Hey there! If you‘re wondering whether Unreal Engine 5 is free or not, I‘ve got you covered. As an avid gamer and streaming enthusiast myself, I know how confusing game engine pricing can be.
So let‘s dive right in and I‘ll tell you everything you need to know about what‘s free with UE5 and when royalties or fees kick in.
The Short Answer
Unreal Engine 5 is 100% free to download and use for learning, non-commercial projects, custom internal projects, linear content creation (films, TV shows, etc.), archviz, broadcast events, training simulations, and more.
For commercial game and app development, UE5 is also free until your product earns more than $1 million in gross revenue. At that point a 5% royalty applies on additional earnings above $1 million.
So in most cases, UE5 has no upfront cost and you won‘t owe any royalties to Epic Games. This allows individuals and companies to use professional tools at no charge. Pretty sweet deal!
Freedom to Learn Game Development
As a hobbyist game developer myself, I love that UE5 is completely free for learning. The full-featured editor allows me to start acquiring valuable skills without dropping a dime.
According to Epic, over 7 million people worldwide are using Unreal Engine. The zero cost entry point makes UE5 accessible to anyone who wants to learn about creating real-time 3D and animations.
UE5 is used by millions to learn professional game dev skills (Source: Epic Games)
All the documentation, tutorials, community support, and sample projects are available without needing a paid subscription. I‘ve been able to learn so much through UE5‘s excellent learning resources.
As someone who enjoys streaming game development on Twitch in my spare time, this free access lets me share my progress and engage with other aspiring devs in the community.
Developing Your Dream Indie Game
For indie developers, UE5‘s free pricing is a huge benefit. You can build and publish complete games without owing any fees or royalties to Epic until you hit that $1 million mark in gross revenue.
Most indie games, especially from solo developers and small teams, don‘t ever reach that milestone. So UE5 is essentially free for the full life cycle of smaller commercial game projects.
UE5 powers stunning AAA games like Hellblade 2 (Source: Epic Games)
This model has helped release many breakout indie hits over the years like Satisfactory, TemTem, Tribes of Midgard, and Genshin Impact. UE5 will continue opening doors for indie devs to bring their creative visions to life.
As a streaming creator, I love having access to the same tools and tech behind games like Fortnite and Gears of War to produce my own small projects. The ability to make professional-grade content completely for free is an incredible opportunity.
High-End Graphics and Performance
Now as a gaming enthusiast, the thing that excites me most about UE5 is the sheer graphical capabilities. Powered by next-gen technologies like Lumen, Nanite and Metasounds, UE5 sets a new standard for real-time visual fidelity.
When Epic unveiled the Valley of the Ancient demo running in UE5, I was blown away. The cinema-quality lighting, textures, and visual effects look better than anything I‘ve ever seen in a game engine before.
Lumen enables incredibly realistic dynamic lighting in UE5 (Source: 80 Level)
Game streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube are fueling demand for titles with cutting-edge graphics to showcase to viewers. UE5 allows creators to meet that demand, even with no prior coding experience through Blueprints visual scripting.
Simply put, no other real-time engine can match UE5‘s graphical capabilities today. As both a developer and streaming creator, these state-of-the-art visuals are extremely appealing to me and my audience.
Broad Applications Beyond Games
While UE5 excels at high-end games, it‘s also used for a surprisingly wide range of real-time applications. This versatile engine powers projects across:
- Films, TV shows, and animated features
- Architectural visualization
- Automotive design
- Industrial product visualization
- Broadcast and live events
- Training simulations
- Virtual reality and augmented reality
The ability to produce real-time 3D content for linear media, enterprise applications, and virtual productions opens up many professional opportunities beyond just games.
UE5 powers professional 3D applications across many industries (Source: Epic Games)
As a former architecture student, I‘ve played around with creating virtual walkthroughs of building designs in UE5. The realism and rendering speed it provides could be hugely beneficial for archviz companies.
And aspiring CG artists or animators can leverage UE5 to start crafting scenes and shorts to build up their portfolio at no cost. That kind of access to pro tools can be life-changing early in your career.
Royalty-Free Up to $1 Million
Alright, I know you must be wondering at this point – when does UE5 actually start costing money? What are the royalty fees and how do they work?
The basic royalty model is simple:
- 0% royalty on the first $1 million in gross game revenue
- 5% royalty on all revenue above $1 million
So with UE5, you get your first $1 million in sales completely royalty-free. Only once your game or app exceeds $1 million earned do any royalties kick in. And even then, the 5% rate is very reasonable compared to other major engines.
This structure lets indie developers self-publish their creations and start earning money without owing any cut to Epic. It‘s an extremely fair model that shares in success without penalizing small projects.
In my opinion, very few independent games or apps will ever trigger royalties under this system. But for the tiny percent that do hit it big, contributing back 5% to the creators of UE5 seems like a worthwhile trade-off for all that free value.
UE5 Becomes Your Co-Pilot
When you reach $1 million in revenue, UE5 essentially transitions from free tool to active business partner. Epic has a vested interest in providing exceptional support and services to help your game continue growing.
Once royalties kick in, Epic provides premium support services for your project (Source: Epic Games)
Some of the benefits you can unlock at the $1 million milestone include:
- Dedicated Epic support – Direct access to engine developers for your project‘s needs
- Custom licensing terms – Ability to negotiate reduced or waived royalties
- Launch marketing support – Epic can help market your game across their platforms
- Publishing assistance – Tap into Epic‘s tech and experience shipping titles
Basically Epic becomes your high-powered ally to maximize success beyond $1 million. They want to ensure UE5 titles continue thriving since your ongoing revenue also benefits their bottom line.
Is UE5 Right for You?
Alright, we‘ve covered a ton of ground here. To wrap things up, here are my thoughts on who should consider using Unreal Engine 5 based on their goals:
For learning game development, UE5 is an excellent starting point. You can gain valuable professional skills at no cost through the engine‘s guided learning path.
Indie developers can leverage UE5 to make their dream games using top-tier tech, without worrying about royalties eating into revenue.
Aspiring CG artists and animators can use UE5 to start building a portfolio and demonstrates their talents.
Architecture firms, product studios and other businesses can benefit from UE5‘s ability to create high-fidelity 3D visualizations and simulations at no charge.
As a streaming creator and gamer, I‘m thrilled about creating content in UE5 to engage my viewers with cutting-edge graphics and immersion.
Of course, there are other great options like Unity out there too for certain use cases. But in my opinion, UE5 represents an unbeatable package of professional tools, stunning graphics and generous licensing terms.
I hope this overview helped explain exactly what you get free with Unreal Engine 5 and how the royalties work. Let me know if you have any other questions! I‘m happy to chat more in the comments.