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Does Unity still have a free version?

The short answer is yes, Unity continues to provide a functional free version in 2023 and beyond. Read on for a deep dive into everything you need to know about Unity Personal and using Unity for free.

As a long-time tech geek and avid gamer myself, I‘ve enjoyed tinkering with game engines and exploring their capabilities. In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll share my insights from working with Unity for years, so you can decide if the free offering fits your needs.

Diving Into Unity Personal – What You Get and the Limits

Let‘s start by looking at what‘s included in Unity‘s free offering and some key limitations to be aware of.

Full Access to Build Games

The great news is Unity Personal grants complete access to Unity‘s robust toolset and features to build 2D and 3D games. There are no crippled or "lite" versions here – you get the full monty!

Some key capabilities provided totally free include:

  • The full-featured Unity editor
  • Support for 2D, 3D, VR, AR, and mobile development
  • Access to all core engine features and components
  • Integrated physics, audio, graphics, animations
  • Support for C# scripting and visual scripting

So with Unity Personal, you can build fully-featured games limited mainly by your skill, not the software.

Revenue and Funding Limits

Now, Unity does impose some restrictions with the free personal version. The biggest limit is on annual revenue or external funding for your studio.

Specifically, you must be under $100k in revenue/funding over the last 12 months to qualify for Unity Personal. So once you hit that threshold, you‘ll need to upgrade to a paid Unity plan.

Over 64% of game developers work alone or in teams of 1-10 people according to Statista. For these small teams and solo devs, the $100k limit may be enough for years of development on Unity Personal.

No Cloud Build Support

Another limitation to note is Unity Personal does not include cloud build support. So you‘ll need to handle builds for your target platforms yourself.

Paid Unity plans unlock features like cloud builds to Android, iOS, WebGL, and more with just a click. But with some configuration, you can still build locally for free.

No Source Code Access

Like all individual Unity plans, the Personal edition is a binary-only license. You do not get access to Unity‘s source code when using the free version.

Source code access currently requires Unity‘s Enterprise level subscription, starting at $200/month per user.

Is Unity Really Free? What‘s the Catch?

As they say, there‘s no such thing as a free lunch. So what‘s the catch with Unity Personal?

Well there‘s no hidden subscription needed or costs that kick in later. Unity Personal is 100% free for real.

But by offering new developers an easy on-ramp with Unity Personal, Unity Technologies hopes you‘ll stick with Unity as your projects grow. Then eventually upgrade to Pro or Plus plans.

So the "catch" is more like an extended free trial to get you hooked on Unity‘s workflow. With limits that encourage upgrading once your projects or studio scales up.

But for solo devs and small teams, Unity Personal may meet your needs for years before needing to upgrade.

According to Unity‘s own data, over 50% of games released on Steam were made with Unity. With that kind of adoption, Unity can afford to give the core engine away for free!

Sale Limits: Can You Sell Games Made with Unity Personal?

A common question is whether games built with Unity Personal can be sold commercially.

The answer is yes, you can absolutely sell games made with the free personal version. You retain full ownership of your games.

Again, the main limitation here is the $100k revenue limit over a trailing 12 month period.

As long as you remain under that threshold, you can sell your Unity-based games via any model:

  • Paid downloads
  • In-app purchases
  • Premium mobile apps
  • Advertising revenue

Once your sales or ad revenue exceed $100k in a year, then it‘s time to upgrade your Unity license.

Indie smash hits like Among Us, Hollow Knight, and Untitled Goose Game were all built using Unity Personal. Those teams only upgraded once revenue proved Unity‘s value.

Paid License Options Once You Outgrow Free

Let‘s say your game is taking off, your skills are advancing rapidly, and you‘re bumping into limitations of Unity Personal. What are your upgrade options?

Unity offers a range of paid licensing tiers to suit different needs:

  • Unity Pro – $399/user per year

    Adds features like team collaboration tools, customizable splash screens, and support for legacy platforms

  • Unity Plus – $499/user per year

    Includes Pro features plus cloud builds, analytics, and reduced revenue share on Asset Store sales

  • Unity Enterprise – Custom pricing

    For large studios needing source code access, premium support, security tools

Unless you specifically need capabilities like cloud builds or source code access, Unity Pro is probably the best bang for buck first upgrade for many users.

The key is that your projects aren‘t locked into Unity Personal forever. You have clear upgrade options once the free version‘s limits are reached.

Why Choose Unity for Game Development?

With so many capable game engines out there, why do over 50% of game developers choose Unity? Here are some of Unity‘s standout benefits:

Easy to Learn

Unity uses C# scripting along with intuitive visual tools. For beginners, Unity is generally much easier to learn than lower level C++ engines like Unreal.

Huge Asset Store

The Unity Asset Store offers thousands of models, environments, animations, visual scripting tools, and more to accelerate development, many free or very low cost.

Cross Platform Publishing

Build once, deploy anywhere. Unity supports publishing to all major platforms including Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, major consoles, and web.

Scalable Complexity

You can start simple making 2D mobile games and over time graduate to complex 3D, multiplayer, VR, and more. Unity scales well to different project sizes.

Strong Community

An active forum, extensive tutorials, courses, and a wealth of documentation maximizes your chances of success.

For indie developers working alone or in small teams, Unity provides an unparalleled mix of accessibility, affordability, and power.

Potential Drawbacks to Consider

However, Unity isn‘t perfect. Before diving in, it helps to consider some downsides:

Asset Store Quality Varies

Unity‘s Asset Store offers a huge selection, but asset quality is not consistent. Some assets won‘t work as expected or break with engine updates.

3D Visuals Lag Unreal

While possible, getting cutting edge 3D graphics requires more work in Unity compared to Unreal Engine. Unity is better optimized for 2D and mobile visually.

Steep Learning Curve with Coding

To unlock Unity‘s potential, you need C# scripting skills. That learning curve can be challenging for complete beginners.

Source Code Access Restricted

Without enterprise pricing, you can‘t access or modify Unity‘s source code. Open source alternatives like Godot offer source code access.

So while awesome in many ways, Unity has its downsides too. Know what you‘re getting into!

Minimum and Recommended Computer Specs

Before installing Unity, it‘s worth considering what hardware you‘ll need:

Minimum Specs

  • Intel i3 / AMD FX-6300 equivalent
  • 8GB RAM
  • NVIDIA GTX 1050 or equivalent
  • 10GB free storage space

Recommended Specs

  • Intel Core i7 / AMD Ryzen 7 or better
  • 16GB+ RAM (32GB ideal)
  • NVIDIA RTX 2060 or AMD RX 5700 or better
  • 500GB+ SSD storage

The big difference comes in RAM. While you can get by on 8GB, expect a choppy workflow. 16GB RAM or above is strongly advised.

A decent mid-range discrete GPU enables smooth scene previews. Integrated graphics struggle with more complex games.

Make sure to use a solid state drive rather than a mechanical hard drive. The faster access speeds of SSDs really improves asset import/export and overall editor responsiveness.

How Long Does it Take to Learn Unity?

Just how steep is that learning curve if you‘re new to game development and coding?

Here‘s a general guideline based on full-time effort:

  • 1-3 months to get comfortable with the Unity interface and make a basic 2D game

  • 3-6 months to expand your C# knowledge and make simple 3D games with some polish

  • 6 months – 1 year to master key workflows like animations, physics, shaders; complete a simple commercial project

  • 1-2+ years to deeply understand Unity, optimize complex games, and leverage visual scripting tools

A major factor is your existing programming knowledge. Coming in with C# skills will likely cut the ramp up time significantly.

Regardless of your starting point, learning Unity takes regular practice and patience. But countless success stories show the results are worth it!

Is Unity Right for You?

Hopefully by now you have a good sense of who Unity Personal is ideal for:

  • Complete beginners to game development
  • Hobbyists wanting to learn on capable tools
  • Indie developers working alone or in small teams
  • Anyone wanting to learn coding through game dev
  • Developers focused on 2D, mobile, or simple 3D games

For super realistic graphics or large scale MMOs, Unity may hit limits. But don‘t underestimate Unity‘s capabilities either; studios like Nintendo use Unity for major titles!

Get Started with Unity Personal Today!

Thanks for sticking with me on this deep dive into getting started with Unity game development for free using Unity Personal in 2023.

Hopefully I‘ve provided lots of insightful research and analysis to help set your expectations accurately around Unity‘s free offering.

When you‘re ready to install Unity and make your first game, head to download.unity3d.com and grab the installer.

I wish you the absolute best on your Unity game dev journey ahead! Let me know if you have any other questions.