In brief: CD Projekt Red has earned its consumer-friendly reputation by putting out high-quality products like The Witcher 3 and avoiding aggressive microtransactions (MTX) in its singleplayer titles. However, it seems the company will compromise its values somewhat with Cyberpunk 2077's future online mode.
Though the base game will still be the same MTX-free experience it's always been touted as, Cyberpunk 2077's multiplayer version will feature some form of monetization.
That's not exactly a surprise. CD Projekt Red is treating the online portion of Cyberpunk 2077 as a totally separate entity: it has its own development team, and so it does make sense that it would have its own monetization system.
However, that's not a cause for panic just yet. The singleplayer game will still have free and paid DLC, and though some modern "live services" feature aggressive monetization, including loot boxes, pay-to-win elements, and excessive grinding (designed to encourage the purchase of MTX), CD Projekt Red seems to be promising that it won't go down that road.
Nothing changed. Cyberpunk 2077 is a single player game with zero microtransactions. One single purchase. No tricks. Don't believe the clickbait. https://t.co/qX0iZwsAf2— Cyberpunk 2077 (@CyberpunkGame) September 7, 2020
Of course, other AAA developers make similar promises and often fail to keep them, so some skepticism is certainly warranted here. Still, if there's one team that's earned at least a modicum of trust from the gaming community, it's CD Projekt Red.
Cyberpunk 2077's online component is expected to ship as an add-on to the base game sometime in 2022 (at the earliest). It was initially slated to launch before 2021, but we suspect that Covid-19, as well as Cyberpunk 2077's multiple delays, have both contributed to a later launch window.