By now, there's not much that can be added to the story of Cyberpunk 2077's disastrous launch. Finally arriving after multiple delays, the most-anticipated game of 2020 stumbled over the starting line so riddled with performance issues that it was pulled from the PlayStation Store. Those delays made sure it missed the 2020 Game of the Year conversation, and its myriad performance issues meant it probably wouldn't resurface in 2021.
But resurface it did. As 2021 rumbled on, CD Projekt Red restructured much of the company around fixing Cyberpunk 2077. Patches began to address its most egregious failings, and by the time Game of the Year season rolled around, 2020's biggest flop managed to pick up a few titles. Arguably even more impressive, it also received recognition at high-profile awards shows; BAFTA nods for Narrative and Artistic Achievement, and a Game Awards nomination for Best Role Playing Game.
By the time Cyberpunk 2077's next-gen update launched in February 2022, the game's redemption arc was clear. It would take seven months to get there, but with the launch of September's Edgerunners update, the journey was complete. Players flocked to the anime, and also returned to the game in their droves. It might never live up to the heights of CDPR's hype, but Cyberpunk 2077 finally seemed to amount to the quality that players had come to expect from the studio.
The hype train never stops
That potted history would seem to make a Cyberpunk 2077 Game of the Year Edition a peculiar idea. A game that launched to ridicule in 2020, stumbled through 2021, and found renewed relevance in 2022 finally getting its GOTY outing in 2023? It's a timeline that for almost any other title would seem laughable, but it's exactly what seems to be happening. Last week, Polish news site Stockwatch reported an announcement from CDPR CEO Adam Kicinski, suggesting that Cyberpunk 2077 GOTY Edition would arrive in 2023. Citing similar treatment for The Witcher 3 after both of its expansions had launched, Kicinski suggested that the GOTY treatment for Cyberpunk – to come after its Phantom Liberty expansion – was "the natural order of things."
To some extent, I'm inclined to agree with him. Cyberpunk 2077 was always supposed to be one of the best and biggest games of 2020. It was winning 'Most Wanted' awards years before its actual release. It shifted 13 million copies in its first three weeks, and boasts one of Steam's highest concurrent player counts of all time. It didn't live up in terms of quality, but in spite of everything, it was still a juggernaut, one of the biggest games of a year that also included bangers like The Last of Us Part 2, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Assassin's Creed: Valhalla, and Call of Duty: Warzone.
For all that, however, Cyberpunk 2077's release date meant it was never going to be a major player for GOTY 2020. Released in December, it wasn't eligible for key ceremonies, immediately bumping it to 2021. But recency bias is important when it comes to determining which games find their way onto end of year lists, and even a game that didn't launch to public outcry might have struggled to cut through 12 months after release. With all the hurdles it had to overcome, it's no surprise that Cyberpunk 2077 wasn't a key consideration.
Increasingly, however, it's clear that Game of the Year awards don't really matter when it comes to 'Game of the Year' re-releases. The Last of Us Part 2 dominated the conversation in 2020, winning more titles than any game to have come before, but we've never seen a TLOU2 GOTY Edition. In fact, Sony seems to be actively veering away from that, with 2019 contender Death Stranding and 2020's Ghost of Tsushima both opting for the more arthouse 'Director's Cut'. On the other hand, Far Cry 6 – a game for which awards season was driven by several Best Performance nods for Giancarlo Esposito, and which wasn't even nominated for a major GOTY – dropped its own full-fledged Game of the Year Edition back in October.
Perhaps the age of the 'Game of the Year' re-release might be drawing to its end. Like the PlayStation Platinum Editions of years past, studios will instead look for new ways to refer to big new releases; Death Stranding Director's Cut, Skyrim Anniversary Edition, Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition. Elsewhere, they might simply let the game's success speak for itself. But for Cyberpunk – a game that in another timeline might have swept the entire conversation but instead spent two years fighting to regain its place at the table – perhaps next year's expansion is the final, crowning achievement that allows it to cement the legacy it might have had.
Perhaps one day, our Cyberpunk 2077 review will be seen as truly prophetic.