A year ago, Epic Games decided to cut the amount of revenue it collected from developers who used its Unreal Engine platform and game development tools in an effort to attract smaller developers. But at GDC 2015, Epic is taking things a step further and making Unreal Engine 4 (as well as any future updates) completely free up front to build games with, though it'll still take a cut of game revenue.
"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," said Epic founder and CEO Tim Sweeney on the company’s blog. "That’s why we’re taking away the last barrier to entry, and going free." Various versions of Unreal Engine have been used to power dozens of high-profile games like BioShock Infinite, Batman: Arkham Asylum and its sequels, the Gears of War series, and even Goat Simulator.
While Epic will still be taking some revenue from game developers using Unreal Engine, the changes Epic made to its revenue structure means a lot more money will be staying in the pocket of those who make successful games. After a game grosses $3,000 in revenue, Epic will take 5 percent per quarter; before last year, the company took 25 percent of revenue after a game grossed $50,000. While a lot of developers probably were pleased to see Epic dramatically reduce the percentage of revenue it would collect, the fact that the company is starting to collect it so much earlier indicates the company was hoping to capitalize on a lot indie developers who might never come close to that older $50,000 threshold.
The company introduced that new revenue agreement at the same time as it announced that developers could sign up for a $19 monthly subscription to have access to Unreal Engine. Sweeney said that the company has seen huge community growth since last year, something that should continue now that there’s basically no barrier to a developer building a game with Unreal.