updated 04:58 pm EDT, Wed March 19, 2014
Monthly fee, royalty payments a vast change from previous Unreal Engine licensing scheme
Epic Games is updating the way it charges for access to its game technology, by offering Unreal Engine 4 for a monthly fee. Instead of making an arrangement to pay potentially millions of dollars for the engine's use in a game, Epic is instead providing it for a subscription of $19 per month, as well as a five-percent cut of royalties from gross revenues.
Developers opting for the new subscription scheme will receive access to all the Unreal Engine 4 development tools, full source code access on GitHub, documentation for the engine, access to a private forum for support, and regular updates, reports TechCrunch. Titles created using the engine can be published to the PC, Mac, Android, and iOS platforms, and though it is possible to create titles for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, developers will still have to negotiate a separate license with Epic to do so.
The company does warn that the first release of Unreal Engine 4 will not be polished, and requires a high-specification machine in order to run. Mac OS X support apparently has not undergone "serious developer testing," and is required for iOS deployment, while Android support is said to be "rough and hasn't undergone compatibility testing." Current requirements list a quad-core processor at 2.5GHz or faster, an Nvidia GeForce 470 GTX or AMD Radeon 6870 HD series card or higher, and 8GB of RAM, along with either Windows 7 64-bit or Mac OS X 10.9.2 or later.
The change in payment structure is an attempt to increase the number of independent developers using the engine, founder Tim Sweeney explains in a blog post. "Epic's goal is to put the engine within reach of everyone interested in building games and 3D content, from indies to large triple-A development teams, and Minecraft developers as well," writes Sweeney.
With the rise of the use of low-cost game engines in mobile titles, such as Unity and its $1,500 flat fee or $75 per month for use of the Unity 5 engine, Epic seems to be trying to make sure it has relevance in mobile gaming and gaming in general by making itself attractive to developers who would not have had the vast resources to license the engine under the company's previous model.