Sony pulls Cyberpunk 2077 from PlayStation store after backlash; developer's shares tumble 20%

  • Sony has removed Cyberpunk 2077 from its PlayStation Store and says it will refund players full refunds for digital copies of the game.
  • Cyberpunk's developer, CD Projekt, has lost around $6.6 billion in market value since the game was released on Dec. 10.
  • The game has attracted criticism due to a multitude of bugs and drops in performance on older consoles.

LONDON — Sony has removed the video game Cyberpunk 2077 from its PlayStation Store, in a move that has shocked industry analysts and added to the woes of its developer.

The Japanese firm's gaming unit, Sony Interactive Entertainment, said in a brief notice on its site that it "strives to ensure a high level of customer satisfaction" and would offer players full refunds for digital copies of the game.

Shares of Cyberpunk's Polish developer, CD Projekt, tumbled as much as 20% Friday on the back of the news. The company has lost around $6.6 billion in market value since the game's release last Thursday. CD Projekt wasn't immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

It's been little over a week since Cyberpunk launched, and the game has attracted scathing criticism from gamers over a multitude of bugs and drops in performance on older consoles like Sony's PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One.

The sci-fi game was one of the most highly-anticipated titles of 2020, fueled by significant hype at industry events and past success from its developer. CD Projekt is the studio behind role-playing game The Witcher 3, which is thought by critics to be one of the best games of all time.

But Cyberpunk's steep graphics requirements mean that the game has suffered on older hardware. People playing the game on PS4 and Xbox One have found the game often freezes, while textures take a while to load in, and non-playable characters' faces are sometimes blurred.

"It's not an easy call, but they have made the right move," Steve Bailey, principal analyst for games at tech research firm Omdia, told CNBC. "This title has been removed out of fear of not just consumer upset with a game's quality, but potential damage to the console brand."

On Monday, CD Projektsaid it would offer customers refunds if they bought the game on older consoles and were unhappy with it. The firm also apologized for not showing how the game performed on those machines before releasing it, and said it would issue a number of updates over the next few months.

Sony was hit with criticism after previously rejecting people's requests for refunds of digital copies of the game. The PR gaffe has now resulted in Sony offering full refunds to players who bought the game digitally.

Still, Omdia's Bailey said he doesn't think the episode will damage CD Projekt's relationship with Sony.

"PlayStation will be extremely sympathetic towards the challenges of making and releasing a game like Cyberpunk 2077, which is a boggling undertaking. But they may require that they get to work more closely with CDPR in future," he said.

Analysts say it's possible Microsoft could follow suit. The company was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

CD Projekt had pushed Cyberpunk's release back several times before finally launching the game. It was initially scheduled to be released on Apr. 16 2020, before being delayed to Sept. 17, then Nov. 19, and finally Dec. 10. It received much hype up until launch, with some fans drawing comparisons to the open-world crime game Grand Theft Auto 5.

Following its release, the game was met with outcry over a spate of technical glitches. It was also criticized for a scene that included a trigger for people with epilepsy. CD Projekt subsequently patched the game to reduce the risk of inducing epileptic symptoms.

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