Unreal Engine 4, the newest version of the game engine that powers many a AAA gaming title, just got a feature that may prove quite important in the near feature: the ability to build games that run on Linux.
This news comes just weeks after the entry fee for making an Unreal Engine-powered game got slashed considerably. Instead of requiring weeks of licensing negotiation and hundreds of thousands of dollars up front, Epic Games decided to license Unreal Engine 4 to developers for $19 a month (plus 5 percent of gross revenue).
That news (and this move into Linux to some extent) are almost certainly meant to help Epic secure their footing among indie developers — a market that a relative newcomer, Unity, has managed to get a pretty solid grasp on. With past releases of the Unreal engine, Epic largely focused on licensing to huge development houses. As the costs of game development plunge and things like the App Store/Google Play/Steam make self publishing an incredibly viable option, however, indie developers are more important than ever.
With this addition, Unreal Engine 4 is able to build games for OS X, Windows, iOS, Android, and Linux.
“Why does this Linux addition matter?” you might ask. “Doesn’t Linux account for something like 2% of the desktop OS usage?”
Yep. For now.
While many a Linux devotee would have said “It’s going to be big, soon!” for most of the last decade, there’s one key thing on the horizon that’s different this time: Valve’s Steam Machines.
For the last year or so, Valve has been working with third parties on a line of pre-built PCs primarily purposed for the living room. Dubbing the line “Steam Machines,” Valve is trying to take the perks of a PC and pack them into the small, convenient package of a console. It’s building its own controller and their own OS.
That OS, aptly called “SteamOS,” is Linux-based. If Valve’s Steam Machines see any sort of success, Linux support will be a must-have.