Cyberpunk 2077 report alleges poor management, crunch, “fake” E3 demo, and more

A view of Night City, hover cars, and sky rise buildings in Cyberpunk 2077

A new report on the development process of Cyberpunk 2077 claims early demos were misleading by design, and the team behind the RPG game knew it wasn’t ready for release. CD Projekt Red has responded, saying some parts aren’t wholly true.

Bloomberg journalist Jason Schreier published a piece Friday on what happened during the making of Cyberpunk 2077. In it, Schreier draws on comments and insight from 20 current and former employees of CD Projekt, who talk about a disorganised workplace, pressure to do crunch, an E3 presentation that didn’t represent the actual game, and an emphasis on trying to sell more copies over finishing the game on a realistic schedule.

“There were times when I would crunch up to 13 hours a day – a little bit over that was my record probably – and I would do five days a week working like that,” Adrian Jakubiak, a former audio programmer at CD Projekt says. Jakubiak states the company wanted to do something bigger than The Witcher in the same timeframe, but hadn’t actually worked out how, management saying they’d “figure it out along the way”. According to the report, employees said development didn’t actually start on Cyberpunk 2077 until 2016, some four years after it was announced, because CD Projekt was still primarily concerned with The Witcher 3 DLC and updates.

The game was developed at the same time as the all-new engine, the report claims, slowing everything down, and development was impeded further by the E3 2018 showcase. The features in the demonstration weren’t finished, it’s also reported, contributing to many of them not making it to the released game, and members of the team are said to have considered the exercise a waste.

According to Schreier, more than a dozen subjects say they felt pressured to work extra hours, all the while release dates remained unrealistic. Cyberpunk 2077 was delayed a number of times, from June 2019 to December 2020, despite developers on the floor expecting it to take until 2022 to be fully finished. The report claims leadership wanted to release ahead of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, so they could functionally release the open world game twice, first on current gen, then again on next gen down the line.

In response, Adam Badowski, head of CD Projekt Red, quote-tweeted Schreier’s piece, and an ensuing thread of other information, with disputes to some aspects of the report. Badowski contests the E3 2018 demo being characterised as fake, stating: “If you look at that demo now, it’s different yes, but that’s what the ‘work in progress’ watermark is for. Our final game looks and plays way better than what that demo ever was.”

He goes on to champion the positive initial reviews as evidence of the released version’s quality, and questions Schreier’s assertion that who he interviewed represents most of the company. “You’ve talked with 20 people, some being ex-employees, only one of whom is not anonymous. I wouldn’t call that “most” of the over-500 staff.”

CD Projekt Red put up a video apologising for the troubled launch of Cyberpunk 2077 this past week, providing a timeline for updates and fixes. We reached out to CD Projekt for comment but it had no further comment or statement to add at this time.