On Monday, Epic Games announced that its Unreal Engine 4 game and graphics creation solution, which had previously launched with a subscription fee of $19 per month, would be free to download and use. Now if you want to play around making games with Epic’s engine, you no longer have to shell out for a solo subscription, stick with a company’s subscription, or even pretend to be a student.
Epic CEO Tim Sweeney confirmed the details in a blog post saying everyone now has free access to the engine’s full toolset, along with the Unreal Engine Marketplace, which allows users to buy and sell custom art and programming assets. “This is all the technology we use at Epic when building our own games,” added Sweeney. He confirmed that current subscribers will receive a prorated refund effective immediately and that anyone who ever paid for the engine will receive a $30 credit on the Unreal Engine Marketplace. Yes, that’s $30 for everyoneregardless of how many hundreds of dollars you’ve already pumped into subscription fees.
What hasn’t changed is the other, potentially more expensive aspect of building a game in Unreal, which is that the creators of a completed UE4 game owe Epic five percent of a game’s revenue after the first $3,000 they each earn quarterly. Those fees were in effect while Epic also pushed for a monthly subscription fee that rose to $240 per year. By comparison, Unity Pro, the industry’s current leader in cross-platform development tools, costs game makers $75 a month to use, but it has no follow-up payment requirements. (The lesser toolset, simply called Unity, is free to use with no strings attached.)
In September, Epic began removing the subscription requirement by giving students free access to the toolset, but those students could only log into UE4 by receiving credentials from an approved teacher or administrator. Now any hopeful game maker can just go to unrealengine.com, sign up and download. If Epic coughs up more details at its Game Developers Conference keynote on Wednesday, we’ll let you know.