Epic Games to charge non-game developers for Unreal Engine use

Unreal Engine is getting a new pricing structure – but it won't impact game development.
epic games unreal engine fee

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has announced a new pricing structure for the company’s Unreal Engine software, which will now include a fee for non-game developers. As revealed via a video recording posted to Twitter and shared by VGC, anyone developing non-gaming applications in Unreal Engine will now need to pay for a license for each employee using it – a system that has been likened to the Adobe model.

The change will come into effect in 2024, and has reportedly been made to close a loophole in the Unreal Engine payment system. While using Unreal Engine to develop video games is free, any game that earns above US $1 million is subject to a 5% royalty fee, owed to Epic Games. Previously, anyone using the engine for non-game development applications was not subject to any royalties, meaning Epic gained no financial benefit from this transaction.

As Epic Games streamlines its business – a process which recently resulted in around 870 staff members losing their jobs – it will move to a new, paid system for Unreal Engine in the hopes of boosting profits.

Read: Unity announces new terms for runtime fee policy

“We have an engine that’s completely free for anybody to use, but if you’re never shipping a product that’s royalty-bearing then you never pay any money at all,” Sweeney said in the announcement video, taken at Unreal Fest 2023. “This doesn’t affect game developers, but one of the things we’re going to change next year is for industries other than game development, such as the automobile industry and so on. We’re going to move to a seat-based enterprise software licensing model for Unreal Engine.”

“We don’t have terms to announce yet but I just wanted to get this out in front of everybody for transparency, we’re going to move to a model like that. It’s not going to be unusually expensive or unusually inexpensive, but if you’re going to be building a product outside the game industry and not paying a royalty on it then … it’ll be a licensable piece of software like Maya or Photoshop.”

As Sweeney states, the exact terms of the license have not been announced – although fresh news is expected in the coming months. For now, as Sweeney says, changes are not expected to impact video game developers. The current model of 5% royalty fees for developers earning more than US $1 million, and no fee for hobbyist Unreal Engine users, will remain in place.

It’s likely this early announcement has been made to get ahead of rumours and speculation following a disastrous announcement from fellow game engine maker Unity, which recently attempted to implement a new payment system before global developer backlash forced changes.

Stay tuned for more details about the changes coming to Unreal Engine.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.