Epic converts Unreal Engine to subscription service

$19 monthly fee and 5% of gross revenues gets any developer complete source code, full access to latest version of engine

Much of Epic Games' business in recent years has come from licensing the various iterations of the Unreal Engine to developers in the AAA space. But with so much of the industry's focus now happening outside that space, Epic founder and CEO Tim Sweeney today announced an overhaul to the traditional Unreal Engine business model.

Beginning today, developers can forego the one-time Unreal Engine licensing fee in favor of a subscription service that will see them pay $19 a month, plus 5 percent of all gross revenues for whatever project they make with it (including any money from microtransactions, downloadable content, or game subscriptions). As part of the subscription fee, developers will get complete access to the Unreal Engine toolset and C++ source code, along with the ability to modify and share code with other subscribers. The program has rolled out with support for PC, Mac, iOS, and Android projects, with more platforms planned in the future.

Sweeney said he would like to extend it to consoles as well, but there are various non-disclosure agreements in place that prevent Epic from freely providing the source code for its console engines. The company hopes to work with Sony and Microsoft to find an acceptable solution to that sticking point, but in the meantime, console developers will still need to negotiate custom license terms. (Developers on other platforms who don't want to commit to giving up royalties to Epic still have the option to negotiate their own Unreal Engine deals under the old business model as well.)

"Our whole business model is structured so that we succeed with this only if our developers succeed in making great games," Sweeney said.

Sweeney said this was just the beginning, and astute developers will be able to see indications of where Epic is headed in the current source code. The first moves to support Linux and SteamOS are in there, as well as support for HTML 5.

"It gives absolutely every developer on earth economical access to everything we have when we develop a game internally," Sweeney said.

Registration for the program has opened up at Epic's official website.

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Latest comments (8)

Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee6 years ago
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.6 years ago
Quite possibly one of the best moves they've made in many, many years.
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I would love to see a free version or a trail so devs can maybe play around with it first then decide. But at $19, even a home dev can afford to pick it up for even a month thanks to the cancel at any time deal.
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Show all comments (8)
Jordi Rovira i Bonet Lead Engineer, Anticto6 years ago
Great move, and very according to the industry evolution.

I can hear from here so many other technology developers suddenly cleaning up and commenting their code in a rush to be able to release it as well.
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Jamie Read 3D Artist, Neon Play Ltd6 years ago
I heard if you aren't worried about monthly updates, you can pay $19 > cancel subscription instantly > keep that version for non-commercial work forever?.. If there is a big update that interests you, you can re-subscribe > update > keep the new version.
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robert troughton Managing Director, Coconut Lizard6 years ago
There are other aspects of this as well that the community is going to love... UE4 is just incredibly easy to use. Small indie teams can very quickly create small prototypes and complete games - but without AAA developers having to suffer at their expense. It's really the best of both worlds.
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Nuttachai Tipprasert Programmer 6 years ago
My experiences with UE3 was not that good. It was one hell a difficult tool to learn/use if you were not planing to make FPS games. But I heard a lot of praise for UE4 recently. Maybe I will check it out sometime later.
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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship6 years ago
Makes it very attractive for indies. Unity has an unavoidable big up front cost, even their subscription models tie you into a year of subscriptions. No trial, but as others have said you can sub for a month and cancel while you evaluate. The 5% gross revenue share seems a fair trade to people trying to bootstrap and run as cheaply as possible.
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