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Bug-Riddled 'Cyberpunk 2077' Has A Difficult But Manageable Path Forward

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

A lot of hype over the release of the video game Cyberpunk 2077 has turned into disappointment. The game is full of technical bugs. The studio behind Cyberpunk is now facing a class action lawsuit that's been filed on behalf of investors. NPR's Ziad Buchh reports.

ZIAD BUCHH, BYLINE: Nauseating - that's how reviewer Dustin Legarie of IGN describes playing Cyberpunk 2077 on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

DUSTIN LEGARIE: It's just a subpar experience. The game crashes. It didn't run stable.

BUCHH: Gamers have been waiting eight years for this latest offering from CD Projekt Red, the studio also responsible for smash hits such as The Witcher series, which was adapted into a Netflix show. But for some, the game was unplayable - so unplayable that Sony, which owns PlayStation, did something unprecedented for a game of this size. It removed the game from its store entirely, offering refunds to anyone who purchased it. Microsoft, which owns Xbox, also offered refunds.

LEGARIE: I've never seen anything like it. I was quite shocked.

BUCHH: Many players had no idea how poorly Cyberpunk performed on consoles, especially older ones, until it was already in their hands. That's because before release, CD Projekt Red only let reviewers look at the PC version of the game, which worked relatively well.

JAMES LIGHTFOOT: It just kind of felt shady, unfortunately. I wish they were a little bit more open.

BUCHH: That was James Lightfoot, who played the PS4 version of Cyberpunk. He says he was a huge fan of CD Projekt Red and preordered the game as soon as it was available. And when he finally got it, the game crashed four times in six hours. CD Projekt, the game studio's parent company, is now facing a lawsuit over the launch. They did not respond to our request for a statement by airtime. They've also lost a lot of money and the trust of fans. Again, Dustin Legarie.

LEGARIE: This is going to be something that people look back at and remember. This isn't going to be something that people forget.

BUCHH: But games have come back from this kind of release before. Perhaps the most notable example is No Man's Sky, a space exploration game that features a sprawling universe with 18 quintillion planets to explore. Before release, the game's lead developer Sean Murray promised ambitious features such as large-scale space battles and the ability to play with friends. When the game finally came out, what players discovered was a hollow universe missing many of the promised features and riddled with technical bugs. Murray and his team at Hello Games became the subjects of Internet vitriol and threats of violence, but Murray took it upon himself to read all the criticism. Here he is speaking at the Game Developers Conference in 2019.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SEAN MURRAY: Every mail that you sent to Hello Games goes directly to my phone and to my watch, all right? We didn't block or mute people. If you talked about No Man's Sky, then I probably read it.

BUCHH: He began addressing those concerns. Over the next two years, Murray and his team sent out constant updates, adding functionality promised at launch and expanding the game further. No Man's Sky's popularity began to skyrocket again. Grateful fans purchased a billboard near the office of Hello Games to thank them for their hard work, and at the annual Game Awards this year, No Man's Sky beat out juggernauts like Fortnite for the best ongoing game award.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GEOFF KEIGHLEY: The game award goes to No Man's Sky.

(APPLAUSE)

MURRAY: I was not expecting that.

BUCHH: Cyberpunk has the ability to make that kind of turnaround as well. The studio has already begun sending out updates that have improved the experience of players across platforms. But for gamers like Lightfoot, the Cyberpunk saga has changed the way that they approach purchasing games.

LIGHTFOOT: I'll be honest. Moving forward, unless there's some sort of preorder deal, I'm not going to preorder games anymore from CD Projekt Red or any developer, for that matter.

BUCHH: Ziad Buchh, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHITE KATANA'S "SORCERER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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