Polish gaming studio takes hit over botched release

CD Projekt, Poland’s biggest gaming firms and for much of 2020 the most valuable company on the Warsaw Stock Exchange, has been forced to apologise for the poor performance of its latest game, Cyberpunk 2077, the most hotly-anticipated release of 2020.

One of the leading lights of Poland’s booming video games industry saw its shares plunge by almost 25 per cent on December 14 following negative reviews of its latest game.

CD Projekt’s Cyberpunk 2077, one of the most hotly-anticipated games of 2020, has been fiercely criticised by gamers for performing poorly on older games consoles, such as Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One.

‘All but unplayable’

IGN, an American video game and entertainment media website, said the game was “all but unplayable” in its review of the PlayStation 4 version.

While the developer said it was hoping to fix “the most prominent problems” with a series of patches to be released over the coming months, it added that anyone who doesn’t want to wait will be able to return their copy of the game and receive a full refund.

“We should have paid more attention to making it play better on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One,” said CD Projekt in a notice published on Twitter. “We would appreciate it if you would give us a chance, but if you are not pleased with the game on your console and don’t want to wait for updates, you can opt to refund your copy.”

The futuristic role-playing game, set in dystopian metropolis Night City, in the Free State of California, which features actor Keanu Reeves in a starring role as character Johnny Silverhand, scored an average 2.8 out of 10 on review aggregator website Metacritic for its PlayStation 4 version, while the version for XBox One scored 3.7.

Shares hit

Shares in CD Projekt closed down 7.6 per cent on December 14 on the Warsaw Stock Exchange (WSE), after tumbling as much as 25 per cent at one point during the day. The firm’s stock has now lost 33 per cent of its market value since the first Cyberpunk reviews were published last week.

The game became available on December 10, the studio’s first major new title since The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt in 2015.

Earlier this year, CD Projekt became the largest company on the WSE. In April, the firm’s valuation hit 27.6 billion zloty (around six billion euros), surpassing three state-controlled firms: PKO BP, a bank, insurer PZU, and oil refiner Orlen.

The increase came despite the studio delaying the release of Cyberpunk 2077, ironically in order to ensure it played correctly on older consoles.

A booming sector

In all, Poland can boast around 440 game development studios, making everything from so-called AAA games such as Cyberpunk 2077 (an industry term to denote the games with the highest budgets) to indie efforts and smaller games played on mobile phones.

These studios employ nearly 10,000 people and release almost 500 new games annually: numbers that even just a couple of years ago would have been unthinkable.

A major boon for the gaming industry in any country is the inherently global nature of the market. Over 96 per cent of Poland’s games are exported, meaning that most revenue in the industry comes from abroad.

The Witcher series, arguably the crown jewel of the Polish video game industry, had sold a staggering 40 million copies by the end of 2019, more than half of which are accounted for by Wild Hunt. As an added bonus, the game series has popularised the fantasy works of author Andrzej Sapkowski, so much so that Netflix turned The Witcher into a TV show starring Henry Cavil.

The WSE now takes video games and the video game market so seriously that a special index for games companies has been established, called WIG.Games.

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