It was just a year ago that Epic Games announced an affordable subscription plan for Unreal Engine 4. Now, the game development engine is so affordable that competitors like Unity and Crytek are assuredly raising their eyebrows. Unreal Engine 4 is now completely free for everyone, and will only cost money when a console, PC, or mobile game is shipped and starts making money.
Unreal Engine 4 is now available to download for free from the engine’s official website. Those who signed up for the $19 a month subscription will receive pro-rated refund and a $30 credit at the Unreal Engine Marketplace. Previously, students could have free access to Unreal Engine 4 and that was only after gaining approval from a teacher or administrator.
How will Epic Games make money from Unreal Engine 4 then? The 5 percent royalty on gross revenue after the first $3,000 per product, per quarter remains in place along with a cut of the assets and code sold on the Unreal Engine Marketplace. There are no royalty payment requirements for film projects or contracting and consulting projects like architecture, simulation, and visualization.
There is potentially more money to be earned through the royalty and marketplace transaction revenue streams than a $240 a year subscription per developer. By removing the barrier to entry, Epic Games is putting Unreal Engine in the hands of developers and opening up these revenue streams. In short, it’s not because of a lack of adoption.
“The state of Unreal is strong, and we’ve realized that as we take away barriers, more people are able to fulfill their creative visions and shape the future of the medium we love. That’s why we’re taking away the last barrier to entry, and going free,” Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney wrote in a blog post.
By comparison, competitors like Unity offer a free limited toolset to developers. There is also Unity Pro available for $75 a month, but does not come with any royalty payment requirements. Meanwhile, Crytek offers CryEngine for $9.90 a month, without any additional fees or royalties.
The fact that Unity and CryEngine do not require royalty payments is their primary selling point to game developers as they can add up quickly if a game is successful. However, Epic appears to be intent on getting the Unreal Engine 4 into the hands of as many existing and potential developers as possible.
“This is the complete technology we use at Epic when building our own games. It scales from indie projects to high-end blockbusters; it supports all the major platforms; and it includes 100% of the C++ source code,” Sweeney added.
Games like the now free-to-play Fable Legends, Fortnite, and Gears of War all use Unreal Engine 4. We also have already seen some stunning independent projects such as the recreation of the dorm in Rockstar’s Bully and the Temple of Time from The Legend of Zelda.
There’s also the burgeoning Virtual Reality (VR) market to consider. Valve just announced a partnership with HTC for a VR headset while the Oculus Rift from Facebook and Morpheus from Sony are also incoming.
Expect to hear more details on Unreal Engine 4 from Epic Games’ presentation at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) on Wednesday.
[Image via Unreal Engine]
[Edit: Added videos for Unreal Engine Sizzle Reel and message from Tim Sweeney. Corrected list of games using UE4.]