Last year, Unreal Engine 4 switched to a $19/month subscription (opens in new tab) plan. It was the first in a couple of attempts to coax indie developers away from Unity—and CryEngine announced their own (opens in new tab) low cost subscription soon after.
This year, Epic is going a step further. The studio has just announced that Unreal Engine 4 is available for free, along with all future updates.
"You can download the engine and use it for everything from game development, education, architecture, and visualization to VR, film and animation," writes Epic's Tim Sweeney (opens in new tab). "When you ship a game or application, you pay a 5% royalty on gross revenue after the first $3,000 per product, per quarter. It’s a simple arrangement in which we succeed only when you succeed."
Later in the announcement, Sweeney hints at what prompted the switch. "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. That’s why we’re taking away the last barrier to entry, and going free."
According to Sweeney, anyone who has paid for a UE4 subscription will receive $30 credit to spend in the Unreal Engine Marketplace.
This is potentially a huge deal. Unreal Engine is a flexible tool, and now everybody has free access. Some—ie. me—will be too unbearably stupid to do anything with it. Others could potentially create great things, and there's very little that can now stop them.