OPINION: Video games media failed to warn us about ‘Cyberpunk 2077’

The way CD Projekt RED handled Cyberpunk 2077 release was terrible to say the least. First of all, I think they succumbed to pressure and forced Cyberpunk’s release. As a result, the game was poorly optimized for both the last-generation consoles and the PC, more so on the former. It got so bad that Sony and Microsoft had to take down Cyberpunk from their stores and issue refunds for the people who bought them. Right now, CDPR are facing a class-action lawsuit from their investors because of Cyberpunk 2077‘s disastrous release. Despite CDPR’s blunders, they are not entirely to blame.

IGN’s video review of Cyberpunk 2077 that was released on Dec. 14, 2020.

IGN rubbed me the wrong way because I didn’t think IGN did enough. IGN’s Tom Marks mentioned something about CDPR’s embargo agreement that prevents IGN from talking about the last-gen versions. Would that not make it obvious that CDPR was hiding something from them? This situation should have prompted the editorial team on an investigation. Marks even says that he was worried for the last-gen console during the review and it took them a week to make a follow-up.

“That makes me especially worried for what last-gen consoles might be like.”

IGN Deputy Reviews editor Tom Marks

Again, Tom Marks said that he was worried on what the last-gen consoles might be like. This means that Marks had not played the last-gen consoles. We can’t blame Marks from not checking how the game runs on any console since he was responsible for the PC review. We can’t even blame him for not having the bugs at the forefront because of CD Projekt RED’s non-disclosure agreement. CDPR provided their own gameplay for IGN to show. However, it is fair to say that IGN failed its journalistic purpose by not talking about this restrictive behavior from CD Projekt RED end.

The main problem with video games media is that review copies are distributed by the publishers and getting an early copy of any is almost impossible without going through non-disclosure agreements and embargoes. Breaking embargoes and NDAs can jeopardize the media’s access. It is imperative that any media outlet maintain a good relationship with the publisher to keep up with the fast-paced news cycle. Everyone expect the review to come out at the same time as the video game’s release.

However, the editorial team agreed to a restrictive NDA and as a result, it impacted the review in a negative way. The editorial team was not allowed to provide their own footage and use the ones provided by CDPR. As a result, video failed to depict the poorly optimized game for the readers. This could also explain why the last-gen reviews were delayed. Even a high-end gaming PC can have its ugly moments in this game

As of the writing of this post, IGN’s review of Cyberpunk 2077 for the eighth-generation consoles has 1.7 million views and their PC review sits at 4.5 million views. With a sample size this big, it is safe to assume that some of those views are consumers who are looking to buy the game. Playstation 4s and Xbox Ones are still the reigning king of consoles as long as the ninth generation console production remains less that the demand. Marks’ review did emphasize that the review is for the PC but that simply isn’t enough warning for the rest of its readers, neither was Destin Legarie’s review.

What can the editorial team do?

The editorial team knows about these restrictions beforehand, and to turn away means to relinquish access. IGN weighted their options. They realized that access was something they can’t afford to lose, and signed the NDAs. If that was the case, there isn’t anything that IGN could do without infringing on the NDAs. The only way that they could have avoided this is situation is by refusing the early copy of the game.

IGN Hosts Brian Altano and Max Scoville discuss CD Projekt RED’s apology regarding Cybepunk 2077’s performance on the eight generation consoles, uploaded on Dec. 14, 2020.

Let’s say that IGN didn’t take the early access, how will the editorial team handle the review process?

The timeline of review process would remain the same but with a few tweaks. IGN would have to purchase two copies of Cyberpunk 2077: one for PC and one for a last-gen. The plan would be to release it a few days after launch. The game can be beaten within 19-24 hours of play time and capture can be done simultaneously. Specific footage can be shot later. This gives IGN the advantage of circumnavigating the NDAs that CDPR had in place for media outlets, unshackling the editorial team to tell the story.

Declining a pre-launch code does have the possibility of giving IGN a disadvantage when it comes to eyeballs.

However, the job of the reviewer is to critique what the game has to offer to allow the readers to make informed purchases. Someone at IGN signed off on CDPR’s terms, allowing the company to influence the review. The refusal to succumb to CDPR’s terms is a powerful gesture and what IGN should have done. This is on the assumption that IGN knew about the restrictions. If IGN was not aware of the restrictions, then it would be a different story.

Mark’s critique of the game was genuine but I felt like it was taken over by CDPR. The developers were able to manipulate the media just slightly and use their good reputation to sell their games.

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