The Unreal Engine Is Now Free For All Developers

In 2014, the Unreal Engine moved to something of a subscription model. If you wanted to use the engine you had to pay $19 per month. Now? Tim Sweeney of Epic Games has announced that the engine is free. Yep, the Unreal Engine has totally just gone free-to-play.

There is a slight catch. In Tim Sweeney's words:

You can download the engine and use it for everything from game development, education, architecture, and visualization to VR, film and animation. When you ship a game or application, you pay a 5% royalty on gross revenue after the first $3,000 per product, per quarter. It’s a simple arrangement in which we succeed only when you succeed.

I say 'catch', but in reality it's totally fair, and most developers are celebrating.

At the moment, most hobbyists and small development teams tend to use Unity for their gaming projects, not just because it's a great tool for making video games, but also because it's free. I suspect this move will attract many of these smaller developers to consider using the Unreal Engine for their work.

For Tim Sweeney, this is a chance to help reward and further grow the community of developers using the Unreal Engine.

The past year has been a whirlwind for everyone at Epic Games. Our community has grown tremendously. The quality and variety of creative work being done has been breathtaking. When we asked people to submit their projects to be shown this year at GDC, we had the challenge of picking just 8 from over 100 finalists that were all good enough to show.
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.

In addition: anyone who has ever paid for an Unreal Engine subscription will be provided with $30 worth of credit to spend in the Unreal Engine Marketplace.

I'm looking forward to seeing how this affects the games themselves. Will this result in an increased amount of cool, smaller projects being built? I hope so.


    Considering the Unreal Engine once cost 500k-1.5m for licensing (just a few years back) this is really amazing news. And open source to boot! The uncapped 5% royalty might be a sticking point for some devs, but you can still work out licensing fees with Epic Games to remove this. I personally don't see the 5% being a problem unless you have a wildly successful game. Considering that most games (sadly) don't make much money, I think negotiating licensing fees would be a good problem to have.

      The source code is available, which isn't quite the same as Open Source. It's still a great move by Epic though.

      Last edited 03/03/15 10:37 am

        You are right of course. I'm just excited, yaknow. :)

    That is BONKERS amazing. I can't believe how generous these guys are being, it wasn't that long ago that you'd have to plonk down a quarter mil to get access to Unreal tech, and now they're just opening it up to everyone. Such a fantastic time to be into game development!

    Also, super happy that I paid for a one month test run for $19 and get $30 credit for it.

      I wouldn't say generous, more that they were in danger of being left out of the VR revolution.

      This is great news for small players and hackers etc. and it is one less expense to worry about until you have a shipping product, then you have to factor the 5% in, but it is pretty reasonable, even if it is on gross.

    The 5% was there beforehand anyway. It's a pretty awesome deal!

    UE3 was already free, so I assume this applies to UE4 and future?

      Yep, that's really what the announcement was about: UE4 and all future upgrades are going free too!

    Really keen now to see what a complete novice like me can do. Stuff like this can only help encourage startup & bedroom developers which is great for the future of the industry.

    Wow, will be interesting to see how the Unity3D guys respond to this news.

      In my experience, UE4 has been ahead of Unity in almost every area for a while now. The biggest drawback so far has been a lack of official patch/DLC support in the engine. It's something they've had on the cards for ages now, but as it stands companies have to write their own solutions.

        So Unity is missing patch support or UE4??

          UE4 was missing patch and DLC (or extended content) support natively in the engine last I used it, which was a few months ago. At least two new versions have been released since then so it may have changed but I think it's been low priority for them so far.

            ...... and.... Unity 5 is now free as of today for devs under $100k. They must have gotten wind of the UE4 freebie earlier I reckon to make this decision so fast.

              I prefer UE4 personally, but it's a great thing for developers in both communities.

    Time to start learning level design for this engine I think :)

      The tutorials for level and scene design are excellent, and the editor itself is really solid. You'll pick it up in no time.

    So now I can go and make my own video game, with blackjack and hookers?

    ... of course this also means that any reason I cannot create a good video game is now purely my own lack of skill, patience, knowledge and talent...

    Now someone make me a sugar sweet JRPG/Survival Horror mash up just like the PSX days.


    This is a great move on their part though there is a potential loophole or problem. If the definition of "First $3000 of gross revenue" is strictly limited to sales of the game then you could go Free-To-Play where no one pays for the game itself, only extra content. If it's the revenue your company earns all up, it could be a problem if you end up paying 5% of gross revenue for things that aren't related to the game.

    Last edited 03/03/15 1:55 pm

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