Unreal Engine goes free: The Developers' Reaction

Leading game-makers and more ponder Epic Games’ surprise decision to drop subscriptions for its technology
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Yesterday, Epic Games announced that Unreal Engine 4 will now be available to everyone for free.

The five per cent royalty fee remains, but it means that everyone from games developers to educators and consumers can access this high-end game engine – and its source code – for absolutely nothing.

Such a bold move is certain to have a significant impact on the games development community, so Develop asked some of the biggest names in game-making how they felt about the news.

Got something to say? Why not add you thoughts in the comments below? 

Rami Ismail, Vlambeer
This is huge news. A lot of developers are self-taught and developer preferences for structures and workflows are relatively young. Until this announcement, the entire younger developer audience went with Unity because it costs nothing to get started with. In that regard, Unreal Engine has always been fighting the tough fight of having to offer so much extra value that it convinces people to leave a very familiar environment. Very few developers switch toolsets unless very specific requirements force them to.

Now, Unreal Engine can start making a serious play for games development in an age of more democratised and more accessible game development. This is how Unreal Engine has finally become a competitor to Unity, instead of an edge case you head for when Unity can’t do what you want.

More commonly used tools is an exciting prospect to me: not only does it force competitors to keep pushing their toolkits, it also ensures that more diverse games will be made.

Garry Newman, Facepunch Studios
Great news for all developers, as well as the entire industry. It means that the people starting out are using the same tools as the professionals. It's exciting stuff and it shows the bold forward thinking that has got Epic where they are today. 

Alex Ward, Three Fields Entertainment
This is fantastic news. Exactly 12 months ago, a small group of us left Electronic Arts to form Three Fields Entertainment. We were tired and frustrated of using ageing tools and technology with poor workflows. Switching to UE4 gives everyone the chance to stop wasting time on the wrong stuff and get on with making the right stuff better - the game itself. 

Simon Roth, Machines Studios
I think it's a great step forward and a smart business move for them. Reducing the cost barrier will bring more users to Unreal and potentially more profitable projects for them. The subscription fee was small, but even with a token amount the cost was a mental barrier to small indie studios and one man bands.

It will no doubt be a huge benefit to users of other engines too, specifically indies. With this direct competition from Epic, Unity Technologies will likely redouble their efforts on the upcoming Unity 5 release.

From this point onwards engine technology is no longer a barrier to entry in game development, so what I'm hoping for now is that this attitude can extend into the tools arena. The likes of Adobe, Pixologic and Autodesk could bring in a lot of users if they adopted a more thoughtful approach to their software licensing for small businesses.

Richard Wilson, TIGA
The decision to drop the subscription for the Unreal Engine and to make the engine available for free is great news for developers. It will mean that more developers can access, employ and utilise this excellent engine. More developers will be able to use this great engine to make great games. 

Mitu Khandaker-Kokoris, The Tiniest Shark
I think it’s fantastic news. The wider selection of free tools there are, the better. Hopefully, this will attract more people to making games for whom it just wasn’t financially accessible before. And, of course, the more people there are from all kinds of backgrounds making games, the better it is for the future of our medium. So kudos to Epic!

Sylvain Cornillon, Bossa Studios
Everything that makes game engines more affordable is a positive thing for game developers. This makes it a lot easier for indies who take a while to get their games out while living on a shoe string.

For more GDC 2015 news, head to www.develop-onlinet.net/gdc

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