Whatever your reaction has been to Cyberpunk 2077, you can’t deny that it has accrued a metric whoa-ton of hype over the years. Admittedly, I personally didn’t know about this game until they marched Keanu Reeves out on stage at E3, but I have several friends who have been keeping an eye on the project for almost a decade now. So I guess that begs the question, when exactly did Cyberpunk 2077 start development?
Cut the game in half and count the rings
First, I suppose we should clarify what we mean when we say “development.” Cyberpunk, as a property, has existed since the late 80s, with the original Cyberpunk roleplaying module releasing in 1988, followed by Cyberpunk 2020 in 1990, and Cyberpunk V3.0 in 2005. As a video game, however, Cyberpunk wasn’t realized until at least 2012.
The writer of the original Cyberpunk module, Mike Pondsmith, began consulting with CD Projekt Red on the story of Cyberpunk 2077 in 2012, with the story shifting a few times thanks to influence from Cyberpunk V3.0 and the at-the-time upcoming Cyberpunk RED. This is also when the existence of the game was first divulged to the public. However, while they were consulting with the intent of making a full game, CD Projekt Red wouldn’t begin production on Cyberpunk 2077 for a few years.
It was in 2016 when the Cyberpunk 2077 officially entered pre-production stages as CD Projekt Red began assembling a team. This was right after the last expansion pack for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt had released, and more manpower within the company was becoming available. Fun fact, the production team for Cyberpunk 2077 eventually grew to dwarf the team for The Witcher 3 by a pretty substantial margin.
The studio received a grant from the Polish government in 2017 to expand the team further, and by 2018 development was in full swing, with the game reaching content completion by mid to late-2019. At that point, all that remained was polishing and bugfixing, though obviously the pandemic put a damper on that whole process (which may explain a few things about the final release, in hindsight).
So to answer the question, even though Cyberpunk 2077 was announced back in 2012, it was only in actual development for about 4 years, from 2016 to 2020. Let that be a lesson, kids: don’t announce your games until they’re at least in pre-production, or the hype will consume the universe.