The Witcher 4 is now in development – will be using Unreal Engine 5

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CD Projekt Red has confirmed that The Witcher 4, or whatever it ends up being called, is now in development, and that it will be “kicking off a new saga for the franchise.” However, there’s no development time frame or release date at this time.

One interesting point about this announcement is that CDPR will be moving on from their in-house REDengine, which has been built up over the years and used for both The Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk 2077. Instead they’ve signed “a multi-year strategic partnership with Epic Games” and will be transitioning to Unreal Engine 5. This will include not just licensing the engine, but also technical development to help Epic tailor their game engine to suit open world games.

Cyberpunk 2077’s continued development and the upcoming PS5 and Xbox Series X|S enhanced version of The Witcher 3 will both continue to run on REDengine, of course.

CD Projekt Red has been pretty coy when talking about the next main The Witcher game, though has publicly acknowledged that one is planned for several years now. Back in 2020, CDPR said that development on the new game would only start after the completion of Cyberpunk 2077, and it was fairly obvious that they would return to the popular fantasy universe after the blockbusting success of The Witcher 3 and the bump in interest and engagement with the franchise after the live action series aired on Netflix. It’s even led to the creation of WitcherCon.

However, given today’s announcement, you’d have to expect that the studio is right at the very beginning of development. Cyberpunk 2077’s release was very problematic for the company, failing to meet performance expectations on consoles and leading to them having to pull the game from sale on PlayStation until they could rectify the situation. The game is now in a completely different state, thanks to over a year of further development in order to bring the game natively to PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S. It’s pretty much now that you can say that Cyberpunk 2077 development has actually finished.

Switching game engine is also not something you can really do mid-development, as an awful lot of existing work would have to be thrown out. It is interesting that CDPR are switching to such a commonly used game engine though, given their history of building in-house. It’s likely that they’ve analysed the difficulties of development through Cyberpunk 2077, where having a game engine that is being built alongside development can often cause significant issues – just look at Mass Effect Andromeda’s use of the Frostbite engine as another example of how this can go wrong and be very time consuming. In switching to Unreal Engine 5, CDPR have an established, very mature and very well resourced game engine that has grown into as close as you can get to an industry standard.

Source: CD Projekt Red

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