Alongside a new trailer at Xbox’s Summer Game Fest showcase, a September 26 release date, and a closer look at Luther actor Idris Elba as Solomon Reed, CD Projekt Red also confirmed Cyberpunk 2077’s Phantom Liberty expansion will cost $29.99. An inaccurate $35 price leaked ahead of time, however, and the internet had opinions about the new content costing more than half what the base game does.
During a demo session at Summer Game Fest, Kotaku spoke to quest director Pawel Sasko and quest designer Despoina Anetaki about the process of deciding how much add-on content will actually cost.
“The only comment I can offer is the thing that I know about,” Sasko said. “As a director, we are involved in that we just recommend to our board what we think that amount of content is [and] what is the value for the player and the actual value in the game. And that’s the extent of it. So we just have a conversation internally as directors of like, ‘yeah, we think, you know that this is fair or that is, that is a price that would be fine,’ but we are not involved in the decisions themselves, right? The decisions [is] taken by our board.”
Much of the conversation around Phantom Liberty’s price has been in comparison to The Witcher 3’s meaty and much-lauded expansions, as it costs more than either Hearts of Stone or Blood and Wine, which run you $25 and $10 respectively. So Phantom Liberty is almost as much as both of The Witcher 3’s biggest post-launch add-ons combined. Quantifying how much something is “worth” when it comes to media, video games especially, is a fool’s errand, but CD Projekt Red thinks the comparison between the cost of Cyberpunk and The Witcher 3’s expansions illustrates just how different they are despite being open-world RPGs.
Anetaki said adding onto Night City, a sprawling metropolis with a densely packed and populated world, meant there was far less dead space for the team to work with, and there’s even more going on in Phantom Liberty’s new area of Dogtown.
“It’s really difficult to [quantify],” Anetaki said. “The Witcher is a medieval world. It’s more flat, it’s more wide, but this is like dense, this is like a huge city, it’s a sprawling city, there’s verticality. So it’s very different, you know, it’s very different settings.”
On top of that, Anetaki says the addition of things like Street Stories, a new quest type that can be replayed, brings something that could add hours to Cyberpunk 2077 beyond just the new spy thriller story. But ultimately, how long it takes you to see all of Phantom Liberty will depend on your playstyle.
“Apart from the main story part, we’re also adding minor quests and street stories, those, you know, infinitely repeatable activities. So in theory, you could be playing forever,” Anetaki said. “So it’s really hard [to quantify], like some people love to speed through things like speed, run the whole game. And some people like me, for example, like to explore every nook and cranny and just take their time, see the sites, talk to every NPC in Dogtown. So, you know, it really depends on your play style and we want to encourage that and make sure that our players, get to play in a way that fits their play styles and their preferences.”
Phantom Liberty will also add major systemic reworks, from revamped skill trees to updated cop tactics during car chases. Most of these systemic changes will be implemented into the base game, as well.
“Phantom Liberty does not come only with the narrative content or art content [like] the district, but also all of those things that just change the way how you would play the base game. So that is part of the difficulty of telling you exactly how long it is. But I think what we can say is it’s a large expansion. We spent a lot of time building it. It’s been 2.5 years, maybe, excluding the work on the patches and stuff. So I think it should feel satisfactory.”
Anetaki also pointed out that Phantom Liberty comes after nearly three years of free content updates and patches as the team has worked to bring the game out of its notoriously poor launch state.
“Please remember that we have added a lot of patches and free DLCs,” Anetaki said. “The apartments, customization of your facial features, cars, clothes.”
Ultimately, add-on content, whether that be expansions, DLC, cosmetics, or microtransactions, don’t have a unified price like AAA games do. So there’s always a question of what these things are “worth” compared to other things that are packaged with the same terminology. In recent years, DLC and expansion have often been used interchangeably, and even Phantom Liberty has been called “DLC” because it is literally downloadable content. However, Sasko wants to make sure it’s clear to people that Phantom Liberty is an expansion on the scale of an “old school” expansion like Diablo II’s Lord of Destruction or Warcraft III’s The Frozen Throne, rather than a smaller quality of life patch
“I think what’s important for us is to emphasize that this is not really a DLC, it’s an expansion.” he said. “Like the way how they have been done a long time ago, It does not really feel like DLC.”
“Yeah, because it’s not just like apartment customization, it’s not just changing your face. It’s not just like a small part of the city,” Anetaki adds. “It’s a whole district with its own history, its own NPCs, main quest lines, side content activities. There’s so much to find. We’re adding so much content. So it’s not, it cannot be considered DLC anymore, it’s just a full-fledged AAA expansion.”
In the end, whether or not Phantom Liberty is “worth” $30 will come down to the individual. We often talk about the price of video games as if there is a universal truth to how much something should cost. But no imagined standard can account for economic inequality or how much something might resonate with a person and feel like it was worth the monetary investment. But money is precious, especially at a time when the economy is in the shitter and companies are laying off workers left and right. So we can try to create an itemized list of features, playtime, and emotional investment to try and figure out if Phantom Liberty meets some imagined standard. But ultimately, all a studio can do is put a number on it and let people decide for themselves.
“I get it. We are always trying to make it, I would say fair. That’s the best word really. Just fair,” Sasko said. “When you pay for something, there’s enough stuff that you feel good as a player that you do feel that you get your money is worth.”
Kotaku is covering everything Summer Game Fest, from the main show on Thursday to other events happening throughout the next week. Whether you’re into larger-than-life triple-A games or intimate, offbeat indies, you can keep up with all things SGF here.