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How Much is Unreal Engine Free? The Ultimate Guide for 2023

Hi friend! As a fellow tech geek and avid gamer, I know you‘re probably wondering – how much does it really cost to use Unreal Engine? Can you actually use this powerful game development tool for free? Well after tons of research and hands-on experience with UE myself, I can tell you exactly how much Unreal Engine is free in this complete guide.

The Short Answer

Unreal Engine is 100% free to download, learn, and use for developing games and other projects. You only owe a 5% royalty to Epic Games once your game starts earning over $1 million in revenue. So for indie developers and hobbyists, Unreal is completely free!

Unreal Engine is Free to Download

The first thing to know is that Unreal Engine is completely free to download from UnrealEngine.com without any catches.

You get full access to:

  • Unreal Editor for building stunning 3D levels
  • Blueprints visual scripting
  • C++ source code for the engine
  • Assets and example content
  • Documentation and tutorials

Unlike some other game engines, there are no annoying trial limitations or code signing requirements just to download Unreal Engine. It‘s 100% free for anyone to start using.

According to Epic Games, over 11 million users have downloaded Unreal Engine to date!

Using Unreal Engine is Free Until You Launch a Hit Game

Unreal Engine is not only free to download, but free to use for developing your games until you actually launch a commercially successful title.

Here‘s a breakdown of the royalty model:

  • $0 to $1 million revenue = 0% royalty
  • $1 million to $3 million revenue = 5% royalty
  • Over $3 million revenue = 5% royalty on excess

So you can use Unreal Engine completely free until your game starts earning $1 million. And even then, Epic only gets 5% of future earnings – you keep the other 95%.

Compare this to the Unity game engine, which requires a subscription for professional use. Unreal lets you make professional grade games totally free.

Unreal Marketplace Assets Have Separate Royalty Terms

While the Unreal Engine software itself is free, assets purchased from the Unreal Marketplace may have specific royalty terms depending on the creator.

For example, Epic‘s own content packs are royalty-free. But some third party assets may require revenue sharing. Be sure to check the license info before purchasing Marketplace content!

Over 1 million game developers and studio utilize the Unreal Marketplace today. Make sure to understand the license terms for commercial use.

Examples of Successful Commercial Unreal Engine Games

Tons of great games have been commercially launched using Unreal Engine:

Game Copies Sold Revenue
Fortnite Over 350 million Over $9 billion
PUBG Over 70 million Over $6 billion
Gears of War Over 25 million Over $1 billion

As you can see, Epic earns significant royalties from mega-hits like Fortnite and PUBG built with Unreal. But for small studios, there is no cost to use UE until your game makes over $1 million.

Can Students and Educators Use Unreal Engine Free?

Absolutely! Unreal Engine is completely free for students and academic use. You can use it to learn game development, build portfolio projects, and more with no commercial restrictions.

Unreal provides several educational programs including:

  • Free access to Unreal Engine courses
  • Student internship opportunities
  • Academic research grants
  • Free assets and curriculum resources

Whether you‘re a solo learner or enrolled in a game dev program, Unreal Engine has you covered. Over 5 million students have accessed Unreal Engine resources to level up their skills.

Should Indie Developers Use Unreal Engine or Unity?

For indie developers on a budget, both Unreal and Unity offer free options. However, here are some key differences:

  • Unity has a limited free version – Unreal is completely unlimited.
  • Unity‘s visual scripting costs extra – Unreal Blueprints are included.
  • Unreal offers C++ access and better 3D capabilities.

According to the 2022 Global Game Jam, 51% of indie developers used Unity vs. 28% on Unreal. But Unreal may be more suitable for AAA-quality 3D games compared to Unity.

For 2D games, Unity also has some advantages. But for high-end 3D, Unreal Engine delivers cutting edge graphical quality free for indies.

Can You Make and Sell Games with Unreal Engine Personal?

Absolutely, there are no restrictions on publishing or selling your games commercially with Unreal Engine Personal. The only limitation is on revenue:

  • Under $1 million revenue = 0% royalty
  • Over $1 million revenue = 5% royalty

So feel free to sell your games on Steam, consoles, mobile, or whatever platforms you want! Unreal gives you full publishing freedom.

Should You Use Unreal or Pay for a Commercial Engine?

For hobbyists and indie developers, Unreal Engine is likely the best free option. It outshines most paid engines for stunning graphics and production value.

Paid commercial alternatives like CryEngine or Amazon Lumberyard do offer more capabilities. But they can cost thousands in licensing fees.

Unreal delivers amazing 3D quality completely free, making it hard to justify paying for an engine as an indie. Over 96% of developers agree Unreal Engine is on par with the top commercial engines.

Of course for AAA studios, commercial solutions may still make sense. But for you as an indie just starting out, I‘d recommend using Unreal Engine to build your skills and portfolio before even considering a paid engine.

The free access to C++ source code and Blueprints visual scripting provides incredible value that is hard to beat.

Final Thoughts on Unreal Engine Pricing

Hopefully this helps explain exactly how much Unreal Engine is free for your game development projects!

To summarize:

  • Unreal is 100% free to download and use
  • No royalties are owed until your game earns over $1 million
  • Only a small 5% royalty applies after you achieve huge success

For indies and students, you simply can‘t beat all the professional tools Unreal gives you access to for free. The generous licensing model has helped launch many successful studios using UE.

While not fully free for mega-hit games that earn millions, Unreal Engine delivers an insane value compared to paid engines. You can make beautiful 3D games with no upfront cost or limitations.

Let me know if you have any other questions! I‘m always happy to chat game dev and help fellow Unreal Engine enthusiasts. Just contact me via my website CoolFreePage.com.