If you ask a common video game player to name a game engine, chances are they’ll name Unreal. The current iteration of the engine, Unreal Engine 4, was already a difference maker for Epic Games. Unreal 4 introduced a new subscription model if you wanted to download and start using it right away. Now Epic’s CEO, Tim Sweeney, confirmed that Unreal 4 will be completely free for anyone to use and create whatever they wish. Anyone who has paid for the engine will get $30 to use in the Unreal Marketplace, where users can exchange assets created in engine, and current subscribers will essentially get a refund for the amount of money they’ve spent subscribing to the engine.
There is a small catch however. 5% of every $3000 you earn using the free Unreal Engine 4 tool set, per fiscal quarter, must go back to Epic. This is the same as it was under the subscription model but certainly makes more sense now that everything is free.
A lot of the bigger games on the developmental horizon are already using Unreal 4 like Fable Legends, Dead Island 2, Kingdom Hearts 3, and Street Fighter V. Handing out licenses like candy should see more modern looking and feeling independent titles and better equipped students who are just now jumping into and learning video game development. As GDC ramps up this week it should be interesting to see what else Epic Games has in store and what additional information we can gleam about the future of the Unreal Engine.