CD Projekt Red’s upcoming sci-fi RPG epic is nearly upon us, but fans who have been following it have seen the project undergo a surprising number of setbacks over the past eight-and-a-half years. Back at E3 2019, Keanu Reeves came on stage at the Microsoft press conference to give Cyberpunk 2077 the first of its scheduled release dates, April 16, 2020. But this year kicked off with an initial delay to September 17, followed by a second pushback to November 19 back in June that came with the news that the game was content complete, but needed extra time for polish. After the title went gold in early October, many fans reasonably expected that its November release date was set in stone, but this turned out to be another step on the way to the game’s (likely) final release date of December 10. Upon sharing the news of this third delay, co-CEO of CD Projekt Red Adam Kicinski provided more specific reasoning behind this three week adjustment, stating “the game for PC is ready and plays well on next-gen consoles and the company is finalizing the process concerning current-gen consoles” in a recent conference call.
While game delays are often for the best and rarely directly linked to one specific issue but instead a multitude of factors, this recent quote seems to indicate that the predominant reasoning for Cyberpunk 2077’s latest delay is the status of the PS4 and Xbox One versions. With the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S supporting the game through backwards compatibility until the dedicated next-gen release arrives sometime next year, those who own these brand new platforms in their first month of availability, along with PC players, seem to have little to worry about outside of traditional pre-release concerns. But even though this short delay bodes well for the launch version of Cyberpunk 2077 on current-gen consoles, there have been instances in the past of cross-gen releases running less than suitably on the weaker platforms, with Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor and Dragon Age: Inquisition being two recent examples that merit cause for concern. Plus, CD Projekt Red’s last release, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, had its own share of launch issues back in 2015 even when releasing on a single generation of platforms, with reviews citing progression-blocking bugs, long load times and framerate issues.
Since Cyberpunk 2077’s first two release dates had the game launching months before the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S hit store shelves, however, this potential problem of a simultaneous cross-gen release only arose over the past few months. Instead, this predominant focus on PS4, Xbox One and PC owners for the game’s eight years of development should bode well for those respective versions, both for their base and higher-performance models. Plus, no matter how well these new consoles sell in their first month of availability, current-gen consoles will ultimately represent the largest potential audience of players at launch, with over 160 million current PS4 and Xbox One owners that won’t all have the access, financial means and/or desire to upgrade. This most recent delay seems to indicate that CD Projekt Red is clearly aware of their audience and will take the extra steps necessary to ensure that this chunk of their player base won’t have a significantly different experience from everyone else.
In the end, fans will likely have to wait until shortly before the game’s release as impressions and cross-gen comparisons start to emerge to know for certain just how much of a downgrade the current-gen versions truly are. But, with the current high levels of anticipation surrounding Cyberpunk 2077 and the free next-gen backwards compatibility and upgrades, there seems to be little downside for fans who are already committed to trying out the game as soon as possible on whatever devices they have at the time. With all of the aforementioned delays, players will likely have less tolerance than usual for a launch game plagued with technical issues, but if CD Projekt Red can spend the extra time necessary to deliver as polished a product as possible, then Cyberpunk 2077 can have the best possible chance of living up to its ambitious expectations.