Cyberpunk 2077 is a double-edged sword to this day. While some see a great open-world RPG that got even better with the last major update, console gamers in particular have to think of a messed-up and bug-ridden release. The reasons for Cyberpunk’s initial failure have been discussed repeatedly, including in our expert podcast on CD Projekt.
Now a YouTuber claims to know another possible reason for the technical condition of the game. The poor work of a quality assurance agency also contributed to Cyberpunk 2077 being released with technical problems. We summarize the most important allegations and classify them.
Games like Cyberpunk and Battlefield 2042 often get massively negative Steam reviews because of their technical condition. In our Plus Report, experts explain whether these actually have an impact on its success:
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A video causes a stir
June 25, 2022 was released by the YouTube channel Upper Echelon Gamers posted a video in which the owner of the channel claims to be with a whistleblower from the Quality Assurance Agency Quantic Lab to have spoken. He described his company’s unfair working practices when working with CD Project and was able to provide credible evidence of this. You can watch the video here:
link to YouTube content
Quantic Lab collaborated on the development of Cyberpunk 2077 as an external QA tester (QA = Quality Assurance). So CD Projekt Red hired the company to test the game and find bugs for the developer to fix. The core allegations against Quantic Lab read as follows:
- Cyberpunk developers were promised that a team of experienced testers would work on their game. In fact, however, mainly employees who had one year or less work experience were commissioned. CD Projekt was not aware of this deception.
- The company gave its employees a daily
Bug-Quoteof up to ten errors per employee. Employees sometimes had to report at least ten bugs to CD Projekt. As a result, minor errors in particular were reported, while serious bugs were left out.
- Finally, the team increased from 30 to 60 QA testers to be more productive. However, since Quantic Lab was already short of employees, mostly completely inexperienced testers were hired for this purpose. However, since these had to be incorporated first, the team ended up being less productive than before.
- During the development of Cyberpunk 2077, Quantic Lab is also said to have misrepresented the size of their QA teams to other contractors. Probably due to a lack of employees, fewer testers worked on games than contractually agreed. Cyberpunk itself was not affected by this deception, however.
The poor quality assurance work was one of the biggest problems in the development of Cyberpunk 2077, but according to the YouTubers, it was certainly not the only one. Quantic Lab would therefore only have contributed to the defective release and not caused it alone.
AAA titles are supposed to be the best games, but they don’t always impress with their quality. In the podcast, they discuss which Micha, Heiko and Fabiano have the biggest productions:
link to Podcast Content
What do Quantic Lab and CD Projekt say?
Quantic Lab hat opposite the Forbes website has now responded to the reporting of the video with an official statement. As CEO Stefan Seicarescu writes:
Regarding the article published by Forbes on June 26th, Quantic Lab would like to clarify the following:
The social media video referenced in their article begins with false statements about Quantic Lab’s history. There seems to be a lack of understanding of how a game is tested before it’s released to the market.
[…] Supporting over 200 projects a year from a variety of the world’s leading publishers, Quantic Lab continues to pursue a quality-first approach to every work.
All of our client contracts are confidential, but typically international publishers work with multiple external QA companies and are not dependent on a single one. In addition, in most cases there are internal QA staff. The direction of the project is agreed in consultation with our customers and adjusted according to real-time requirements.
Quantic Lab always strives for transparency and integrity when working with clients.
In its statement, Quantic Lab primarily criticizes alleged research errors in the video and an overestimation of the importance of their work for Cyberpunk 2077. However, the core allegations are not directly disputed. Similar criticism was also from the operator of the YouTube-Kanals LegacyKillerHD listen. On Twitter, he claims to have spoken to CD Projekt Red staff who worked on Cyberpunk:
link to Twitter content
link to Twitter content
These all contradicted Upper Echelon’s claims. Quantic Lab’s role was much smaller than he thought. In addition, important aspects of the game would have been tested internally: it was not the case that critical bugs would have been lost due to the large number of smaller errors. At CD Projekt Red they were always aware of the condition of the game, the overworked developers were simply overwhelmed.
Of course, we also asked CD Projekt Red itself to answer these questions for an opinion. So far, however, we have not received one. If we have an official statement from the developers of Cyberpunk, we will add it to this article.
Working conditions in quality assurance
For Upper Echelon Games, however, the struggle with Quantic Lab’s reaction was not over. In another video, he denounces the allegedly intolerable working conditions at Quantic Lab and other QA agencies, which are similar to allegations made in our Crunch report on working conditions at outsourcing studios.
According to their own statements, Upper Echelon Games has spoken to several employees and former employees of Quantic Lab and other QA agencies. He also cites reports from Romanian news websites (Quantic Lab is from Romania) that also write about the topic. You can see the video here:
link to YouTube content
Upper Echelon Gamers renews and expands its allegations against Quantic Lab here. We summarize the most important statements of the video here:
- Quantic Lab integrated an internal communication system in which all conversations were fully monitored. An employee who protested was forced to resign.
- Forcing employees to resign is said to be a common practice that appears to violate Romanian workers’ rights. So you try to replace well-paid, experienced employees with cheaper young professionals.
- Quantic Lab is also said to have recovered money from employees that they received as bonuses for overtime.
- Another source reports that the company’s management asked her to lie to customers about the size of her QA team. Often only a third of the specified testers were available.
- In addition, localization contractors (translations and adaptations of a game for a specific region) are said to have been misled about the skills of the team. It was stated that native speakers were available, but this was not the case. Instead, the work – and thus confidential game content – was in turn passed on to another company.
- Supposedly, Quantic Lab followed the principle
quantity before qualitybefore. The discovery of serious bugs was supposedly seen as a waste of time. According to the report, employees should instead discover many small bugs.
- In general, the work environment is said to be toxic and sexist.
- The CEO of Quantic Lab opened an account with uTest where you can earn money by testing applications. He then instructed an entire department to work with this account and earned money from it himself.
Similar problems also exist in other QA agencies, even if Quantic Lab is a more serious example. Upper Echelon Gamers says they spoke to employees at different companies who report similar working conditions.
There is also constant criticism of the working conditions within developer studios. In the video, Europe game developers discuss why there is a crunch at all:
Why does the crunch keep happening? – Europe developers about the stress in the final stages
How credible are the allegations?
Upper Echelon Gamers regularly reports on gaming industry issues and general social conflicts. The titles and presentation of his videos are often lurid and designed to cause outrage and a stir. It is possible that facts presented in his videos are distorted or exaggerated, as critics of his first cyberpunk video also note.
The truthfulness of the statement by the unknown whistleblower cannot be checked from our side. However, the reactions resulting from the publication speak for a true core of the allegations against Quantic Lab. Thus, even the company’s official response does not explicitly contradict its claims.
While it’s likely that Quantic Lab’s work had a much smaller impact on Cyberpunk’s release than Upper Echelon Gamers assumed, the accusations against Quantic Lab’s work culture are quite serious. Romanians quoted by the YouTuber are now also reporting Websites and Vice about problems at Quantic Lab. However, it is currently not possible to verify which allegations are correct in detail.