CD Projekt Red has stated that more than 400 people are currently working on Cyberpunk 2077, which is expected to be the star of their presentation at this year’s upcoming E3 event in June. By comparison, The Witcher 3 eventually had a total of about 240 developers, though that number ramped up to roughly 1,500 towards the eventual launch, which was plagued by massive employee crunch.
After the launch of the final installment in The Witcher series, the majority of those developers shifted to the team working on Cyberpunk 2077 in 2015.
The increase in the number of people working on the new game could be due to several reasons. For one, the project may simply be larger in scale and require the extra 160 people. Alternatively, CD Project Red has recently committed to treating its workers more “humanely” after it was revealed that workers experienced extreme crunch in completing The Witcher series.
For those not familiar with the term “crunch,” it refers to the exhausting work-life imbalance that some video game studios force on their employees to meet deadlines related to launch dates. NetherRealm studios, Riot Games, and CD Projekt Red have all been implicated in forcing 100-hour work weeks onto employees leading up to the deadline of certain title launches. The problem is often systemic, rooted in old mentalities of toxicity, but are now facing scrutiny as former employees step forward at various studios.
For Cyberpunk 2077, the company states that now there is more of a voluntary approach to the same crunch, which could account for the sizable increase in development staff. With that in mind, time will tell how effective this “voluntary” approach is, since often the problem with crunch is that the expectation to complete the work is implicit, rather than explicit.
Expectations are high, as CD Projeckt Red indicated that that their most significant contribution to sale revenues came from consistent and strong ongoing sales of The Witcher 3 and its associated DLC. These were followed in revenue by both GWENT and Thronebreaker.
It is no secret that The Witcher series is beloved by its fans. There is no doubt that CD Projekt Red is hoping for another home run with their new game to replicate both the critical and commercial success it has seen in the past.
There is certainly no lack of confidence on their part. In speaking at the Capital Group about the 2018 company financial results, CEO Adam Kiciński described the previous years' E3 presentation as the most important so far in the history of CD Projekt Red, and that “this year's is going to be the most important one ever for us. We have really prepared a strong show.”
Perhaps there are a few hidden surprises awaiting hopeful fans. In any case, there are only a few weeks left until all will be revealed at E3 in June.