Cyberpunk 2077 Accessibility Should Have Been Confirmed Earlier by CD Projekt Red

What was available at launch should have been revealed prior to launch.

December 10, 2020

Cyberpunk 2077 has been possibly one of the most highly-anticipated video games from CD Projekt Red. A futuristic RPG that has seen delays, reports of transphobia, and crunch culture, as well as the studio also refusing to share information about the game’s accessibility. As a result, disabled players continued to be ignored as they requested information for months, with many deciding to hold off purchasing the game until someone was able to confirm what was available. But what is available? And is that the reason the studio was so quiet?

Accessibility in video games boomed in 2020. Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us Part 2 introduced the largest collection of accessibility features available in a video game. Ubisoft continued to share accessibility features weeks prior to launch and even invited disabled creators to early previews during Ubisoft Forward. Xbox made its live-streams more accessible, and the PS5 has features that can massively help disabled players, such as haptic feedback, and in-game guides.

The trend of detailing accessibility features has slowly become more popular among studios. This is great news for those wondering if a game will be comfortably playable. Additionally, the transparency studios have offered when sharing this information has been incredibly welcomed, leaving players feeling informed and confident.

But for CD Projekt Red, it remained tight-lipped… right up until launch when an official accessibility page was published on the Cyberpunk 2077’s website. It confirms colorblind support, motion adjustments, subtitle customization, controller options, key bindings, and a few more. There’s obvious room for improvement present when you actually play Cyberpunk 2077, such as the desire for darker subtitle backgrounds, HUD scaling, and the like. But the range of features currently present in the game are surprisingly adequate, and for that reason alone, it’s even more confusing why this wasn’t shared prior to launch.

…for disabled players, the wait for information on such a desired title has been a painful and alienating one.

Now, I can appreciate that some studios, especially with games on a AAA scale, have strict NDAs in place, and things happen, and situations change. But there’s something offputting about having vital information kept a secret. The knowledge of what a game can offer a disabled player can be what makes or breaks a consumer decision. But there becomes a concern when a studio can share a plethora of content, such as genitalia, cars, and map locations, but not what accessibility is implemented.

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When reached out for confirmation on what would be available earlier this year, a representative at the studio told me, “at the moment we don’t have any more information to share”. Understandable given the possible heavy NDAs in place, but also frustrating when the studio continued to drip-feed announcements through Night City Wire events or through social media posts. This is now even more frustrating after discovering what’s available at launch, and what could have been easily revealed.

…the range of features currently present in the game are surprisingly adequate, and for that reason alone, it’s even more confusing why this wasn’t shared prior to launch.

That said, given the epilepsy dangers earlier this week and the room for improvement in accessibility features, it seems as if CD Projekt Red has a lack of awareness when it comes to dealing with accessibility — likely due to not having any consultants to help guide the project. Without that guidance, maybe the studio felt the features were so ordinary that it didn’t need to share information. Maybe the NDAs stopped anyone from mentioning them. Maybe communications fell through given the numerous delays, the pandemic, and crunch. All I can really do is speculate.

Another factor is that Cyberpunk 2077 has been in development since before accessibility started becoming widely implemented, and it seems clear that it wasn’t much of a priority until recently. Whatever the reason, for disabled players, the wait for information on such a desired title has been a painful and alienating one. And it was one that the community shouldn’t have had to wait for.

Going forward, studios need to take note of other industry efforts from both AAA studios and indie studios alike. Games aren’t going to reach the level of The Last of Us Part 2 for a long time but can at least look to studios such as Ubisoft, Tribe Games, Crystal Dynamics, Special Magic Games, and more for inspiration. Research and consultation as early on as possible will at least help make the process of making a game more accessible a somewhat easier task, and ensure the game is accessible at launch.

Hopefully, the industry begins to hire those needed and starts sharing progress openly so disabled gamers can feel confident in a game’s production. Perhaps studios as a whole will take inspiration from Ubisoft and start to make it the norm for detailing what accessibility features and options are available weeks prior to launch. It’s all incredibly important information that players want or need to know before they splash out on their next video game purchase.

In the case of Cyberpunk 2077, it has a good deal of features, but it’s not as robust as what we’ve seen from other studios throughout this year. But keep your eyes peeled on accessibility-focused outlets such as Can I Play That for in-depth coverage on the state of accessibility in the game.

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Ben Bayliss

Based in the UK and adores venturing through FPS horrors and taking photos in pretty much anything with a functioning photo mode. Also likes car games.

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