LONDON — Sony has removed the video game Cyberpunk 2077 from its PlayStation Store in a move that has shocked industry analysts and added to the woes of its developer.
The Japanese company's gaming unit, Sony Interactive Entertainment, said in a brief statement that it "strives to ensure a high level of customer satisfaction" and would offer players full refunds for digital copies of the game.
Shares of Cyberpunk's Polish developer, CD Projekt, tumbled as much as 20% Friday on the news before later paring losses slightly. The company has lost around $1.4 billion in market value since the game's release on Dec. 10. Analysts say it's highly rare for a console to remove a AAA game over quality issues.
Since its launch, Cyberpunk has attracted scathing criticism from gamers over a multitude of bugs and drops in performance on older consoles like Sony's PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One. Reviewers said they were only able to play it on PC ahead of launch, not consoles.
The sci-fi game was one of the most highly anticipated titles of 2020, fueled by significant hype at industry events and past success from its developer. CD Projekt is the same studio behind role-playing game The Witcher 3, which some critics say is one of the best games of all time.
But Cyberpunk's steep graphics requirements mean that the game has suffered on older hardware. People playing the game on PS4 and Xbox One have found it often freezes, while textures take a while to load in, and nonplayable characters' faces are sometimes blurred.
"It's not an easy call, but they have made the right move," Steve Bailey, principal analyst for games at tech research firm Omdia, told CNBC. "This title has been removed out of fear of not just consumer upset with a game's quality, but potential damage to the console brand."
On Monday, CD Projekt said it will offer customers refunds if they bought the game on older consoles and were unhappy with it. The firm also apologized for not showing how the game performed on those machines before releasing it, and said it would issue updates over the next few months.
Sony was hit with criticism after previously rejecting people's requests for refunds of digital copies of the game. The PR gaffe has now resulted in Sony offering full refunds to players who bought the game digitally.
Still, Bailey said he doesn't think the episode will damage CD Projekt's relationship with Sony.
"PlayStation will be extremely sympathetic towards the challenges of making and releasing a game like Cyberpunk 2077, which is a boggling undertaking. But they may require that they get to work more closely with CDPR in future," he said.
CD Projekt said in a statement Friday that it's "working hard to bring Cyberpunk 2077 back to PlayStation Store as soon as possible."
"Following our discussion with PlayStation, a decision was made to temporarily suspend digital distribution of Cyberpunk 2077 on PlayStation Store," the company said.
"You can still buy physical versions of the game in brick and mortar stores and online. All purchases digital and physical copies of the game will continue to receive support and updates as we continue to improve your experience."
Analysts said it was possible Microsoft could follow suit. However, the company stopped short of yanking Cyberpunk from its online store, instead offering refunds to anyone who purchased the game digitally.
"While we know the developers at CD Projekt Red have worked hard to ship Cyberpunk 2077 in extremely challenging circumstances, we also realize that some players have been unhappy with the current experience on older consoles," Microsoft said in a statement Friday.
CD Projekt had pushed Cyberpunk's release back several times before finally launching the game. It was initially scheduled to be released on April 16, before being delayed to Sept. 17, then Nov. 19, and finally Dec. 10. It received much hype until launch, with some fans drawing comparisons to the open-world crime game Grand Theft Auto 5.
Following its release, the game was met with outcry over a spate of technical glitches. It was also criticized for a scene that included a trigger for people with epilepsy. CD Projekt subsequently patched the game to reduce the risk of inducing epileptic symptoms.