Remake vs remaster – what BOTH mean for The Witcher

While most are preoccupied with The Witcher ‘remake’ from Cavill to Hemsworth, CD Projekt Red (CDPR) is more preoccupied with a more pressing remake AND a re-master (aka next-gen update for The Witcher 3.

Personally, I think a better question is why are CDPR working on making the same, previously released games twice, instead of doing literally anything new? Why is CDPR becoming renowned for taking insanely long to deliver a title, particularly a tech/GFX upgrade (two years)?

The situation

Look, I LOVED The Witcher 3. I thoroughly LOVE The Witcher as an IP. However, when I wanted to go deeper into what CDPR is currently queuing up for the game series, I wanted to know why I was bouncing back and forth between a remake and a remaster.

I had honestly forgotten entirely that they were remastering Witcher 3.

The details

First, let’s just break down the fact that a remake and a remaster are entirely different things.

A remake is a complete rebuild of a previously released title that often involves a VFX and tech upgrade. It also means it will be re-created with new player mechanics, modern gameplay methodology and systems, better AI, etc. All this makes it effectively a truly and significantly new gaming experience. For example, Ubisoft is ‘remaking’ Splinter Cell with new mechanics, non-linear gameplay, upgraded AI, behaviors, physics, mechanics abilities, missions, etc.

A remaster typically means simply a GFX, visual and cosmetic upgrade to the existing game which, for the most part, has nothing or little else new. Exactly like a remaster of an album or song that was recorded in a particular vintage and then remastered with new, modern recording and hi-fi audio technology.

Final Fantasy 7 Remake demo is finally available for PS4
The Final Fantasy VII Remake is lauded as one of the best examples of an older game made modern.  Image by Square Enix

Technology changes so rapidly that publishers and devs feel that their most acclaimed titles deserve modern treatment. They want to share with players how that amazing game would look if it had been born under an entirely new and future-forward technology, graphics, and sound environment. The downside is that it usually takes the place of something truly new in a beloved IP or franchise but – if the fandom is strong enough – the remakes can do extremely well. Take the Final Fantasy VII remake, for example.

The original The Witcher game is getting a remake:

On Oct. 26, 2022, CDPR announced that the original installment of the beloved The Witcher series was getting a complete remake on the emerging, next-gen Unreal 5 engine. I never actually played the earlier games in The Witcher but I was intrigued. When Ubi’s remake of Splinter Cell hit my radar, it spurred me to pick up every title in the franchise thus far. I personally hate going back and playing old games with crappy graphics (by today’s standards). I’m sure I’ll win with the retro purists on that one.

When these remakes are announced it’s like a little ‘second chance’ for me to experience that joy but with a modern treatment. I’m not alone in that – the numbers prove it time and time again.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is getting a re-master:

The Witcher 3 is getting the other version of the ‘do-over’ – a remake aka “next-gen update.”

I loved The Witcher 3. It was one of the first games my wife and I co-played, and it was such a great storied and masterful experience that I would easily go back and re-play it as-is. So why would I want to go and re-pay for it?

I wouldn’t, and CDPR knows that.

When they announced the re-master on Sept. 4, 2020, they also shared that it would be a free upgrade for anyone with a previously purchased copy for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Of course, in true CDPR fashion, that was over two years ago and this month we finally got the release date of Dec. 14, 2022. The gaming community is beginning to believe that monstrous delays are simply part of CDPR’s marketing strategy.

What it means for gamers

If you’re on PC, PlayStation 5, or Xbox Series S/X and ever purchased The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt for PC, Xbox One, or PlayStation 4, you’ll want to at least grab the next-gen upgrade for your current platform next month. With the Dec. 14 release date comes raytracing, new ambient occlusion and dynamic resource scaling (hardware performance), ‘Ultra Plus’ LOD and GFX settings, and more.

It will make for a great replay and there are at least a few new features coming like photo mode, new content, DLC, and cross-progression saving.

Regarding the Witcher Remake, I’d say it means at least two to three years of waiting, starts and stops, and the characteristic long dev times that CDPR is becoming widely known for. As much as I want to be excited about a remake of The Witcher – I must be honest in saying I don’t have high expectations given the company’s recent track record. I truly hate to say that. It’s not what I wish but we would be foolish to pretend that CDPR has done literally anything within two years on a timeline and certainly not without many issues.

I would find it far more likely that gamers completely forget about this and move on, with the title and its ‘remade modern features’ becoming obsolete before it ever hits the shelves.

I’d LOVE to be proven wrong about that and I’m hopeful to the end – but only time will tell.​


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Brad is a lifelong gamer, 12 year veteran of the gaming and esports marketing industry and owner/founder of TwinsticksAndTies.com where his passion for the business of gaming takes form. As a writer, Twitch and Instagram influencer and industry professional, Brad has produced bylines and content work for Walmart Gaming, SQUAD and Northern Arena to name a few.
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