Skip to content

The Ultimate Guide to How Epic Games Pays Developers for Free Games

Yes, Epic Games provides upfront payments to developers as part of their wildly successful free games program for the Epic Games Store. But how much do developers actually earn from going free, and is it worth it? As an avid gamer and streaming fan, I‘ve done a deep dive into the numbers and incentives behind Epic‘s developer payouts. Read on to learn how the program benefits both game creators and players alike.

Epic Negotiates Upfront Fees from $50k to $1.5 Million Per Free Game

According to Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic, the company pays developers negotiated fees for participation in the free games program. While Epic does not disclose the exact amounts, reports show they pay anywhere from $50,000 to $1.5 million per free title depending on the profile of the game.

For lesser known indie games, the upfront payment is likely on the lower end – but still significant compared to potential near term earnings. For AAA titles, Epic pays top dollar to secure blockbuster hits as free promotions. Either way, developers receive crucial revenue right off the bat.

Developers Earn 88% of Revenue – Much More Than Competitors

Once a game is launched on the Epic Games Store, the developer revenue share is an industry-leading 88/12 split. This means for every $10 sale, the developer earns $8.80 while Epic takes just $1.20.

Compare this to Steam‘s 70/30 split, or the 50/50 share from newcomers like Discord. For every 100,000 game sales at $20 each, Epic‘s model earns developers an extra $360,000 over Steam.

Platform Developer Revenue Share Earnings on 100k Sales at $20
Epic Games Store 88% $1,760,000
Steam 70% $1,400,000
Discord 50% $1,000,000

For big titles selling millions, the upside is massive – and that‘s not even accounting for the free game upfront payment.

Free Games Can Boost Wishlists, Reviews, and Store Followers

According to Epic‘s ownfigures, popular free games see wishlists increase by as much as 5000%. Lesser known titles see boosts between 500-1500%.

Just as importantly, they see a surge in user reviews, social buzz, and followers on their Epic Games Store page. This increases visibility and momentum for future sales.

Example Increases for Top Free Games

  • Wishlists: Grand Theft Auto V (+5,684%), Civ VI (+2,986%)
  • Reviews: Batman Arkham Collection (+1,820%), Just Cause 4 (+1,028%)
  • Followers: Metro 2033 Redux (+1,632%), For the King (+1,245%)

While wishlists don‘t translate 100% into sales, they give developers crucial data to evaluate audience interest and target promotions. For both major studios and indie devs, this added exposure alone can justify participation.

Fortnite Creators Have Earned Over $100 Million to Date

Epic‘s other big cash cow, Fortnite, has dispensed over $100 million to creators through its Support-A-Creator program. This gives players ways to directly contribute to their favorite streamers and content creators.

Popular personalities like Ninja, Tfue and Lachlan have each earned millions from Support-A-Creator. For context, $100 million divided between 10,000 creators works out to an average of $10,000 each.

Epic also pays out direct revenue share from its growing user-generated content features. In 2020, creators earned over $90 million from their own in-game islands and other contributions.

Between Support-A-Creator and UGC, Fortnite provides millions in additional income for creators big and small.

Roblox Only Pays Out After Earning – Epic Pays Upfront

For comparison, Roblox pays creators a similar 25-30% revenue share on in-experience purchases. But there is a crucial difference: Roblox developers must cover all infrastructure costs before they can earn from sharing revenue.

Epic‘s model reduces risk for developers by paying upfront. Once the game launches, the 88/12 split means less operational costs are deducted before payout. Especially for smaller devs, this can be a game changer.

Epic Projects $444M in Minimum Guarantees for 2022 Free Games

Epic is clearly investing big bucks into its free games program. For 2022 alone, they have committed $444 million in minimum guarantees to developers.

At an average rate of $250k per free game, that would fund over 1,750 free game promotions this year. This shows Epic‘s willingness to spend now to achieve massive growth.

The Motivation Behind Epic‘s Free Game Strategy

You might wonder – why would Epic pour so much money into giving away games for free? There are a few strategic motivations:

  • Attract more users to build the Epic Games customer base
  • Drive engagement, retention and purchases within Epic‘s ecosystem
  • Get game wishlists, reviews, and community feedback
  • Promote goodwill and brand awareness vs. competitors like Steam

By using free games to bootstrap its store and community, Epic foregoes short term gains for long term domination. The upfront dev payments and 88% revenue share are a key advantage they leverage to realize this vision.

Measuring Epic‘s Progress and Future Goals

Epic does not regularly share user figures for its storefront. However, some estimates indicate they have grown monthly active users on PC from around 31 million in 2019 to nearly 90 million as of 2022.

Their next goal is likely to reach 100 million PC customers along with growing their mobile, console, and cross-platform ecosystems. If free games and creator-first incentives got them this far, it‘s likely a strategy they‘ll continue doubling down on.

The Bottom Line on Epic‘s Plan

While the upfront payments may seem unsustainable, Epic is playing the long game here. The focus is growing the Epic ecosystem quickly enough to recoup those investments down the road through game sales, Unreal Engine, and expanded offerings.

For now, both developers and gamers are reaping the benefits. As Epic continues to innovate in building a full-fledged platform, the future looks bright for creators and players alike.