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Is Unreal Engine Free to Publish Games?

As a fellow tech geek and avid gamer, I know one of the biggest questions on your mind is: can I really use Unreal Engine to publish games for free?

The quick answer is yes, you absolutely can! Unreal Engine grants full publishing rights with zero mandatory royalties or licensing fees.

Let me break down exactly how the pricing works, where you can publish your games, and some tips to get the most out of Unreal Engine‘s free publishing model.

No Royalties or Fees Until You Hit $1 Million

This is what makes Unreal Engine so great for indie developers and small teams. You can use Unreal Engine 5 completely for free until your game starts making some real money.

Specifically, you don‘t owe any royalties or fees to Epic Games until your game earns over $1 million in gross revenue. At that point, a reasonable 5% royalty kicks in for any additional revenue over $1 million.

To put this in perspective, only around 0.1% of video games ever make over $1 million in revenue. So for 99.9% of developers, you‘ll never have to pay a dime to use and publish your game with Unreal Engine!

Even for the rare breakout hits over $1 million, the 5% royalty is lower than every other major game engine:

Engine Standard Royalty Rate
Unreal Engine 5% after $1 million revenue
Unity 30% after $100k revenue
CryEngine 5% always
Amazon Lumberyard 5% always

As you can see, Unreal‘s royalty structure is extremely favorable for developers, especially indies and first-time studios.

You Retain Full Ownership of Your Games

I know it may sound too good to be true – a free game engine that lets you publish and sell games at no cost. But it‘s absolutely true: when you publish games with Unreal, you fully own that game and all associated intellectual property.

Epic does not take any stake in your game rights or revenue stream. The only payments you ever need to share are royalties once your revenue exceeds $1 million.

This is a huge advantage compared to some "free" game engines that take ownership stakes or require all games to be exclusive to their platforms. With Unreal, your game belongs to you.

Breakdown of Major Publishing Platforms

Now let‘s talk about getting your game onto major distribution platforms like Steam, consoles, and mobile app stores:

Steam:

  • One-time $100 publishing fee
  • 30% revenue share to Steam
  • You retain full game rights and IP

PlayStation and Xbox:

  • Requires platform approval, but very attainable for quality games
  • 30% revenue share to Sony/Microsoft
  • No impact on your game‘s IP ownership

Nintendo eShop:

  • Must pass Nintendo‘s concept approval process
  • Nintendo takes 30% of revenue
  • You own your game rights

iOS App Store:

  • Publish under an Apple developer account
  • Apple earns 30% commission on sales
  • You retain IP rights and ownership

Google Play Store:

  • Fairly open publishing model
  • 30% of revenue goes to Google
  • No change to your full ownership of IP

While the approval and revenue share models vary, the crucial fact is that you fully own and control your Unreal Engine game‘s IP on all major platforms.

Self-Publishing Options

If you want full control and 100% of revenues, self-publishing is a great option for Unreal Engine games.

You can sell your game directly to customers on your own website or services like Itch.io, escaping the platform fees of Steam or consoles. Of course, you also handle all publishing and marketing duties yourself.

Self-publishing is especially popular for indie games with niche audiences or smaller projected revenues. For games with breakout potential, major platforms usually make sense despite their revenue share.

Leveraging Marketplace Assets

The Unreal Engine Marketplace offers a massive collection of high-quality assets to boost your development. 3D environments, textures, visual effects, and more can be purchased then used in your commercial game.

While you can‘t resell marketplace assets directly as your own product, any game you build with them belongs fully to you. Epic puts no restrictions on publishing or monetizing games using marketplace purchases.

For example, purchasing a Medieval Village environment from the marketplace allows you to use that village in your fantasy RPG without any publishing limitations or special fees.

Used wisely, marketplace assets can save huge amounts of development time and cost. Just be careful not to over-rely on pre-made assets at the expense of original game design.

After reviewing all the options, Unreal Engine clearly stands out as one of the most flexible and publisher-friendly free game engines available today. The zero-cost publishing model gives indie developers a chance to turn small projects into breakout hits.

While learning any advanced game engine takes time, Unreal provides all the tools, publishing freedom, and ownership you need to bring your vision to life – without mandatory licensing fees destroying your profits.

For any developer willing to put in the work, Unreal Engine opens the door to launching commercially successful games on a wide range of platforms without handing a big chunk of revenue back to the engine maker. That‘s an incredibly empowering model that lets talented developers reap the full rewards of their creativity.

So if you‘ve ever asked "can I publish games made with Unreal Engine for free?" – I hope this breakdown clearly answers your question with a resounding yes! Now get out there, start building your next hit game, and never let licensing costs hold you back from achieving your dreams. The gaming world is waiting to play the experiences you create!