Epic Games has blown open the doors to Unreal Engine 4, making its platform free to use for all developers.
Epic made the announcement during this year’s GDC, saying it wants to “take away barriers” so that more developers can “fulfil their creative visions and shape the future of the medium they love.”
Unreal Engine won’t be completely free. Developers will have to give Epic a cut of their revenues. Right now that’s 5% per quarter after the first $3,000 a game makes – an improvement over Epic’s previous cut of 25% after $50,000 in revenue, and certainly an effort to generate revenues from lower-earning indie devs.
Epic Games’ founder Tim Sweeney said:
Yet in Epic’s 25 years as an independent company, we have seen no time of greater opportunity for developers than today. Whatever your development aspirations, Epic stands with you, both as a technology provider, and as a fellow game developer counting on UE4 to power our own games.
But of course, this decision should be seen in the context of Epic’s fight against Unity. Before the mobile game revolution, Epic was riding high, with Unreal Engine winning the biggest slice of the middleware pie when it came to big budget console games. But Epic has struggled to gain a foothold with smaller indie devs who proved instrumental in the rise of iOS and Android gaming.
This has been partly down to pricing, which Epic made an effort to address when it dropped Unreal Engine 4’s price down to $19.99 per month (compared to Unity’s cost of $75 per month). The decision to make Unreal Engine 4 free is an even bolder move and will put pressure on Unity to lower its subscription fee.