How long was Cyberpunk 2077 in development?

The state where the game was initially launched makes you feel like 9 years of making wasn’t enough.
cd projekt red cyberpunk 2077
Hyped players were disappointed with the inital launch of the game.

The fuss after the launch of Cyberpunk 2077 was worth witnessing. Many bugs, frame rate problems, a ton of unfulfilled promises, and the fact that the game is nowhere close to the hype it created before was heartbreaking and angering for many video game fans around the globe. While the development of Cyberpunk 2077 lasted about 9 years, it seems like the developing team was overconfident about the final product and deadlines.

Cyberpunk 2077 was first announced in 2012. The first teaser ever for Cyberpunk 2077 was back in 2013, after almost a year from its first announcement. Before the first announcement about the time of release, which was in 2018, the game received another trailer in 2017.

In 2018, a pre-alpha version was made available for journalists of that year’s Gamescom. Their initial reaction was highly positive and full of excitement. At E3 2019, with the famous Keanu Reeves reveal, new Cyberpunk 2077 trailers and gameplay footage fed the hype. AT E3 CD Projekt Red also announced Cyberpunk 2077’s first release date: April 16, 2020.

Then, this happened:

Cyberpunk 2077 development timeline

Before talking about the other two release date delays, we need to mention the stage of Cyberpunk 2077 in 2018. According to a series of interviews with the employees of CD Projekt Red, Jason Schreier reported that the full development of Cyberpunk 2077 didn’t start until the end of 2016. This date marks the reset button of the project, where Cyberpunk 2077 publisher CD Project Red dumped everything they had done and started the development process all over again.

Schreier reported that the demo of Cyberpunk 2077 shown at E3 was “almost entirely fake.” That could also explain how the pre-launch hype was secured and let the CD Projekt Red sell 13 million copies —at $60 apiece— in the first 10 days after the release.

The hype was surreal but three times it was delayed before the game was released on December 20, 2020, so the situation should have already been alarming. After the first delay, the release day was pushed forward two more times: The first delay was to September 17 then the second delay was made, pushing the launch date as late as November 19.

Then, allegedly the game had gone gold. Yet, we got another, final delay to December 10, 2020.

This of course should say a lot of things about the development of Cyberpunk 2077, the setbacks, and the stage —which is by no means ‘final’— of the game close to release.

High cost, high return and many refunds

According to an article from GamesIndustry.biz, CD Projekt Red had budgeted $316 million for Cyberpunk 2077 and that makes Cyberpunk 2077 the most expensive game to develop that you can play right now. When completed, Star Citizen will take the crown for being the most costly game to develop.

Looking at the company Cyberpunk 2077 has, one may conclude that the setbacks and consecutive delays of the game might increase the expenses. That might be the case since the other costly games are among the best in the industry while Cyberpunk 2077 was not ready to be published at the stage it was in.

Was Cyberpunk 2077 profitable? Yes, it was. In the first three weeks after the launch, CD Projekt Red sold 13.7 million copies of Cyberpunk 2077. At $60 a copy, this is more than $800 million in revenue. Without the refunds, the game had already covered the development costs on the first day of release. But, many users had refunded the game due to its notorious bugs.

CD Projekt Red has refunded 30,000 copies directly to customers. The problems with the first version of the game made Sony and Microsoft loosen their return guidelines regarding Cyberpunk 2077 —the maximum amount of gameplay hours before refunding with full payback was extended—; the game was taken down from PlayStation Store for a while and stayed in Xbox Store with a warning regarding problems that might occur on the device. All refunds add up to $2.23 million.

Despite the controversy, Cyberpunk 2077 is a financial success.

Still in development

On January 14, 2021, the company’s co-founder Marcin Iwinski released this statement via Twitter, talking about his disappointment with the games console version performance and how “it did not meet the quality standard we wanted it to meet.” :

While Iwinski’s statement may seem heartfelt, the shortcomings of the game are frustrating. Even if the promises that were made by the developers in interviews were ignored, the game wasn’t close to being ready to be released. Looking back to the game a year later, it still feels like the game is at its early stage. Cyberpunk 2077 isn’t fixed yet.

To be fair, the game is still getting patches and bug fixes. For many, the upcoming 1.5 patch will solve some of the major problems game has. For now, the game still needs so much to be complete.

In his flood, Jason Schreier tweeted about the last-minute changes of the game. Allegedly, until 2016, Cyberpunk 2077 was planned to be “a third-person shooter.”

What we got here with Cyberpunk 2077 is a game that was developed in 9 years and still feels like it is not complete after a year from its release. One day it might be finished but today isn’t the day.

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