In CD Projekt Red’s FY 2020 earnings report, they announced Cyberpunk 2077 had sold roughly 13.7 million copies between launch (December 10, 2020) and December 31, 2020. This data was further broken down by distribution type (73% digital and 23% physical) and by platform (56% on PC/Stadia, 28% on PS4, and 17% on Xbox One). On top of this information, CD Projekt revealed during an earnings call that despite the major backlash that CD Projekt received for Cyberpunk’s inadequate performance on PS4 and Xbox One, only 30 thousand refunds were issued.
Crunching the Numbers
For the non-mathematicians, 30 thousand refunds represents roughly 0.2% of all copies sold (13.7 million). That’s low, but for accuracy’s sake, we should analyze this data based on the break-down of platforms and likeliness to request a refund.
In the first scenario, let’s assume that PC players (56% of total copies sold) didn’t request refunds, and that most refund requests came from last-gen consoles. Let’s also assume that, of the copies sold on consoles (45%), 10% of consumers purchased / played on either the PS4 Pro, PS5, Xbox One X, or Xbox Series X/S. That leaves 35% to base, last-gen consoles, which equates to about 4.7 million copies. At 30 thousand refunds issued, the percentage is still extremely low at 0.6%.
Now, let’s single out PC and Steam for a second. Assuming that PC holds a dominant portion of the 56% split between PC and Stadia, 56% equates to about 7.7 million copies. Next, let’s break it down by digital store. Steam and Epic are obviously the leaders in the PC gaming marketplace, but we don’t have an exact break-out of copies sold on each store platform. For simplicity, let’s assume it’s a 50/50 split between Steam and Epic store. Now, in this scenario, let’s assume all refunds were through the Steam store. This calculation of 30 thousand refunds divided by 3.35 million sales equates to 0.9% of refunds, which is still an overestimate. Based on our research, 0.9% is not any more extreme than the expected percentage of refunds for Steam games.
The point is, refund percentages were extremely low overall, which is surprising based on the overwhelmingly negative response to the game and CD Projekt’s statements on refunds for all versions of the game. The question is, why didn’t more players refund their purchase? Let’s take a walk through some explanations.
The vocal minority: the small group of individuals that frequently and strongly voice their opinions, contrasting with the silent majority that makes up most of the population base. Considering the immense hype built up by both CD Projekt and their fans for over half a decade, the vocal minority may be stronger with Cyberpunk 2077. For the majority of players, they probably played through the game without much regard for the problems under the hood. If they noticed anything wrong, well, buyer beware. The minority, however, noticed the frame-rate issues, constant bugs, and overall design flaws in the game. They vocalized their complaints and started petitions, but still represented a small portion of customers. This might be the most convincing argument for a generally low percentage of refunds: most people just don’t care. Ignorance is bliss.
Holding out Hope
In the midst of the backlash over Cyberpunk 2077’s various technical and fundamental problems at launch, CD Projekt released a roadmap of improvements to the game. This roadmap featured a series of larger patches over the course of the first half of 2021 and a next-gen version releasing in late 2021. This which was an all-too perfect blend of vagueness and detail, and gave players hope for the future of Cyberpunk 2077 – to see that CD Projekt wasn’t leaving the game to die in the hands of the players gave them hope. Personally, I think the problems with Cyberpunk 2077 lie much, much deeper than its performance issues, and i’m not convinced these problems will be addressed in future patches or the next-gen version. I played on the Xbox Series X, and thought the game was underwhelming despite its decent technical performance. However, to others, hope is a driver, and the promise of a better game eventually might be stronger than the urge to give up on a game that has been looked forward to for years and years.
Lastly, the question lies: how many customers were actually able to get a refund? On the physical side, CD Projekt recommended working with retailers for refunds before reaching out to them directly, but only gave a window of a fews days to submit a direct email for a refund. It’s unclear how many customers took that route. Gamestop allowed for full refunds within 30 days if the game was in its original packaging, and within 7 days if the game had been opened. Amazon allowed returns through December 21 (11 days after launch), with a restocking fee.
On the digital side, both Playstation and Xbox offered full refunds to anyone who purchased Cyberpunk 2077 digitally. Playstation even removed Cyberpunk from its online store and has yet to re-instate it. It should be noted that refunds processed by Sony and Microsoft are not included in CD Projekt’s count. Steam, like usual, accepted refunds within 14 days of purchase, with the caveat being the player must have played less than 2 hours in total.
Overall, we’re just not sure of how many refund requests there were in total, but from what we know, the window was rather limited.
These are a few possible reasons for a low amount of Cyberpunk 2077 refunds. The worst part is, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen something like this. Namely, No Man’s Sky and Fallout 76 come to mind – both of which have had incredible comeback stories, I might add. Will we see the same fate for Cyberpunk 2077, and eventually look back on its launch as a distant memory? I do hope so, but in my retrospection, I came to a realization…
When I first booted up Cyberpunk 2077 on my Xbox Series X and was greeted with an extensive character creator, I knew I was in for something different. As it turns out, different doesn’t mean special, and extensive doesn’t mean great.
To my dismay, the too-cool-for-school Cyberpunk 2077 didn’t turn out to be that cool after all. I’m not sure if it was the overdone cyberpunk setting, pseudo-apathetic and largely unlikable characters, or the dated mechanical systems that put me off the game, but something did. I gave it a fair shot, playing around 13 hours before clocking out until further notice. I’m not sure if I will return once the next-gen version releases, but I do hope other developers learn from this mess and launch their games in stable conditions.