Cyberpunk 2077 is set in the same alternate Earth as a tabletop RPG that first saw print in 1988. That first edition of Cyberpunk was set in the dark future of 2013, but its definitive follow-up Cyberpunk 2020 jumped ahead seven years. After a couple of false starts, a new edition—Cyberpunk Red, created in collaboration with CD Projekt Red—takes us to the year 2045. There's still a fair way to go from there to the videogame's 2077, but now that the first Cyberpunk Red books have arrived we do have a clearer idea of how things shake out for the world and for the setting's centrepiece of Night City.
This timeline takes the version of events from the Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit as its primary source, fleshing them out with additional details from the Cyberpunk 2020 core rulebook and supplements like Deep Space, Rockerboy, Live & Direct, Protect & Serve, Home of the Brave, EuroSource, Rough Guide to the U.K., and Pacific Rim Sourcebook. Where contradictions occur, Cyberpunk Red is treated as gospel.
The NSA, CIA, FBI, and DEA—collectively known as the Gang of Four—jointly launch a secret takeover of the US government. American soldiers are deployed in the First Central American Conflict, and the high numbers of injured veterans it produces drives demand for cybernetic limb and organ replacement. Over the next several years, multiple Free States emerge, ignoring federal law. In the Soviet Union, Andrei Gorborev becomes President.
An Italian corporation called BioTechnica creates a new chemical fuel, CHOOH2, from its own patented, genetically engineered wheat. At the Stanford Research Center artificial muscle fiber is developed.
The European Economic Community is established, with a common currency called the Eurodollar whose stability leads to it becoming officially currency in several non-European nations. Designer plagues developed by the DEA targeting coca and opium plants are released around the world. The governments of Chile, Ecuador, and Afghanistan collapse. Entrepreneur Richard Night buys up land in Del Coronado Bay for a utopian urban planning project called Coronado City with heavy corporate investment—the land is cheap due to an infamous boostergang raid called the Morro Bay Massacre earlier in the year.
15,000 die when a tactical nuke is set off in New York, with blame placed on Colombian drug lords. In Munich, the first TRC Biologic Interface Chips are developed.
The World Stock Market crashes after the US is found to be manipulating both American and European stock markets. In Pittsburgh a nuclear accident kills 257 people.
The ESA and Pan-African Alliance work together on construction of the Kiliminjaro mass driver. The Maoist Loyalist Cabal seizes power in Beijing.
In the United States unemployment is high, 25% of the population are homeless, and hundreds of thousands take part in riots for living space. Roving packs of travelers moving from city to city known as nomads emerge from the social chaos, and cybernetically enhanced boostergangs become common. Hundreds of criminal defense attorneys are lynched in a 'lawyer purge'. The Constitution is suspended and martial law declared. This conglomeration of events becomes known as the Collapse.
Popular musician James 'Rockerboy' Manson dies while being dragged off-stage by police during an Amnesty International benefit concert in England, and hundreds more die in the riot that follows. A nuclear exchange takes place in the Middle East, and half the world's oil supply is lost.
An earthquake destroys much of Los Angeles and 65,000 people are killed. Drought hits the Midwest, turning farms into arid grasslands. Richard Night is murdered by organized crime syndicates in revenge for being kept out of Coronado City's construction, and it is renamed Night City in his honor. Gangs and crime cartels immediately move in.
South Korea declares North Korean aircraft have violated its airspace, triggering a chain of events that culminates in the Second Korean War. Tycho Colony is established on the Moon with its own mass driver. The US institutes a Federal Weapons Statute, although permits allow people to carry handguns, semi-automatic rifles, and knives no longer than 18 inches—for self-defense. In response Texas declares itself a Free State where federal law does not apply.
Poser gangs emerge, groups who impersonate celebrities or fictional characters—anyone from rock stars to characters from Star Trek—often with the aid of biosculpting. The Wasting Plague devastates the US and Europe.
The Worldsat corporation completes the communication network that will serve as the framework for the NET. A military coup in England ends with the disbanding of the monarchy and martial law declared. Australia declares itself a republic, and the state of Western Australia declares independence and secedes soon after.
Crops in multiple countries are infected by a plant virus, an event called the Food Crash. Crops belonging to US agribusiness are protected by a counter agent, leading to accusations of biological warfare.
The US invades Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela in a disastrous Second Central American War. NSA transcripts from the first Central American conflict are brought to light by journalist Tesla Johanneson, revealing the influence of the Gang of Four, who are removed from power. Future elections are manipulated by Megacorporations instead.
Tesla Johanneson is assassinated. Med-tech advances, and the first cloned tissue is successfully grown in vitro. Terrorists attempt to abduct a negotiation team from the Orbital Air corporation, and when they fail it is discovered they were sent by rival corporation EBM to sabotage a buyout of Transworld Airlines. The conflict escalates when Orbital Air recruit hackers from the Zetatech corporation, and eventually culminates in mercenary attacks. In retrospect this conflict is dubbed the First Corporate War.
The cybermodem is invented. This allows direct physical 3D immersion in the NET, or 'netrunning'. The Second Korean War ends with a new United Republic of Korea established.
The first human clone is grown in vitro. It dies six hours later.
The Second Corporate War begins when SovOil and Petrochem come to blows over newly discovered oil fields in the South China Sea. Digital recordings of personal experience that can be experienced by others, called braindances, are invented by a grad student at the University of Santa Cruz, California.
An orbital war breaks out after a US assault on a Russian weapons platform. After Tycho Colony's mass driver is used to drop a two-ton rock on Colorado Springs, the US steps down.
Night City's corporations drive out organized crime, instituting their own city council and deputizing their own security forces.
Clone technology advances and begins being used to grow spare organs for the wealthy.
A joint ESA/Soviet mission successfully lands on Mars. It is the last such mission for 10 years.
A bioplague in Chicago kills 1,700. The Free State of California splits into two separate states: The Free State of Northern California, and Southern California.
The Soulkiller virus, which can digitize and erase a person's mind, is developed by Alt Cunningham. A Johnny Silverhand concert held in a park across the road from an Arasaka complex in Night City ends in a riot, with 19 dead. Microtech develops the first true AI.
The NET is redesigned with the Ihara-Grubb Transformation Algorithms, which make it renderable as a geographic space analogous to the real world. A netrunner named Rache Bartmoss secretly hides a virus called DataKrash within this new architecture. In Night City battles over gang turf grow into full-blown "Metal Wars".
Lithuania hires its first cybernetically modified mercenaries, beginning a trend in global conflict. Commercial nanotech arrives.
The Third Corporate War is fought entirely online. Bioware begins appearing on the street. The O'Neill One orbital habitat is completed at LaGrange Stationary Point 5.
The first self-aware human clones are created. In Denver, researchers working for Burp Cola insert a subliminal desire for their product into a braindance experience. The subject's subsequent rampage is only ended by police after three convenience stores are demolished.
Scottish Uprising ends with over two-thirds of Scotland's forces dead in a battle with the English near the border town of Buckton.
In orbit, O'Neill One Habitat L-5 revolts and martial law is declared on Paradise Station L-4.
A nanotech Carbon Plague spreads across Night City, then stops with no explanation. Storm Technologies hires nomad packs for the Chicago Rebuilding Project.
War at sea between Aquacorps CINO and OTEC over an acquisition of the bankrupt IHAG.
The Fourth Corporate War begins between Megacorporations Arasaka and Millitech. Netrunner Rache Bartmoss dies in a corporate raid, his dead man's switch triggering the release of the DataKrash virus. By the time it is discovered, DataKrash has infected 78.2% of the NET. Arasaka begins building a secure database at their offices in Night City.
International trade breaks down due to unending war at sea. A raid on Arasaka's secure database in Night City involving Johnny Silverhand and a solo named Morgan Blackhand goes wrong, and a pocket nuke is detonated in Arasaka Towers. Half a million die in the blast, and another quarter million in the aftermath. For the next two years the sky over Night City is stained red.
The Fourth Corporate War ends. The Japanese government clamps down on Arasaka, which is restricted from doing business outside Japan for 10 years.
US President Elizabeth Kress declares a State of Emergency, and the country essentially transitions into a dictatorship.
Resettlement and reconstruction of Night City begin. CitiNets, with strictly controlled connections between them, start to replace the failing NET. Rumors spread that a fan of Johnny Silverhand recovered his body and has it in cold storage.
Massive arcologies called Mega Buildings begin being constructed. Attempts to repair what is now called the Old NET are abandoned in favor of Data Pools, which allow public access to the CitiNets. Morgan Blackhand, who was present during the raid on Arasaka alongside Johnny Silverhand, is rumored to have been seen alive.
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Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and Playboy.com, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.