Cyberpunk 2077 has been a long time coming, but we’re finally nearing the end of the road. CD Projekt Red will follow up their 2015 smash hit The Witcher 3 with one of the most highly anticipated PC games ever made. We’ve been waiting to see what CD Projekt’s been cooking up for eight years now, and in that time the Polish studio has gone from making meaty, albeit niche RPGs to putting out open world do-anything future fiction that looks like it could knock Grand Theft Auto down a peg or two.
So before we dive into Night City ourselves on December 10, let’s take a look back at how we got here, one trailer, tweet, and crunch controversy at a time.
Development begins. CD Projekt Red announces Cyberpunk 2077 with an animated logo. Wearing 2020 goggles, it looks and sounds very dorky and dated already.
We get a CG teaser trailer in which armored police surround and shoot at a cyborg. It offers the early first look at the style and tone CD Projekt Red has in mind for Cyberpunk 2077. No release date is announced.
The Witcher 3 releases and CD Projekt Red shifts the majority of development to Cyberpunk 2077. CD Projekt SVP of business and publishing Michal Nowakowski tells GamesRadar, “There’s a sizable team still working on [The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine], but an even more sizable team has actually been working on Cyberpunk for quite a while right now.”
CD Projekt Red receives $7 million (30 million PLN) in Polish government funding. It is the largest cut of Poland’s National Center for Research and Development fund, to be used for the CDPR’s four proposed focuses: city creation, seamless multiplayer, cinematic feel, and animation excellence. Multiplayer is news to everyone and speculation begins. Will Cyberpunk 2077 be an MMO? Will it feature a separate more traditional deathmatch mode? Or something else entirely? There is still no release date in sight.
Someone gets their hands on some internal documents detailing the design of Cyberpunk 2077, and tries to extort money from CD Projekt Red for their precious intel. But CDPR comes out and says the documents are old and do not represent what Cyberpunk 2077 has become. A kind way to say ‘get bent.’ Nothing results from the threat, publicly at least.
The Cyberpunk 2077 Twitter account groans back into life after four years of silence with an innocuous *beep*. Thus would begin a long final stretch of delays, crunch controversies, and secretive demos.
Meanwhile, cyberhunk Steven Messner sees Cyberpunk 2077 behind closed doors at E3, the first gameplay reveal, recounting his experience in a slurry of fragmented Slack messages. He’s very impressed and surprised by what’s revealed. There’s wall-running, car chase shoot outs, and what we now tacitly and happily accept is revealed as surprising and controversial: Cyberpunk 2077 is a first person game. Gasp! But we gotta see that butt!
Tons of new information drops, including the news that the multiplayer mode won’t arrive at launch. Or ever, possibly. Quest designer Patrick Mills tells Eurogamer multiplayer is still in R&D (research and development).
CD Projekt Red dumps the gameplay demo in the lap of the public. As expected, PC Gamer inspects the trailer and makes a bunch of GIFs. Everyone warms to first-person perspective. Night City sure looks nice from behind the eyes. We’re still waiting on release timing, but everyone now knows that Cyberpunk is a game that not only exists, but looks pretty close to completion. It can’t be long now, right?
Oh yeah, remember that big Polish government grant for researching “seamless multiplayer” features? CD Projekt brings on development studio Digital Scapes for a “long-term strategic cooperation” on Cyberpunk 2077. CDPR won’t outright say it’s for multiplayer development, but Digital Scapes specializes in the stuff.
Cyberpunk head writer Sebastian Stepien leaves CD Projekt Red for Blizzard. Stepien doesn’t comment on his departure, but chances are he’s just wrapped the bulk of work on Cyberpunk 2077 and is looking for pastures green.
A new Cyberpunk 2077 trailer debuts at the Xbox E3 Showcase, revealing Keanu Reeves’ role as Johnny Silverhand. The actual Keanu emerges from fog behind a secret door and a meme occurs. He points to the screen and says, “Check this out.” Everyone checks it out. It’s the initial Cyberpunk 2077 release date of April 16, 2020. Cute!
Meanwhile. I, the author, am in an appointment to see a 45-minute gameplay demo behind—and journalists love to hear it—closed doors. I take notes on my laptop in complete darkness, the LCD clamshell resting on the back of my hands as I fart out messy descriptions of the hour-long demo. It’s pretty cool. There’s an ice bath, some net-running, choice and consequence. Cyberpunk 2077 sure looks like an RPG.
An in-game ad spotted in the E3 demo depicts a hypersexualized transgender character, drawing strong criticism as a needlessly transphobic work. The artist that created the ad responds, saying it is meant to reflect the aggressive corporate exploitation present in the world of 2077.
The same demo is condensed into 15 minutes of new gameplay and released to the public.
Terrible news. CD Projekt Red confirms that, no, you can’t make sweet cyberlove to Keanu.
At The Game Awards, CD Projekt Red reveals some of the artists contributing tunes to the Cyberpunk 2077 soundtrack, Grimes, Run the Jewels, and ASAP Rocky chief among them. Grimes performs a song as her in-game persona.
CD Projekt Red announces the first in a slurry of delays, pushing Cyberpunk 2077 from April 16 to September 17, citing the need for more time to “finish playtesting, fixing, and polishing.” In a followup Q&A with investors, the studio says the multiplayer component has also been delayed, and likely won’t be out until sometime after 2021.
CD Projekt Red delays Cyberpunk from September 17 to November 19, citing the need for more playtesting and bug-squashing. To counter the bummer vibes, CD Projekt Red gives journalists some hands-on time. PC Gamer’s Andy Kelly has a blast.
With no in-person E3 happening due to the pandemic, CD Projekt Red hosts its own virtual series of announcements for Cyberpunk 2077 around the same time. We get a new in-engine trailer and some new gameplay, all covering the bits detailed in the hands-on preview. The most surprising news is the announcement of Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, a 10-episode anime series from Studio Trigger planned to debut on Netflix in 2022. A comic is on the way, too.
Later that month, an interview with Gamereactor confirms that wall-running has been cut for design reasons.
Bloomberg reports studio-wide crunch at CD Projekt Red, with staff required to work six days a week. The report opposes CDPR co-founder Marcin Iwiński’s 2019 statement that the studio would stick to a “non-obligatory crunch policy” in the late stages of Cyberpunk 2077 development.
Cyberpunk 2077 goes gold at the beginning of the month only for it to get delayed a few weeks later, this time from November 19 to December 10. Another CD Projekt boss is quoted shortly after saying crunch at the studio is “not that bad—and never was.” He quickly walks back the statement and apologizes.
With Cyberpunk 2077 nearly, finally, probably here, the media blitz and promotions truly begin. Adidas announces Cyberpunk 2077 sneakers and the sneakerheads are not impressed. The soundtrack listing reveals more collaborating musicians, including Sophie, The Armed, Converge, Health, and more. (The Armed are genuine punk, and great at that. Give ’em a listen.)
Meanwhile, Andy Kelly spends two days playing Cyberpunk 2077 in secret for 15 hours. He enjoys being a kind samurai, and unearths the heart and oddball characters in Cyberpunk 2077 the edgy marketing fails to reveal.
Someone manages to nab a PS4 copy of Cyberpunk 2077 and streams 20 minutes of it before, we presume, they are nuked from orbit.
CDPR wraps November with a call to investors, reassuring them that Cyberpunk 2077 will not miss the December 10 release date. We are reassured, sort of, kind of, not really.
Now, after eight years, we look ahead with a bold prediction: Cyberpunk 2077 releases on December 10.