Epic Games Announces Subscription Model for Unreal Engine 4

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It's no secret that Unity is one of the most accessible and user-friendly game engines out there, and it's becoming more and more advanced with each iteration. Perhaps this is beginning to make Epic Games a bit uncomfortable, as the company announced at GDC today that its heavy-hitting Unreal Engine 4 will be made available to anyone – literally, anyone – for just $19 a month. Cancel HBO, and you can make a game using pro-level tools.

Epic founder Tim Sweeney revealed the new model, pointing out that the subscription version will include everything the up-front versions have traditionally included. No shortcuts.

This is the start of something new for Epic. With Unreal Engine 4 we’re looking to wipe the slate completely clean. Everyone who subscribed to the engine gets access to the complete C++ code.

Developers and subscribers using the engine will be able to ship games on PC, Mac, Android, and iOS directly, with a payment of 5% gross revenue to Epic for their trouble.

Sweeney was particularly excited about the ease-of-use the engine offers compared to previous iterations, going so far as to say that it's the perfect tool for "high end Minecraft players." The engine allows developers to create behaviors and actions for characters without having to touch the underlying code at all, and there was even a Flappy Bird demo made by a visual artist with (supposedly) no coding knowledge whatsoever. If true, that's pretty impressive.

If Unreal Engine 4 is actually as user-friendly as Unity for just $19 a month, while retaining its signature power, then that's a big deal. Still, despite Sweeney's claim that it's no longer "just a shooter engine," it does have that stigma attached to it. Unless universities and summer camps start buying Unreal Engine 4 in bulk, then I think it's safe to say that Unity will stick around for a while.