The launch of Cyberpunk 2077, one of the year's most anticipated games, has not gone well. Prior to release, developer CD Projekt RED did not show a second of footage from the game running on older PlayStation 4 and Xbox One models, and there was a reason for that: they run like shit. It's better on PC and next-gen consoles, but the game remains woefully incomplete. The studio has since released a public apology for the state of several versions of the game, and told consumers they should, if they desire, request a refund.
The problem? CD Projekt RED does not control the refund process.
CD Projekt RED is the developer and publisher of Cyberpunk 2077, but with the singular exception of GOG (which is owned by the same parent company that owns CD Projekt RED), the game is sold by many other partners, in both physical and digital forms. Each of those places, whether it's Sony or Amazon, have different policies when it comes to refunds, and it is rarely as easy as asking for a refund and getting money back.
I recently asked VICE Games readers to chime in with their experiences trying to request a refund for Cyberpunk 2077 after the company's apology, and the stories that came back paint a picture similar to the experience of playing Cyberpunk 2077 itself: a complete mess.
The biggest problem, it seems, is on PlayStation. In the wake of CD Projekt RED's announcement, wait times for PlayStation customer support have become hours long. Here's how Sony explains its refund policy:
"After purchasing this type of content through PlayStation Store, you have 14 days from purchase to request a refund. If you have started to download or stream the purchased content you will not be eligible for a refund unless the content is faulty."
What is the definition of "faulty"? In its statement, CD Projekt RED said its committed to "making it play better on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One" but the company has not pulled the game from storefronts. CD Projekt RED is still happy to take your money if you'll pay up.
Based on my conversations with more than a dozen people who bought Cyberpunk 2077 on PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 5, Sony appears to be siding with that interpretation, and for the most part, denying refunds. Several customer service agent interactions passed to VICE Games show the company pointing to CD Projekt RED's statement as promise of changes:
Some consumers have been lucky enough to get an exception, however.
One person, who passed along their exchange with PlayStation customer service, was told a refund for Cyberpunk 2077 was a "one-time exception." This "one-time exception" phrase was mentioned by everyone I spoke to who managed to get a refund from Sony, but it was unclear if this reflected an exhausted customer service representative merely wanting to move onto the next flustered person in the queue or a concrete change in Sony policy.
Sony did not respond to a request for comment by VICE Games, and CD Projekt RED did not respond to a request for clarification on whether it had talked to companies like Sony in advance of making this announcement, which would help explain the widespread confusion.
More people, based on my informal survey, have had success with Microsoft. Several people who'd purchased Cyberpunk 2077 for their Xbox passed along successful refund receipts, and in some cases, it seems Microsoft did not push back on people asking for the refund.
Here's Microsoft's official policy on refunds, which is more open to interpretation than Sony:
"All sales of Digital Game Products are considered final, but we understand there may be extenuating circumstances. When you request a refund for these products, and depending on the purchase or content type in determining refund eligibility, we consider a variety of factors like time since date of purchase, time since release, and use of the product."
Microsoft's policy leaves some wiggle room. But it's clearly not a blank policy, because I did speak with two individuals who were denied a refund on Xbox. According to one conversation with a customer service representative, they had "launched the game and completed some achievements." The customer then received a denial email from Microsoft:
A different denial specifically said Microsoft would not provide a refund because its "refund policy does not allow refunds for digital game products have been played or consumed."
“We provide Digital Game Product refunds as part of a consistent and reliable buying experience," said a Microsoft spokesperson to VICE Games. "For more details on our digital game purchase refund terms, please visit our Xbox support page here. To request an Xbox refund, please follow the steps listed on our Xbox refund page here. For any further questions on Cyberpunk 2077, please reach out to CD Projekt Red.'"
The PC version of Cyberpunk 2077 is in much better shape than on console, but it's still buggy as hell. Some of those bugs are funny, the result of colliding systems in an ambitious open world, and some of them are clearly because Cyberpunk 2077 was rushed to release.
Microsoft and Sony draw lines at a game being nebulously "broken," and how much time has been spent playing the game. On PlayStation, any time can be a reason to deny a refund, while things are looser on Steam, the most popular place to buy PC games. On Steam, you can request a refund within 14 days if you've played less than two hours. No questions asked.
"You can request a refund for nearly any purchase on Steam—for any reason. Maybe your PC doesn't meet the hardware requirements; maybe you bought a game by mistake; maybe you played the title for an hour and just didn't like it. It doesn't matter. Valve will, upon request via help.steampowered.com, issue a refund for any reason, if the request is made within the required return period, and, in the case of games, if the title has been played for less than two hours."
But one player I spoke to experienced crashes during character creation and the game's first mission on Steam, which eventually put them outside Steam's two hour window. The refund was denied.
"Personally I don't see that as fair due to the issues at launch, and the subpar experience I continued to have even after I was able to get it to run," said the player, "but it is what it is I guess."
Another player passed along their denial from Steam, which specifically cited their playtime.
Valve did not respond to a request for comment.
Another popular way to buy Cyberpunk 2077 on PC is through GOG, which is owned by CD Projekt RED. Several people told VICE Games their refund requests were granted, but GOG wanted to offer credit towards another purchase, instead of sending the money back to their credit card. Upon asking for a full refund, GOG has yet to respond in multiple circumstances.
"Part of our standard refund process is to offer the user a choice between wallet funds and cash refunds as the latter might take more time to process through the payment providers," said a GOG spokesperson in a statement.
GOG does have some important distinctions, compared to Steam. One, players can ask for a refund within a broader 30-day window. Two, playtime is irrelevant. You can have played 30 hours and still ask for a refund.
When asked for more details on the broader refund announcement, the spokesperson told VICE Games the "Cyberpunk 2077 refund announcement came from CD PROJEKT RED and you'd need to reach out to them for any additional comments."
Again: CD Projekt Red is part of the same parent company as GOG!
The most curious line in CD Projekt RED's apology was an offer to help people who'd purchased physical copies of the game. If you bought Cyberpunk 2077 digitally, there is at least a chance (if currently a bad one) to get a refund. There's basically no such chance with a game bought at the store, where return policies have been non-existent since the 90s.
"For boxed versions, please first try to get a refund at the store where you bought the game," reads the statement. "Should this not be possible, please contact us at email@example.com and we will do our best to help you. Starting from today [December 14], you can contact us for a week up until December 21st, 2020."
This email address is likely getting bombarded with both people who purchased the game physically and frustrated players who aren't having luck with refunds on digital storefronts.
It's not even clear what CD Projekt RED can do to "help," and the studio did not respond to a request for comment on what it was offering, or what happens to people who attempt to request a refund but are later denied outside of the seven day window being proposed. Do they still qualify for help if they've at least sent an email before December 21? Who knows.
"I bought the game digitally for Xbox from Newegg," said one player. "They aren’t doing anything in regards to refunds. I also have a physical edition that I can’t get a refund for. I did email the folks at CD Projekt red and haven’t gotten a response."
One person who purchased the game physically through Amazon tried explaining the convoluted situation about CD Projekt RED's public statement to a customer service agent when they seemed to get confused and offered a full refund—without sending it back.
Most people are probably not going to have the same stroke of luck.
There is no indication CD Projekt RED had a conversation with its retailer partners before making a blanket announcement that people should get a refund. When a game is sold through Sony, Microsoft, or whoever, those companies take a cut of the profits. A refund means those disappear. Knowing that, it's understandable they aren't in a hurry to refund.
It wasn't shocking that Cyberpunk 2077 arrived in a blaze of fire—CD Projekt RED signaled that all year long with the many delays. But what is shocking is how badly the company has handled the fallout from the game's launch, and how unprepared it's seemed, every step of the way.