Atari bought Cryptic Studios in the fall of 2009. In late August 2010, Atari announced Neverwinter, to be developed by Cryptic Studios, with a release scheduled for late 2011. They revealed that the game would coincide with a multi-media event revolving around the city of Neverwinter, including the release of four books (one already in stores), a co-operative board game and a Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game being released to promote the launch of the MMORPG. In May 2011, Atari announced that it would be selling Cryptic Studios, stating that development of Neverwinter would continue as normal, but only for the time being.
The game was first publicly displayed at E3 2011, where many details about the game were revealed. The game was originally scheduled to be released as a cross media event coinciding with the release of a series of four books by fantasy author R.A. Salvatore and a tabletop game from Wizards of the Coast. Due to Cryptic's acquisition by Perfect World Entertainment, Neverwinter was delayed to 2012. Perfect World also bought the rights to publish the game from Atari, coinciding with the conclusion of Atari's lawsuit with Wizards of the Coast on the Dungeons & Dragons license. Perfect World announced that Neverwinter had shifted from the co-operative multiplayer game that was announced the previous year into a free-to-play MMORPG on October 5, 2011. This further delayed the game to late 2012. Perfect World would later again delay Neverwinter into early 2013 to better polish the game.