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3 things Cyberpunk 2077 showed about the trajectory of gaming

8 years in the making. Keanu Reeves. Multiple Delays. Botched console release. Got hacked.

The aftermath of a series of unfortunate events befell, Gaming industry experts were quick to analyse what went wrong for CD Projekt Red, analysing the series of events that has led to CDPR’s current predicament.

With all the hype surrounding the most-hyped title of 2020, I wanted to experience the game without the negativity lens that currently surrounds the title and publisher.

I’m still navigating around Night City, but after investing hours in CP2077, it showed me three things about the future of gaming and where it’s going: Unique Experiences, In-game Advertising, and the importance of proper Studio Development.

1. It is all about creating a unique experience for the gamer

Personalisation has always been what makes video games appealing – the ability to carve an experience based on individual preference. Open world legends such as Grand Theft Auto V and RPG titles such as Skyrim and Dark Souls have set the bar for customisation. If you’re a brand trying to get acquainted with the world of gaming and by extension, esports, you’d probably know the path to the gaming community is to make every gamer feel special.

(Article on the Personalisation in Video Game – Uses the example of Bethesda’s Fallout 4 to highlight the importance and impact of in-game personalisation)

Figure 1: Personalise, personalise, personalise!

I lost count the number of hours I've spent perfecting how my game character will look like in the titles I've played - from painstakingly customising facial features, defining character's physical build, selecting character skin, and distributing the attribute points across the character. A community that is willing to spend the hours to a menial yet important activity is an indication of the level of loyalty and dedication if you're able to engage them as a potential customer base for your brand and product.

2. Brands are everywhere in gaming – We know the why, but where and how do you activate?

Fictional “Night City” is in California, and its inspiration is an amalgamation of Los Angeles, Japan, China, and Blade Runner’s take on 2019 LA.

Figure 2: Look at the number of billboards, and the potential number of impressions

2020 saw the emergence of in-game advertising as a nascent area connecting brands to a demographic that consumes media differently. The likes of Admix, Adverty, Anzu, Bidstack and Frameplay were all in the business of plugging brands into the world of gaming, and you have both institutional and individual investors clamouring and making bets on IGA being the next big thing in gaming.

Brands all want to get into the shiniest of Triple-A titles and kickstart their advertising strategy that involves gaming, but the question remains whether Triple-A titles are convinced whether the revenue uplift it gets from IGA is worth having at the expense of game environment and experience. The likes of Riot and Epic are managing IGA in-house, as reflected in League of Legends and Fortnite, and doing so successfully with partnerships ranging from MNCs to startups.

Geographical location is another factor – if you compared the gaming and esports scene in western countries viz. Asia, there is a preferential difference in the platforms – mobile vs console vs PC, and by extension, the games played. To illustrate, Garena’s Free Fire is a mobile title that has a huge following in Asia, India and LATAM, but with lesser reputation in developed gaming markets in Europe and the US. In fact, Free Fire is the most downloaded mobile game in 2020, with its competitor PUBG Mobile in fourth position (Link).

If you are a brand and you want exposure in Asia, and the research speaks of gamers in Asia have a higher affinity towards mobile titles, you’d want your brand to appear in mobile titles that are well perceived in Asia. Mobile titles are more ready to accept ads and brands compared to Triple-A titles, as that has always been the norm with mobile. The affinity is less with PC/console because if you pay $50 for your game, the last thing you want as a gamer is to see ads/brands served to you. The biggest gripe publishers have is how do brands intend to activate within their game. Is it going to disrupt the experience? Will it disturb my games artwork?

3. Publishers are taking their time with new releases, gamers are more informed about the importance of development

The aftermath of the CP2077 debacle pushed the gaming industry, both gamers and publishers, on release expectations. When it comes to the release of anticipated triple-A titles, gamers are unrelentless impatient and publishers do feel the heat from the fanbase. CP2077 was first announced in 2012 and was eventually released in Dec 2020 after multiple delays in the eight-year development.

The gaming community was excited, but the excitement was short-lived. CP2077 was ridden with technical issues that would fill up competitor publishers with sympathy. PlayStation and Xbox gamers were treated to low resolution textures, bugs, performance issues that rendered the game unplayable on console. It was so bad, CDPR issued refunds for the title.

Figure 3: If I were Keanu, I'd be shocked as well (Left: CP2077 Character - Johnny Silverhand. Right: Neo in The Matrix )

Gamers were obviously disappointed, but it made the community rethink about the role it plays in the industry. The case with CP2077 highlighted an importance of development time to iron out the bugs and performance issues that gamers absolutely have low tolerance for, and that perhaps gamers should afford more patience towards publishers and future gaming releases. Yes gamers are an impatient bunch, but what ticks them more is a botched release destroying every ounce of excitement that comes with the anticipation.

All eyes are on Rockstar Games and its alleged Grand Theft Auto 6 release, which fans have been clamouring for. GTA V is still Rockstar’s best selling game, and after seven years, the game is still performing strongly (GTA V is consistently in the Top 3 most watched titles on Twitch, and is still going strong with the DLCs). CP2077 is the perfect case study for Rockstar Games to justify to fans for a longer development period, while also forcing the gaming community to reconsider pushing for quick releases at the risk of bugs and performance issues.

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