Speaking at Unreal Fest 2023, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney revealed that Unreal Engine will transition into "a licensable piece of software like Maya or Photoshop," adopting a subscription-based pricing model. Studios employing Unreal Engine for non-gaming purposes, such as animation, VFX, and visualization, will soon face charges through a "seat-based enterprise software licensing model."
This announcement has understandably raised concerns among creatives, especially independent filmmakers and non-professional users. Unreal Engine, originally designed as a gaming graphics engine, has become an indispensable tool for real-time rendering and virtual production across various industries. Independent filmmakers, in particular, have come to rely on it for its capabilities, often on limited budgets.
To address some of the concerns, Sweeney clarified that minimum revenue thresholds for commercial projects will be implemented for subscription charges. Additionally, student and educator use of Unreal Engine will remain free, ensuring accessibility for educational purposes.
While specific details about the revenue thresholds and pricing terms remain undisclosed, Sweeney assured that the pricing structure will be neither "unusually expensive nor unusually inexpensive." Importantly, this change will not affect game developers, who will continue to pay a 5 percent royalty rate after their revenue surpasses $1 million.
Sweeney's decision to announce these changes in advance reflects Epic Games' commitment to transparency. While some argue that the move was inevitable, given the engine's growing significance outside gaming, others express concerns about affordability, particularly for creators in regions with economic challenges.
In conclusion, Tim Sweeney framed this moment as a pivotal turning point for Epic Games. The company is committed to operating differently and ensuring stability moving forward. While change can be unsettling, Epic Games promises to support developers through the highs and lows as they navigate this new phase in their journey. The evolving pricing model for Unreal Engine reflects the company's determination to adapt to industry standards while continuing to innovate and pursue ambitious projects like the metaverse.