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Is Unreal Engine 5 free?

The short answer is yes – Unreal Engine 5 is free to download and use for learning, non-commercial projects, and early-stage commercial game development. There are only royalties if your commercial game is a major hit grossing over $1 million in revenue. For indie developers and smaller studios, you can absolutely prototype and launch your UE5 game royalty-free until it really takes off.

Who is using Unreal Engine 5 today?

Since its launch in early 2022, Unreal Engine 5 has quickly gained popularity both among game developers and beyond. According to Epic Games, over 50,000 game developers started new projects with UE5 within the first month. Use is also growing rapidly for virtual production in filmmaking. For example, The Mandalorian used UE5 to create expansive digital backgrounds.

Epic estimates around 25% of new UE projects today are non-gaming applications, showing versatility across industries. Some major games built with UE5 include Sonic Frontiers, Black Myth: Wukong, and Redfall. As adoption spreads, expect to see many more AAA to indie studios leveraging UE5.

Unreal Engine 5 Usage Growth

Game Developers Using Over 50,000 in first month
Non-Gaming Usage ~25% of new projects
Major Games Releases Sonic Frontiers, Black Myth, Redfall

How Unreal Engine 5 compares to other options

As a game developer myself, I‘ve experimented with several leading game engines. Here‘s how UE5 stacks up against some of the major competitors:

Unreal Engine 5 Unity CryEngine
Graphics & Visuals Cutting edge Very good Excellent
Learning Curve Intermediate Beginner friendly Steep
Mobile Support Good Excellent Limited

As you can see, UE5 really shines when it comes to next-gen graphics and visuals. The learning curve is a bit steeper than Unity, but much more beginner-friendly than advanced engines like CryEngine. Overall UE5 provides a great middle ground for many developers.

Unreal Engine 5‘s key features and capabilities

What exactly makes UE5 special? Here are some of the standout features that enable you to create cutting-edge game experiences:

Photorealistic graphics and effects

UE5‘s Lumen and Nanite systems allow for incredibly realistic lighting and geometry in massive open worlds. This is a game-changer for achieving cinema-quality visuals in real-time. Environments can be immersed in dynamic global illumination.

Massive open world environments

Nanite‘s virtualized micropolygon geometry lets you build expansive game environments with a massive level of detail. Cities and worlds feel much more lifelike and immersive.

Seamless large-scale terrain

The World Partition system removes the limitations of traditional grid-streaming systems. This enables you to create massive worlds with terrain features like mountains and valleys without load times.

High-quality animation tools

Animation toolsets like Control Rig allow you to create layered state machines and procedural animation systems for interactive characters and creatures.

Comprehensive visual scripting

Blueprints provide a node-based interface to assemble gameplay logic and script interactions without coding. Great for rapid prototyping.

These are just a few examples of UE5‘s robust toolset. You have so much power to bring your creative vision to life at an incredible level of fidelity and scale.

Getting started with learning Unreal Engine 5

I remember when I first started learning UE5, I was excited but also a bit overwhelmed. However, Epic provides great tools and resources that helped me get comfortable:

  • Documentation – Really well-written and thorough explanations of all UE5 concepts.
  • Video tutorials – The intro tutorial series on YouTube got me creating quickly.
  • Sample projects – Being able to poke around sample games helped demystify things.
  • Community forums – When I got stuck, the forums provided answers fast.

Within a couple weeks of going through the docs and tutorials in my free time, I was able to build a simple top-down RPG prototype with environments, characters, items, and abilities. Don‘t be intimidated by UE5‘s power – take it step-by-step!

When do royalties and fees apply?

One of the most attractive aspects of UE5 is the lack of royalty fees for smaller commercial projects. Specifically:

  • No royalties for linear content like film/TV projects
  • No royalties for game projects until they surpass $1 million in gross revenue
  • 5% royalty on games above $1 million revenue

This is very indie-friendly! You can build, launch, and sell games royalty-free until you have a major hit. Even mega-hits only pay 5%, which is reasonable for the advanced capabilities.

Is Unreal Engine 5 right for your game?

Hopefully this breakdown gives you a better idea of UE5‘s capabilities and licensing model. If you‘re looking to build a high-end, great looking game, it‘s a very strong choice even as an indie developer. The visual fidelity surpasses Unity and it‘s more accessible than lower-level engines.

There‘s a bit more learning involved than a beginner-focused engine like Unity, but nothing unreasonable. And the results speak for themselves – gorgeous, expansive game worlds.

I highly recommend at least prototyping your game ideas in UE5. The free usage and indie-friendly royalties remove all barriers. Give it a shot and unlock your creative potential!