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The next Witcher game is in development

CD Projekt Red switching to Unreal Engine 5

A lynx-shaped Witcher medallion with glowing red eyes lying on snow Image: CD Projekt Red
Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

The next entry in The Witcher, the role-playing game franchise adapted from the eponymous series of fantasy novels and short stories by Andrzej Sapkowski, is currently in development at CD Projekt Red, the studio announced Monday.

CD Projekt Red did not provide any information on platforms or a release window, but did release a teaser image for the game that may eventually be known as The Witcher 4: a witcher medallion with glowing red eyes, partially covered by a field of snow, with the tagline “A New Saga Begins.”

In addition, CD Projekt Red said that instead of its in-house RedEngine, the studio is switching to Unreal Engine 5 for the follow-up to 2015’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The move comes as part of a “multi-year strategic partnership with Epic Games,” the maker of the Unreal Engine, CD Projekt Red said in a news release.

That doesn’t mean that publisher CD Projekt will sell the next Witcher game exclusively via the Epic Games Store — the company is “not planning on making the game exclusive to one storefront,” it said in a Twitter reply from the Witcher franchise’s official account.

Instead, CD Projekt Red’s partnership with Epic Games “covers not only licensing, but technical development of Unreal Engine 5, as well as potential future versions of Unreal Engine, where relevant,” according to the news release. In addition, developers from the Polish studio will work with Epic to “help tailor the engine for open-world experiences.”

Open-world gaming appears to be a major focus for Unreal Engine 5. Two of the engine’s most impressive proofs of concept — “Lumen in the Land of Nanite,” a PlayStation 5 tech demo released six months prior to the console’s launch, and The Matrix Awakens, which Epic released free on PS5 and Xbox Series X in December — were designed to show off the ways in which the technology can make a new generation of open-world games possible.

“We are deeply honored by the opportunity to partner with CD PROJEKT RED to push the limits of interactive storytelling and gameplay together, and this effort will benefit the developer community for years to come,” said Tim Sweeney, founder and CEO of Epic Games.

There’s another key element of this arrangement, too: easing some of the technological burden of developing the next Witcher game. Considering the sorry state in which the long-gestating Cyberpunk 2077 launched, that seems like a smart move on CD Projekt Red’s part.

“One of the core aspects of our internal RED 2.0 Transformation is a much stronger focus on technology, and our cooperation with Epic Games is based on this principle,” Paweł Zawodny, chief technology officer at CD Projekt Red, said in a statement. He added, “It is vital for CD PROJEKT RED to have the technical direction of our next game decided from the earliest possible phase as; in the past, we spent a lot of resources and energy to evolve and adapt REDengine with every subsequent game release. This cooperation is so exciting, because it will elevate development predictability and efficiency, while simultaneously granting us access to cutting-edge game development tools.”

For now, the next Witcher game is the only CD Projekt Red title under this partnership with Epic. CD Projekt Red confirmed Monday that the previously announced expansion for Cyberpunk 2077 is still being developed in the RedEngine, the same technology behind the base game. The studio released Cyberpunk 2077’s proper next-gen update last month.