FINANCE TODAY | ISSUE NO.23
CYBERPUNK 2077: THE STAIN ON CD PROJEKT'S SQUEAKY-CLEAN LEGACY
Just last month, gamers around the world rejoiced, as on December 10th they were finally able to get their hands on a copy of Cyberpunk 2077, the long-awaited new intellectual property (IP) from Polish video game publisher CD Projekt S.A., also referred to simply as CD Projekt (WSE: CDR). First revealed to the public at the end of 2012, fans of the publisher and shareholders alike have waited patiently for the game’s official release, as both parties expected nothing short of greatness from the title. Prior to the game’s release, analysts had predicted it to bring in revenues of US$1 billion or more (Dawkins, 2020). However, the game’s launch was less than spectacular which left shareholders and fans with feelings of anger and disappointment.
On December 14th, shares of the polish publisher fell 14% from US$101.15 to US$86.00, only four days after the title’s official release date. From December 5th through December 11th, shares had dropped 28%, dropping the fortune of CD Projekt co-founders by a staggering US$700 million (Dawkins, 2020). Even with the help of Matrix star Keanu Reeves as the game’s main antagonist, the title failed to live up to expectations. What could have possibly caused one of the most anticipated video game titles of all time to fall completely flat on its face upon release?
WHO IS CD PROJEKT?
As mentioned previously, CD Projekt is a Polish video game publisher both founded and headquartered in Warsaw, Poland. The publisher is most well-known for its action role-playing game (RPG) series The Witcher, which is based on the book series by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski. The game is developed by CD Projekt Red (CDPR), a subsidiary of CD Projekt S.A. Prior to the release of Cyberpunk 2077, the publisher’s last major release was The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt in May of 2015. The game was released to generally positive reviews from both fans of the series and critics.
The Witcher series has been critical to the success of CD Projekt, as the series cemented the publisher’s position as one of the elites in regard to video game development and publishing. Following the success of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, CD Projekt was able to expand, opening more studios and launching their IPO on the Warsaw Stock Exchange in 2016. Since the release of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, CD Projekt has experienced an increase in stock price of 945% over the 5 year period.
Heading into Q4 2020, CD Projekt was surrounded by nothing but good sentiment from fans for their consistent catalog of high-quality products and consumer-friendly practices. In the years leading up to Cyberpunk 2077, all of the content teased for the game looked like it would deliver on every dream that fans of the project had created with their wild imaginations. From January to December 4th, hype for the project had driven the share price of CD Projekt up by more than 50% (Dawkins, 2020). Then finally, December 10th, 2020 crept up on gamers worldwide and their initial experiences with the title were lackluster, to say the least.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR CD PROJEKT?
Upon the release of Cyberpunk 2077, there was one glaring issue which led to the title having such an abysmal launch. Leading up to the release of the game, skepticism arose regarding the state of the title in terms of quality and completeness. The December 10th release date was the fourth date to be announced by the publisher, following three prior delays beginning as early as April of 2020. The average forecast for 12-month sales fell from 30 million copies to 25.6 million copies expected just before the December 10th release date (Krasuski, 2020).
Skepticism surrounding the title became validated upon release. Players on older generation gaming consoles (PlayStation 4 and Xbox One) were faced with a major discrepancy in quality when compared to the versions played on current generation consoles (PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X) and personal computers (PCs). This was surprising considering the fact that the majority of their player base would have still been playing on older generation consoles due to the extremely limited supply of current generation consoles available on the market. While CD Projekt plans to update the game to meet standards expected by consumers, many analysts are skeptical of this even being possible. While the game was acceptable on high-end platforms, investors were expecting “immaculate” in all aspects, which wasn’t delivered (Dawkins, 2020). The launch was so poor that CD Projekt issued full refunds to all players who weren’t satisfied with the current state of the game.
AN IMPORTANT LESSON REINFORCED
The tragic launch of such a highly anticipated game really highlights the issue of poor management by the development studio’s leadership team, an issue which plagues many other talents within the video game industry. The developers of the game questioned management about the company’s reputation, the game’s unrealistic deadlines, and the relentless overtime in the months and years leading up to the game’s release (Gach, 2021). These concerns hint towards their management having a lack of understanding of the development process of the game and what was technologically capable on the old generation consoles. Allowing the game to be released in that state was undoubtedly a terrible decision, given the company’s reputation for releasing high quality products.
Overall, these poor decisions have led to even worse circumstances for the developer, as a class action lawsuit has been recently filed against them. Lawyers charged the company with making false statements to investors about the quality of the game prior to launch (Gach, 2021). These circumstances are quite unfortunate, but an important lesson can be taken away from the situation. That being how critical good management is to the financial success of an organization. Having all of the elements of a financially successful organization become meaningless if management is unable to make decisions on how to effectively utilize them, or even neglect them entirely. In CD Projekt’s case, one major mistake ruined years’ worth of work in developing a strong brand reputation based on quality. The mistake also cost the publisher a lot of money in the process. From the situation we should take away the idea that above all, good management is critical to the continued success of a business and how important it is to choose the right people.
Dawkins, D. (2020, December 14). Cyberpunk 2077 Made Its Polish Cofounders Billionaires … But The Game Failed To Live Up To Its Hype. Retrieved January 13, 2021, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddawkins/2020/12/14/cyberpunk2077-made-its-polish-cofounders-billionaires–but-the-game-failed-to-live-up-to-its-hype/?sh=7ec1e800380f
Gach, E. (2021, January 12). Cyberpunk 2077, One Month Later. Retrieved January 13, 2021, from https://kotaku.com/cyberpunk-2077-one-month-later-1846045340
Krasuski, K. (2020, December 15). Cyberpunk 2077 debacle costs founders US$1 billion of wealth. Retrieved January 13, 2021, from https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/cyberpunk-2077-debacle-costs-founders-1-billion-of-wealth-1.1536673