I feel every ten years we hear someone saying photorealism is just ten years away. Funny thing is, it sounds plausible to me. Every single time. My theory is that new pixels get in the way of old pixels. I mean, when you’re dealing with a million of them, you can imagine a not so distant future when photorealism is a thing. But then we go for 2 million pixels. And now 8. And when 8K becomes a thing we’ll be hitting 33 million. And every single one of them needs to “photorealistic”. Not a small feat.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Bugs! Base console versions! Refunds! But I don’t care about that right this moment! 74% out of 8 million pre-orders being digital is quite the sign of the state of play. There’s a very vocal contingent that insist physical copies are the bomb and refuse to acknowledge that convenience always wins over the market. Any market. To that they usually counter with a reminder that games are huge and downloading them can be a chore over slower connections which —of course— is a reasonable counterpoint, one that is doomed to wane over time as internet connections keep getting better and better all over the globe, especially in the markets where gaming thrives the most but even beyond that.
I understand that people pre-ordering aren’t what one could call a median type consumer, that this lot surely includes a very good percentage of gamers with access to fast internet connections etc. At the same time they’re exactly the type of consumer that’s more likely to care about game ownership and the issues that surround it, if only because they’re also people more likely to be keeping tabs with the comings and goings of the industry. In my experience at least.
Keeping the focus on CD Projekt RED even if not at the issues that surround Cyberpunk 2077’s launch, mainly because I’ve come across talk (and I’ve been in similar discussions myself) about how the stock’s decline is the market’s way of punishing the company or expressing its scorn even over the game’s launch and the game’s state at launch (different issues when you come to think of it). This isn’t the first time that a game developer’s or a game publisher’s stock price surging or declining has been used or has just been implied as proof of something that’s connected to how gamers have reacted to a product.
Yes, consumer reaction plays a role, but the stock market isn’t the overall market, its “consumers” are a far cry from gamers and their priorities. CD Projekt RED has had, in my opinion, a nonsensically high capitalisation for quite some tim enow, putting it ahead of Ubisoft, a far bigger company, with definitely more stable, frequent and dependably profitable output. Before you butt in to remind me about Ubisoft’s botched launches, I’m telling you I don’t care, this is not the time at all, as we’re talking financial stability, size of assets etc. On paper it always made more sense for Ubisoft to be considered as valuable as it is than for CD Projekt to be values as high as it has been. I’ve gone on record, months and months before the game’s launch (alas, on the Greek gaming podcast I co-host aka Vertical Slice, which means there’s a language barrier keeping you away from proof on that), saying that I feel the company is overvalued and it’s only a matter of time for the stock to come down no matter what happens down the road.
Even if you believe I’m wrong or insane saying this, you don’t have to look too hard to find proof that the stock market is a whole different ball game. In fact CDP’s stock price went down by 7.3% on launch day, before any controversy had presented itself but after the first wave of the PC version’s reviews had dropped and the game’s metascore held over 90. The same day it was announced that the game achieved pre-orders more than 5 times higher than those of The Witcher 3. That score was considered disappointing by the stock market. Investors seems to have expected more and saw this as a sign it’s a good time to get while the going’s still good, a move that caused prices to drop and when the PR disaster occurred it was easy for that to compound the situation, give more investors reason to sell and make a profit than wait to do so further down the road.
What I mean to say is that when one revels in a company’s stock price falling, seeing it as punishment for how a game is received, one assumes the gaming market cares for the same things the stock market lives for. Stock price is irrelevant to gamers and gamers would do well to remind themselves that’s the case. The stock’s price plays in role in whether the board will be replaced (and if it does get replaced, don’t be so sure it’ll be based on public sentiment instead of missed commercial hopes and projections on the investor’s side), how easy it is to buy or be bought out, how much debt can the company take on and more. But all of that only shapes the company’s value in the stock market, not in the industry.
Think of it this way. Sony’s market cap is roughly $117 billion at this moment in time. Nintendo’s is close to $71 billion.. Microsoft is at $1.619 trillion. Now tell me how their success in the games industry is predicated by their market value or even remotely mirrors the latter.
By all means, dive into stock price fluctuation and what it mean if it tickles your fancy. Just make sure to remember the games industry lives on monetising games and the stock market places bets on countries going bankrupt hoping to make something out even when it all hits the fun. There are —of course— parallels to be made, events on either side that really are linked. Don’t assume they’re as straightforward as you may imagine.
“We initially had a bonus system that was focused on the game’s ratings and the release date, but after consideration, we believe that measure is simply not fair under the circumstances,” wrote Adam Badowski, studio head and creative director for Cyberpunk 2077, in the email to staff. “We underestimated the lengths and complexity involved to make this a reality, and still you did everything you could to deliver an ambitious, special game.”
CD Projekt’s management doesn’t have a spotless record, has already been run over the coals for mandatory crunch policies connected to Cyberpunk 2077’s completion and more. But while we’re in the eye of the storm that the ire of gamers can be at times, the same management changes internal policy to make sure that the same people that worked their butts off in order to ship the game get bonuses, no matter where the metascore sits. And yet gamer wrath gets all the coverage, while something like this gets a mention at best.
Don’t even get me started on the fallacies of connecting bonuses to the bane of games’ existence that something like Metacritic really functions as.
I will say this though. Any policy that ties developer bonuses on qualitative metric while the management bonuses are dependent on financial goals isn’t just unfair but an insult. Any scheme that implies a company’s success can always be a boon to management but may or may not be a boon to those that create the only wares a company has to hawk can only be an insult.