Cyberpunk 2077 is back on the PS Store. It shouldn't be.
Sony is sending mixed signals again, maybe there's a good reason why
So the rumors turned out to be true: Cyberpunk 2077 returned to the PlayStation Store yesterday, more than 6 months after it was removed by Sony due to consumer outrage about the sorry state the game shipped in on the PlayStation4. There were serious gameplay problems, along with countless bugs and glitches, across all platforms of course - but the most severe ones were to be found in the base Xbox One and PS4 versions of the title. Microsoft added a warning label on the game's page in the Xbox store (but did not delist it), while Sony pulled it from the PS Store within a week. People could still buy the physical disc version for the PS4, and receive patches for it, yes, but it's fair to say that CD Projekt lost a couple of million sales at the very least because of Sony's decision.
Now Cyberpunk 2077 is back on the PS Store but CD Projekt RED themselves admit that "users may continue to experience some performance issues with the PS4 edition, while we continue to improve stability across all platforms". You don't say! "The PS4 Pro and PS5 versions of the game will provide the best experience on PlayStation", the announcement concludes, which we knew already. Of note, though, is Sony's choice of words in the title's PlayStation Store page: "Purchase for use on PS4 systems is not recommended", the Japanese company claims. "For the best Cyberpunk experience on PlayStation, play on PS4 Pro and PS5 systems".
When it comes to letting base PlayStation4 owners know exactly what they are walking into, it seems, Sony is not just using similar wording to that of CD Projekt's, but is actively trying to dissuade them from purchasing the game. Which only makes the obvious, inevitable question all the more poignant: why re-list Cyberpunk 2077 on the PS Store then? And why now, since the latest patch released a few days ago (v1.23) did not offer any PS4-specific optimizations compared to the April v1.2 to speak of?
In order to understand why this makes no sense, one just has to take a look at the PlayStation user base Cyberpunk 2077 is now targetting through the PS Store. The PS4 has surpassed 115 million units in sales worldwide and the PS5 is on the verge of surpassing 9 million. Of those 115 million units only Sony knows with any certainty how many are PS4 Pro models - and it's not saying - but unofficial numbers put that percentage anywhere between 25% to 30% tops (some estimates claim it's even as low as 20%). Still, at least 32 million consoles is not a small addressable market by any means, no? Because, according to both CD Project and Sony, that's the number of PlayStations that can offer a decent Cyberpunk 2077 experience: the sum of PS4 Pro and PS5 models. So where's the problem?
The problem, of course, lies with the 92 million people who own a base PlayStation4 and are going to have a substandard or even awful entertainment experience with Cyberpunk 2077 if they chose to purchase it in its current state. Sony warning these gamers against purchasing this title on one hand, but releasing it on the PS Store on the other - when these people are the clear majority in the overall PlayStation userbase - is confusing. Very.
It's these kinds of mixed signals the Japanese company seems to be sending lately that are not helping. Why do it? And why do it now? CD Projekt may be patching this game's PS4 version every month of the year and still not make it halfway decent because this is a game that's just too ambitious for ten-year-old hardware. It's never going to be a quality title on the base PlayStation4. But CD Projekt does not care, it just wants to sell more copies: if it actually cared, it would not have released a PS4 version of this game in the first place. So the real question is why is Sony playing along now, especially after doing the right thing in December delisting the game - even refunding early buyers, which was unprecedented. Why?
Financial motivation aside, there might be a better reason. Here's hope that it's a good one.