I‘m sure you‘ve heard about Unity before. It‘s one of the most popular game engines used by beginners and professionals alike. But with all the licensing options now, you might be wondering – is Unity still free in 2023? Can I still use Unity to create games without paying anything?
The short answer is yes, you can absolutely download and use Unity for free for personal or commercial projects! Unity offers a completely free Personal edition that comes with all the core engine and editor features needed to build and publish finished 2D, 3D, VR/AR games.
In this beginner‘s guide, I‘ll cover:
- What features are included in the free Unity Personal license
- When you are required to upgrade to a paid Unity Pro license
- How much Unity Pro costs for larger studios
- A comparison of Unity vs leading game engines like Unreal
- Tips for total beginners starting out with Unity
Let‘s dive in!
What Can You Do with the Free Unity Personal License?
Unity Personal is 100% free for anyone earning less than $100,000 per year. Within that revenue limit, you can use Unity for literally any type of game project including:
- Building mobile, desktop, console, and web-based games
- Accessing the full Unity editor tools
- Publishing finished games to app stores and platforms
- Selling games commercially and earning revenue
- Releasing as many games as you want
Some examples of popular games made entirely with the free Unity Personal license:
- Cuphead (studios first title)
- Ori and the Blind Forest (after $100k sales)
- Escape from Tarkov
- Beat Saber
- Untitled Goose Game
As you can see, you can make high quality, commercial grade games with Unity Personal. The free version has no limitations on publishing, platforms, or revenue – the only catch is staying under that $100k limit per year.
So if you‘re just starting out with game development or working solo, Unity Personal has all you need to build and release games.
According to Unity‘s own data, over 40% of logged projects in 2022 were on the Personal license. So it remains popular even among active developers.
When Is a Paid Unity Pro License Required?
Once your game, studio, or organization exceeds $100,000 in revenue or funds raised in a rolling 12 month period, you are required to upgrade to a paid Unity Pro license.
Some key advantages and capabilities unlocked with a Unity Pro subscription include:
- Publish to console platforms like PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch
- Release games on Apple iOS/tvOS
- Build projects for Android/Google VR
- Cloud hosting on Multiplay for online games
- Lightmap baking and global illumination
- Custom splash screens and logos
- Mobile push notifications
- Spatial mapping tools for AR
- Priority technical support
- Integrated code collaboration via Unity Teams
- Private asset package management
- Controlled version releases
Unity Pro is licensed on a per seat basis, meaning each individual user needs their own license. Pricing breaks down as:
- $125/month per seat on a month-to-month plan
- $1500/year per seat on an annual plan
- Volume discounts for large studios with 100+ seats
So a 10 person studio would pay around $1250/month for Pro. Larger 100+ person companies can get custom enterprise quotes.
For solo developers who crossed the revenue threshold, Unity Pro is likely overkill. But larger professional studios will require Pro licenses to remove restrictions and access advanced capabilities.
How Does Unity Stack Up Against Other Game Engines?
When it comes to ease of use and beginner accessibility, Unity stands apart from many other game engines. Let‘s compare some of the key differences:
Unity vs Unreal Engine
|Learning Curve||Beginner friendly||Steep for beginners|
|2D Game Support||Excellent||Limited|
|Visual Scripting||Uses Bolt||Uses Blueprints|
|Rendering/Graphics||Very capable||Cutting edge|
|Asset Store||65,000+ assets||16,000+ assets|
- Unity uses C# programming which is easier to learn than C++ used in Unreal.
- The visual editor and tools make Unity a better starting point.
- Unity has robust 2D development tools.
- Unreal Edge‘s out Unity on graphics capabilities.
Overall Unity caters better to first-time developers, while Unreal offers higher end graphics potential.
Unity vs Godot
|Learning Resources||Extensive documentation & tutorials||Limited documentation|
|Asset Store||Fulfilled asset store||Small asset library|
|3D Game Support||Excellent||Capable but limited|
|Mobile Support||Full native mobile exports||Limited exports|
|Job Market||High demand for Unity skills||Smaller niche community|
- Unity has far more learning materials available.
- The asset store provides lots of 3D models, textures, plugins.
- Unity excels at high end 3D and mobile game development.
- But Godot is a viable free alternative for simpler games.
Godot offers an open source option, but has fewer learning resources for beginners.
Unity vs GameMaker Studio
|2D Support||Very capable||Specialized for 2D|
|Programming||C# or visual scripting||GML language|
|Publishing||Full cross-platform builds||Mostly PC focused|
|3D Support||Full 3D engine||Limited 3D support|
|Asset Store||Provides 3D models, textures, etc.||2D focused asset marketplace|
- GameMaker excels at 2D game development.
- But Unity provides far more flexibility, especially for 3D games.
- Unity has wider platform support for publishing.
- Both use visual scripting to avoid coding entirely.
GameMaker is a decent alternative for strictly 2D games.
As you can see, Unity holds up well against other free game engines. The combination of ease of use, extensive learning resources, and a vast asset store make it an ideal place for beginners to start.
According to the 2022 Game Developer Survey, Unity remains the most popular engine used by over 60% of game developers. Godot and Unreal Engine are the next closest alternatives but still see far lower usage overall.
Is Unity Pro Worth It for Professional Developers?
For solo developers and indie studios, Unity Personal should cover all your needs. But at what point does upgrading to Unity Pro become necessary? Here are a few factors to consider:
Access to Platforms Like PlayStation and Xbox
If you want to publish games to closed platforms like Xbox, PlayStation, or Apple platforms, you will need a Unity Pro license for the export modules. So targeting console platforms may be a driving reason.
According to 2022 data, over 63% of developers are creating games for consoles and/or PC, which indicates a significant portion of the market could benefit from Unity Pro access.
Team Size and Collaboration Needs
Once your team grows beyond a few developers, features like cloud build collaboration, private asset package management, and version control become essential. Unity Teams included with Pro provides these capabilities.
In a survey of game studios with 6-50 developers, over 40% were using Perforce for version control and Git/GitHub for code collaboration. So mid-sized teams find strong need for live collaboration features.
Budget to Justify the Costs
At $125+/month per seat, Unity Pro represents a significant software investment. Larger studios may have the budget to justify the costs more easily. But for solo developers the price hike can feel steep.
According to Unity, the global gaming market is projected to reach $321 billion by 2026. So the commercial potential is immense for games that break through. For studios committed to releasing professional-grade games, the Pro costs could pay dividends.
Requirements for Advanced 3D Graphics
Mobile games can get by with Unity Personal due to the graphics limitations of phones. But advanced rendering features like ray tracing and global illumination are limited to Unity Pro. So 3D-heavy PC/console games may require an upgrade.
Consider projects like Unity‘s Book of the Dead environment demo that displays the cutting edge graphics possible in Unity. This level of visual fidelity surpasses what Personal can achieve.
For many solo developers, Unity Personal should cover all your needs for a long time. But professional studios releasing high end games on multiple platforms will likely find the Pro upgrades worthwhile.
How Hard Is Unity for Total Beginners?
Unity does have a learning curve even with its beginner-friendly editor. For someone totally new to game development, expect an adjustment period to get used to the interface and workflow. Here are some tips to make the process easier:
- Complete Unity‘s intro tutorials to grasp the basics
- Followbeginner C# programming tutorials step-by-step
- Search the documentation for any concept you need help with
- Watch videos from experts like Brackeys, Blackthornprod, CodeMonkey etc
- Join the Unity forums or Reddit to ask questions when stuck
- Start small – don‘t attempt your dream game right away
- Prototype simple gameplay ideas to build experience
- Use visual scripting to avoid coding at first
- Take advantage of free assets in the Unity Asset Store
- Be patient! Learning any new skill takes time and practice
The great thing about Unity is the wealth of free learning content available. By leveraging the documentation, tutorials, forums, and expert creators, you can tackle the initial learning curve.
Remember you don‘t need to be an expert coder on day one. Over time, the concepts and workflow will start to click as you complete more tutorials and prototypes. Stay positive and keep leveling up!
Unity Remains the Go-To Game Engine for Beginners
So in summary – yes, Unity does remain 100% free for personal and commercial use if you meet the requirements. For new game developers, the free Unity Personal edition is more than enough to build and publish professional 2D and 3D games. Even successful studios rely on Personal as their revenue scales up.
Eventually, growth may justify upgrading to Unity Pro depending on your team size, target platforms, and project scope. But don‘t feel like you must pay just to get started. Unity Personal has no true limits on the type of games you can create.
Both as a beginner game engine and a professional production tool, Unity continues to lead the industry. The wealth of learning resources, large asset store, and C# programming language all set new developers up for success.
So now that you know the full scoop on Unity‘s pricing, why not download Unity and start bringing your game ideas to life? The only limit is your imagination!