Some of the developers behind the open-source Godot engine have banded together to form W4 Games. The studio is a commercial enterprise intended to support the Godot engine and help developers achieve things they otherwise couldn't, like console ports or enterprise support plans.
What will W4 Games bring to Godot?
Big commercial engines might be making moves, but don't count open-source alternative Godot out just yet, especially not now that supporting company W4 Games has been formed. In its official announcement post, W4 Games describes itself as a way to support Godot developers and enterprises with "a complementary suite of commercial products and services". These services are intended to help developers with things the engine isn't able to do itself; since it's an open-source product, there are certain features offered by commercial engines that are closed off to Godot developers.
The W4 Games FAQ page explains a little more about how the company will work and how it's tied to Godot. Although it's the brainchild of Godot developers, the company does not own Godot and does not control its development. W4 is also at great pains to reassure users that the engine "is owned collectively by those who contribute code to it". W4 says it can offer a way to "satisfy commercial needs of the corporate game industry that are currently unaddressed" by Godot.
Perhaps the biggest example of this would be console porting. For legal reasons, it's difficult to port Godot games to consoles (as helpfully explained by this official FAQ page), but since W4 Games is a commercial enterprise without the same restrictions as an open-source piece of software, it doesn't run into this problem. That's why W4 can help devs port their Godot games to consoles. W4 says it's inspired by the Red Hat business model, which is all about creating commercial enterprises solely for the purpose of supporting open-source development. The company says it doesn't intend to "monopolize commercial services and products" behind Godot, nor does it have any intention of taking over funding or forcing the engine to follow the W4 commercial agenda. This will no doubt come as good news for anyone who feared Godot wouldn't stay open-source.
For its first trick, W4 has announced that it's donating Direct3D 12 support to Godot. The company says this is part of keeping its word to donate "anything that can be legally open sourced", so this implementation of a rendering device for Direct3D 12 should help devs create games more effectively. Authored by Pedro Estébanez, the code brings extra support for Windows, the Microsoft GDK, and other platforms to Godot 4.0, as well as potentially laying the groundwork for the engine on Xbox. Since Godot is open-source, the contribution will need to be approved by consensus, so we'll have to wait and see whether that happens (although it's hard to see why it wouldn't).
What exactly is Godot?
If you've heard of engines like Unity, Unreal, or GameMaker, then you know roughly what Godot is. It's a game engine that, unlike those examples, is completely open-source, meaning anybody can use it without needing to pay a license fee. While some studios create their own engines, other developers might not have the inclination or resources to do so, nor might they have the money to pay for expensive engine licenses that can sometimes be needed. That's where projects like Godot come in.
Godot may not quite be hitting Unity levels of popularity yet, but it's becoming more and more commonplace among developers. The popular Game Maker's Toolkit game jam saw Godot usage rise by over 2% this year when compared to 2021, and some high-profile projects like Sonic Colors: Ultimate have used it, too. The creation of W4 Games could well lead more developers towards the engine, as it might make console porting and other important features seem more attainable. We'll see whether that shift becomes a reality or not as W4 settles into its operation and time goes by.