Why We Should Dial Back Our Cyberpunk 2077 Hype

CD Projekt RED‘s open-world RPG Cyberpunk 2077 was one of the biggest games of E3 2018 to both those who saw the trailer on Microsoft’s stage and ones fortunate enough to see it behind closed doors. Now all of us were able to see that gameplay footage. But despite this, we should dial back our Cyberpunk 2077 hype for the time being. It’s statistically likely that CD Projekt RED, a studio known for heavy hitters, will deliver. But flooding the market with content related to a game this far from its release can cause people to misinterpret how game development works and that fandom can turn toxic, which is a road CDPR has been down before.

Cyberpunk 2077: The Danger of the Hype Train

Cyberpunk 2077

A lot of coverage for a game that’s far from being released plays a cyclical role in fueling the hype train. People are excited so there’s more coverage and more coverage increases people’s excitement. Once you’re on the hype train, it’s hard to jump off without getting injured. And the Cyberpunk 2077 team knows how to give us the content we crave.

They’ve had well over a dozen news posts on their official website dissecting their E3 trailer frame by frame. But all that hype can overflow into negative territory when it starts to set unrealistic expectations or create restlessness among fans who feel a game should be out already because they’ve been hearing about it forever.

Cyberpunk 2077 has me intrigued, like everyone else, but considering that it’s in pre-alpha I’m holding off on my dreaming. The longer fans feel like they’re waiting the more the chorus turns from “this game looks good” to an aggressive “this game better be good.” While speculation and little details can be intriguing, fandoms have the power to uplift or destroy. Forming them this soon seems a bit premature. CD Projekt RED is targeting a current-gen release but it’s all a question mark until a hard date is set. The more we wait and the longer that date is a question mark, the more the game can create both fatigue and higher expectations.

Cyberpunk 2077: When Expectations Become Demands

Cyberpunk 2077

And those expectations can turn sour. At this point, big name studios have become the equivalent of a brand name. You expect a certain style, level of quality, and consistency in the product. And in this case, the product is a video game. We can count of CD Projekt RED to deliver but missteps aren’t outside the realm of possibility.

In fact, we saw controversy emerge back when The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt came out. Fans were livid over the “downgrade” from what was shown in 2013 gameplay trailers versus the 2015 reality. But as José Teixeira, CD Projekt RED visual effects artist, pointed out during an interview with YouTuber Docm77 at the time that it is “impossible to downgrade a game that didn’t exist before or wasn’t playable before.” That’s what’s tricky. Trailers and promotional screenshots are meant to sell you a game and yet they’re not necessarily directly representative of the game they’re selling. Game development changes as developers have to optimize and changes things stable for the full game.

A more modern example that comes to mind is the increasingly aggressive fanbase behind Marvel’s Spider-Man, which is already claiming “downgrade” even before the game has hit retail. Fans have pointed out fewer puddles in certain areas and some changes in lighting. This subset of gamers may only be a  fraction of the Spider-Man community but it’s big enough for the team at Insomniac Games to take notice. Attempting to debunk these theories have proven unsuccessful. Once fans feel they’ve been misled, rightfully so or not, it’s hard to win them back.

Cyberpunk 2077: Fans Can Be Your Worst Enemy

Cyberpunk 2077

In our social media-filled world, content is king. So it’s important that game developers share their process with the public. But teams need to be wary of overpromising or inadvertently misleading the audience. To CD Projekt RED’s credit, they’re clearly playing this one close to the chest. The studio even debated releasing the demo footage at all. There have been plenty of teases and hype, but nothing too concrete until recently.

And even the massive 48-minute gameplay drop was handled with care. It’s something they were nervous about and didn’t take lightly. In fact, upon entering the stream the first thing I noticed was the watermarked caption “Work in progress – does not represent the final look of the game.” I can only hope that fans took note as well. But we know that disclaimer doesn’t usually override hype, despite CDPR’s positive intentions.

CD Projekt RED wants to control the narrative but we’re responsible too. Holding teams accountable is one thing, but unreasonable demands and falling into the rabbit hole of obsessive side-by-side analysis photos on Reddit is something else entirely. I can appreciate the passion of the gaming community but sometimes that passion is used to fuel maliciousness. And it’s all over something that was never guaranteed to us.

Cyberpunk 2077: Immersing Ourselves in a Developing World

Cyberpunk 2077

The more I time I spend in this industry, the more I appreciate the importance of covering all the small moments in a game’s development cycle. Delays, patches, demos, trailers, and studio insights all weave together creating a rich tapestry of the game’s story. On a less artistic note, outlets and content creators will publish what the public wants. If the world is hungry for more Cyberpunk 2077, they’re going to get more stories and videos about it.

But some of those fans can get awfully grumpy during their hunger and it can propel the impressive footage for a promising, upcoming game into a status no game can possibly achieve. The Witcher 3, which is widely regarded as one of the best RPGs in the past decade, even ran into these issues. If a game with that many accolades can disappoint those nitpicking through graphical details, it’s plausible that that can happen again.

This dense news cycle can be a lot of fun for fans and create important conversations surrounding representation, RPGs, and what cyberpunk really means (and sometimes what it should not mean). But not everything shown will make it into the final product. Nor should it. And in a game as massive as Cyberpunk 2077 even a demo is merely a dot in an impressionist painting. Be excited, be eager for more, but remember that nothing is promised even if you feel it should be.