Paradox apologizes for latest Cities: Skylines 2 boondoggle, will give refunds for the Beach Properties DLC: '[We] hope we can regain your trust going forward'

 Cities: Skylines 2 Beach Properties screenshot - balcony with beach chairs and umbrellas overlooking a street running beside a palm tree-lined coast.
Cities: Skylines 2 Beach Properties screenshot - balcony with beach chairs and umbrellas overlooking a street running beside a palm tree-lined coast.

The first post-launch DLC for Cities: Skylines 2, Beach Properties, arrived in March, and it did not go well. Players already irritated by the state of the game felt the DLC—an asset pack, with no new features—wasn't worth its $10/£8.49 price, and predictably a new wave of negative reviews flowed into Steam. The Beach Properties DLC itself is rated as "overwhelmingly negative," with just 4% positive user reviews on Steam.

Three weeks after its release, Colossal Order CEO Mariina Hallikainen and Paradox deputy CEO Mattias Lilja have released a joint statement apologizing for, well, pretty much everything really, and promising a do-over on the Beach Properties DLC by giving a refund to most players who bought it and making it free for all players. Those who got the DLC as part of the Cities: Skylines 2 Ultimate Edition will not be given a refund because of the "significant complexities" involved in issuing a partial refund; instead, they'll be given three Creator Packs and three radio stations with a collective value of $40 that are expected to be ready near the end of 2024.

"Looking ahead, we also want to make immediate and meaningful changes in the way we approach the game’s development and our communication with you," Hallikainen and Lilja said. "Firstly, this means a complete focus on improving the base game and modding tools, and secondly, we want to better involve you, the community, as we choose our priorities going forward."

To that end, Paradox and Colossal Order will have an "advisory meeting" with a small group of player representatives, "chosen for the size of their following within the community to represent as many people as possible," to discuss the plan for the remainder of 2024. "The teams from Colossal Order and Paradox Interactive will provide them with full transparency and answer any questions and critiques voiced. Our hope is that together with you, our community, we can make sure that we do not repeat the same mistakes we have made in the past and bring this game into a bright future."

In a way, that promised meeting with Cities: Skylines 2 influencers could be seen as something of a turnaround for Colossal Order: In January Hallikainen warned that increasingly toxic behavior among players could force developers to "pull back" from engaging with the community. At the same time, Hallikainen also expressed hope that "we can all work together for our devs to be able to stay and be continuously active," so perhaps her caution was heeded.

More practically, the change means the upcoming Bridges and Ports expansion has been delayed to sometime in 2025. The console release of Cities: Skylines 2 has also been delayed, but for unrelated (but familiar-sounding) reasons: Developers have been "struggling to get Cities: Skylines 2 to the necessary level of optimization," and so instead of launching this spring the hope now is to have it ready for October. Hallikainen and Lilja noted that the console development team is separate from the PC team, so problems on that front won't impact the PC plan.

"In closing, we want to reaffirm our dedication to making Cities: Skylines 2 the best city builder it can be," the message concludes. "We appreciate your support and feedback, and hope we can regain your trust going forward. It’s our responsibility to earn it, and we hope these actions are a first step in the right direction."

The early reaction to the statement is generally positive. On Steam and Reddit, there's some anger over how Paradox and Colossal Order have botched Cities: Skylines 2 so far, and an understandable sentiment that talk is cheap, but there's also some clear hope that maybe this is where it all finally gets turned around.

The big challenge facing Paradox and Colossal is that they absolutely did botch Cities: Skylines 2, badly, and talk is very cheap. In October 2023, the day after it launched, Colossal Order said the game's performance issues "are not deeply rooted in the game’s foundation," and then a couple weeks later the studio promised not to release any paid DLC until "performance issues are fixed." Yet those issues have persisted: Post-launch patches have improved performance, but it's still not great for a lot of players.

Worse, though, is the incredible loss of goodwill that's resulted from all of this. Cities: Skylines is a highly-regarded city builder with a dedicated community that continues to attract thousands of players per day. The sequel, however, has been a mess from the very start, and seems to just keep getting worse. The numbers tell the tale: Cities: Skylines 2's peak concurrent player count is over 104,000, nearly double that of the first game, but the current concurrent player count is just over 6,000—less than half the number of people currently playing Cities: Skylines. There were clearly a lot of people eager to play the new game, but the dropoff has been sudden and significant.

That's going to make it even harder for Cities: Skylines 2 to pull a redemption 180 in the style of No Man's Sky or Cyberpunk 2077. There's still room for it to happen, but there's no question at this point that the hole to climb out of is deeper than it needed to be.

An FAQ on refunds and the new development timeline for future Cities: Skylines 2 content is up now on the Paradox forums.