Licensing a big, brand name 3D engine (like the Unreal engine) to build your video game has always been… kind of hard. Pricing was, generally, done on a case-by-case basis. You had to explain what you were up to, negotiate for weeks, yadda-yadda-yadda… it wasn’t exactly easy to just jump into.
Then Unity came along and turned that market on its head. Today, it seems, Epic is responding to change: their new Unreal Engine, source code and all, will start at just $19 a month.
In other words, licensing the next-gen version of the engine that powers games like Gears Of War and Mass Effect will now cost less up front than a cheap cell phone plan, instead of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Unreal Engine 4 will be able to publish games to PC, Mac, Android, or iOS (Xbox One and PS4 are supported too, but they have to license those the old fashion way)
There’s one catch, though: once you want to actually sell your game, Epic wants 5% of gross revenue. As they put it:
Anyone can ship a commercial product with UE4 by paying 5% of gross revenue resulting from sales to users. If your game makes $1,000,000, then we make $50,000.
It’s a small chunk of change in the big picture, sure — especially for something as powerful and well-known as the Unreal Engine. But remember: you’ve gotta pay Apple, or Valve, or Google, or whoever is distributing your game their cut, too. And since it’s gross revenue, you’re paying 5% on every dollar that comes in before anyone else takes their cut. If you make $10 and your distributor takes $3.00 (30%), you still owe them 5% of $10.
Here’s what you get for your $19 + 5%:
– All the Unreal Engine 4 development tools
– Full source code access on GitHub
– The documentation
– Access to a private Q/A forum where Unreal will help you work through the kinks
Epic warns that the engine in its current form is “not very polished”, suggesting that it’s only ready for platform “pioneers” at this point. If that sounds scary, they suggest checking back in about 6 months.
Ready to dive in, polished or not? You can find more info over here.