The Failings of Cyberpunk 2077 Are Not New, But The Remedy Points To The Future of Media

The Failings of Cyberpunk 2077 Are Not New, But The Remedy Points To The Future of Media

Phil Rowley 05/01/2021 3
The Failings of Cyberpunk 2077 Are Not New, But The Remedy Points To The Future of Media

We know the story: Glitzy marketing collateral, celebrity involvement and a promise of game-changing disruption to the industry. But in reality overdue, overhyped and underwhelming.

No, not Cyberpunk 2077.

I’m talking about Rise Of The Robots from 1994. But the parallels are striking. 

I’m old enough to remember the clamour around the Commodore Amiga game. It promised it all: a groundbreaking robot beat ‘em up with killer graphics; a game engine using artificial intelligence to learn player’s attack patterns and evolve new fighting styles;  a driving rock soundtrack from Brian May. 

The game’s attributes were dangled in front of us for months (if not years) via a drawn out PR campaign of tease and reveals, interviews with the coders, beautiful sci-fi artwork and tantalising screenshots. The 90’s gaming community whipped themselves into a frenzy of anticipation. 

Then it arrived. And it was terrible. 

Sluggish and buggy, the admittedly great graphics had been prioritised over playability. It was easy to beat the game. Brian May’s music barely appeared. It would only work on the Amiga 500 Plus, immediately excluding regular Amiga 500 owners. The initially enthusiastic press then turned on it. 

Sound familiar?

However, the contrast between the disappointment of Rise of The Robots nearly 30 years ago and Cyberpunk 2077 today is that technology may provide a reprieve for the latter. As we begin the second decade of the 21st Century, there’s a key difference in the tools and technologies available to any digital creator. Not in the ability to deliver higher quality experiences, but to protect and mitigate against this kind of  ‘digi-tastrophe’.  

In his book The Inevitable, Kevin Kelly talks of the 12 forces that will shape our future, the first of which he labels Becoming. Explaining how, unlike a book or a song, digital creations do not need ‘fixity’, Kelly shows how creations no longer ever have to be ‘complete’, with the internet and cloud computing allowing a product or service to be in a perpetual state of refinement. Incidentally, a point echoed by Ricky Gervais who stated his switch to stand-up allowed him to refine material every single night based on live audience feedback - unlike his episodes of The Office or Derek which, once released, were set in stone. 

Console and PC game makers are already acutely aware of this effect. To combat the rising popularity of superficial hypercasual smartphone games, they now target increasing engagement on existing AAA titles by upgrading and extending a game’s lifetime value via new weekly challenges or unlocking special upgrades or level-ups. Again, an artform can now unfurl, flow and change across its lifespan.  

Thus, it’s possible that Cyberpunk 2077 creators may yet be able to pull this back. As CD Projekt Red continues to work long past the release date to bug-hunt, improve and polish, we may come to see a refined version emerge worthy of the hype. Emphasis on ‘may’.

But most important, this whole episode reminds us we are entering an era where media ebbs, flows,  changes and evolves. It also raises an important set of questions for artists, writers, and creators everywhere:  When is your work finished? And if work is in a constant state of refinement, and we are excused from getting it right the first time, will the quality of creativity dip when it’s no longer a ‘one-shot-deal’? Or will the right to continue improve our work long after it’s been released take our creations to even new heights?

And should I continue to rewrite and republish this article until I am happy with it?

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  • Ryan F

    20 years from now people are gonna look back at this game and be like, “ man the graphics were terrible back then.”

  • Dean Cole

    Cyberpunk is insane, it's like watching a Sci-fi movie.

  • Holly Wilson

    Why do i feel nostalgic all of a sudden...

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Phil Rowley

Marketing Expert

Phil is a Global Innovation Director, Media Futurist & Conference Speaker with 18 years’ experience from London, Dublin & Auckland. His key skills are evangelising about the future, simplifying the complex, energising clients and hastening the inevitable. He is also Co-author of - and speaker for - PHD's book 'Merge | The closing gap between technology and us’. Phil holds an MA, Politics and Media from the University of Liverpool. 

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