sides; according to them, the news was shocking, but not for the reasons people are assuming.
According to three developers, the decision to delay was a swift one after looking at the quality differences between the current-gen and next-gen versions. CD Projekt Red has said that it wants the launch of Cyberpunk 2077 to be perfect, so any perceived flaws are addressed quickly. According to the team, the decision to delay was not even discussed until Monday (October 26), with a decision being reached on Tuesday (October 27). According to Polish labor laws, leadership was not legally allowed to tell the whole team, due to its size of over 1,000 employees, without each individual signing a non-disclosure agreement. To do so would be considered, in terms of relation to stock equity and insider trading, as “leaked insider information.”
One developer (who wishes to remain anonymous) told me – and I later confirmed – that “about 90 percent of the studio didn’t know about this,” and that there was laughter and tears from the team because they are excited for people to play their game that has been years in the making, and the delay came out of nowhere and pushes back that experience for all. The laughter and excitement for launch is palpable throughout the studio, but the team knew how the news of the delay would be received. There’s a deeper conversation here regarding what that means in terms of workload, which we are still actively working on.
Speaking with a representative from CD Projekt Red, they confirmed to Game Informer that the Polish law is the reason behind the team at large not knowing about the delay until the day of, in addition to that being a decision just recently made. While this is a standard for many studios outside of the U.S., usually U.S.-based studios have more of a notice regarding events such as a delay.
There was also an investor call immediately following the delay reveal in which the following statement, provided to us from the same CDPR rep, was presented:
As CD PROJEKT is a publicly listed company on the Warsaw Stock Exchange (WSE) our communication has to be transparent to employees, gamers, and investors, as well as in line with the regulations of Polish Financial Authorities & European Parliament, and the Council & Commission Directives. Information of such business magnitude i.e. the delay of the release of the biggest project under development, is, until it is made publicly available, considered price-sensitive and confidential because it could easily influence the potential decisions of investors.
In a nutshell, early, the unplanned release of this information could have potentially led to market abuse and manipulation of CD PROJEKT’s stock price on the WSE. Therefore, due to the aforementioned regulations, the information on postponement of Cyberpunk 2077’s release date couldn’t have been shared with all of the Group’s employees before the current report was filed and made public.
“Going gold” is a term many equate with the game is finished, and that’s true with a small detail usually missed. Going gold is less so for gamers and more for investors so that they know when their investment is ready to ship. Between the announcement of gold and launch day, there are still development processes to follow, including quality issues that are usually reflected in a day zero and/or day one patches. While this game is gold and, as confirmed by the devs, smoothly running on next-gen platforms and PC, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions still need a little polishing.
The reaction to the delay and communication pipeline was heavily fueled by the talk of crunch, which has been a self-admitted issue from the studio for several years now. 2019 and 2020 have been a time of significant internal change within the company to improve work/life balance and to protect the health of the developers. Following a promise to alleviate crunch, CD Projekt Red did initiate a six-day workweek to launch with additional compensation, but this shift did reignite the important conversation as to what crunch is and how prevalent it is industry-wide and not just one standalone studio.