When Cyberpunk 2077 first hit Steam back in 2020, it was almost universally panned. The game developed by CD Projekt Red, the same guys who did the Witcher games, was full of game-break bugs, riddled with performance issues and lousy graphics.
But if you go to that same Cyberpunk 2077 page on Steam today, you might just be rubbing your eyes. The game had a 90% positive rating as of October 2022.
What gives? Is this the same game? Have gamers lost their minds?
As it turns out, the reversal of fortunes had little to do with the mind, but a little marketing gimmick called Netflix.
Running on Edge
A new anime series titled Cyberpunk: Edgerunners dropped on Netflix in September this year. With its piercing visuals and enticing plot, the anime managed to grab viewers’ attention and pique their interest, creating a desire to experience this world for themselves. Edgerunners gained massive success, with critics saying it delivered “a satisfying return to Night City that does a better job exploring why Mike Pondsmith’s famous location became so iconic in the first place.”
The series takes place in Cyberpunk canon, within the fictional setting of Night City. Edgerunners functions as a prequel to 2077, exploring alternative storylines and characters. The expansion of Cyberpunk lore gave viewers an insight into the lives of Night City residents. The experiential viewing of Edgerunners created investment in the Cyberpunk world, making it familiar to unacquainted audiences. Edgerunners also let the audience grow attached to Night City in all of its dystopic glory, creating a desire to explore more for themselves.
Following the release of Edgerunners, 2077 started hitting one million players daily, whether they were new players or eagerly returning for the redemption of what was once highly anticipated.
It’s not the first time an game to television adaptation worked out.
Last year’s Arcane, the Netflix series based on League of Legends, was a star. The gritty anime was a love letter to longtime fans while simultaneously appealing to audiences who were unfamiliar with League of Legends. The first season was dubbed a “classic in the making”, also serving as a prequel to the game. The series managed to propel a whole new crop of players and became the highest-rated Netflix series in history at the time.
In many ways, this game-to-small-screen adaptation can be broken down into a lived experience across media. Gamers want to see their favourite characters and places brought to life on their screens, gaining access to a whole new side of them. Viewers on streaming services are drawn in by the lives depicted onscreen, living vicariously through the characters to escape the real world.
Of course, it’s not true that Cyberpunk’s revival is solely due to the Netflix adaptation. The studio CD Projekt Red also worked tirelessly to fix the game. Patch after patch was released, attempting to fix the bugs in the game. Thankfully, now players are able to enjoy 2077 thanks to patch 1.6. However, many other games have had their patches and fans still bashed developers for taking a long time to rectify the issues.
There are also negative examples of game-to-screen adaptations. One of these is the Netflix series Dota: Dragon’s Blood, based on Dota 2. Particularly the first two seasons were bashed for boring new main characters, terrible dialogue and overall poor production. Another example is the Netflix film Monster Hunter: Legends of The Guild, based on the gaming franchise Monster Hunter. The film has gained mixed reviews since its 2021 release.
But now, post-Cyberpunk, it is clear that with the right ingredients and an optimal mix, even the worst projects can turn themselves around.