Game Engines For Free
Written by David Conrad   
Thursday, 05 March 2015

This week's Game Developers Conference has seen announcements by the three big game developers that you can have their game engines for free - or at least with minimal strings attached. The big question is why and what does this change?

A game engine is a strange piece of software. It provides you everything you need to develop a game - 3D modeling, physics engine, audio system and more. If you use one to create a game then you are committing most of your resources and your future to working with it - moving to another game engine is generally not an option. Hence there is a big advantage in using an open source game engine but proprietary game engines have a lot to offer.  

Perhaps the best known proprietary game engine to the general programmer is Unity because it targets so many different devices and turns up as part of Visual Studio and  even WebGL. As a result even programmers not necessarily interesting in creating games have been using it. 



The latest version of Unity was announced at the GDC and Unity 5 is available as a completely free personal version to any entity with revenue or funding less than $100,000 per annum. You can also use what you create without paying royalties. If you want the professional version then the cost ranges from $75 per month upward for which you get support and some extras. 





Unity started the trend for free games engines but now Epic, after offering a $20 per month subscription version, has made the latest version of its Unreal Engine completely free to use, but it will still take a royalty on anything you sell over $3000. If you do hit the big time then Epic will take 5% per quarter. Previously the terms were 25% over $50,000 so clearly Epic is hoping to gain some money from the large number of games that never reach the $50,000 threshold. 




The third free game engine comes from Valve, the developer of Steam. Source 2 the latest version of the engine that runs most of its blockbuster games. As part of the Valve announcement it was stated that it will be making Source 2 available free to content developers. Source 2 hasn't yet released and is a version that will work with the newly announced Vulkan.

So why now?

Having a community of developers using your game engine is never a bad thing and we are not talking open source software. Each of these companies has a way to make money from a growing use of its software. What has probably focused their attention on getting their systems adopted by more people, however, is most likely the soon-to-arrive VR and AR boom. A lot of companies from Microsoft, Sony, Oculus, Samsung etc are producing VR headsets. Valve even has its own plus a controller. Unity is already the game engine that Microsoft promotes, not only for creating games for Windows, Xbox and Phone, but also for Kinect. 

A game engine makes a good basis for VR and AR scene generation and the company that dominates this particular niche could make a lot of money as the market expands. 

In other words, game companies are giving away their game engines in the hope they can cash in on the next big thing - mass market VR/AR.





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Last Updated ( Thursday, 05 March 2015 )