If you‘ve heard about the powerful new Unreal Engine 5 and wondered – is this amazing professional-grade technology really available for free? The answer is a resounding yes!
Unreal Engine 5 remains 100% free to download and use for all developers, no strings attached. You can build any kind of 3D projects and interactive content with no royalties or subscription fees. Unreal Engine‘s permissive pricing model has helped make it a leading choice among independent game developers and studios worldwide.
Let‘s dive deeper into what exactly "free" means when it comes to Unreal Engine 5, what you can build with it, and whether it‘s the right choice for your game development needs.
Unreal Engine 5 Usage is Completely Royalty-Free Until You Launch a Major Success
The most important point to understand about Unreal Engine 5‘s pricing model is that it‘s completely free to use until your product starts generating significant revenue.
Specifically, you don‘t owe Epic Games any royalties until your game or application makes more than USD $1 million in gross revenue. Only once your title surpasses $1 million in sales do royalties kick in, at a reasonable rate of 5% of ongoing gross revenue.
This incredibly permissive model means Unreal Engine 5 stays free for all kinds of usage scenarios:
- Learning game development as a hobbyist or student
- Prototyping game concepts
- Creating linear content like animations and films
- Releasing indie games commercially
Unreal Engine 5 remains free and royalty-free for all the above uses. You can ship as many games or apps as you want, and never pay a cent to Epic until one exceeds $1 million in revenue.
And once you do have a breakout hit earning over $1 million, paying 5% of ongoing sales is a small price that allows Unreal Engine to keep improving and releasing powerful new features with each version.
So in summary – yes, you can use Unreal Engine 5 at no cost whatsoever for as long as you need while learning the engine and developing your early games.
Unreal Engine Usage Has Exploded Since Going Free in 2015
To understand how significant Unreal Engine‘s free pricing model is, let‘s look at how adoption has grown since Epic Games first made the switch in 2015.
Previously, developers had to purchase individual Unreal Engine licenses upfront per project, or pay monthly subscription fees. There were free trial options, but you still had to pay to ship commercial games.
Once Epic released Unreal Engine 4 in March 2015 under a permanently free model, with revenues owed only after major success, the engine‘s popularity skyrocketed.
In the first year after going free, activated Unreal Engine developers increased 10x. Epic estimated about 5 million users total were actively using Unreal Engine in 2016.
Fast forward to 2021, and Unreal Engine now sees over 11 million monthly active users. It‘s also the #1 game engine on Steam by usage share.
Clearly, removing upfront licensing hurdles while keeping the revenue sharing model reasonable after release has been a winning strategy. Today, individuals and studios of all sizes happily use Unreal Engine 5 to create 3D interactive content with no obligations.
This table summarizes the key milestones in Unreal Engine adoption since going free:
|March 2015||Unreal Engine 4 released free|
|2016||~5 million active Unreal developers|
|2021||11+ million monthly active Unreal users|
|2022||#1 game engine by usage share on Steam|
You Can Create and Sell Just About Anything with Unreal Engine 5
The other big benefit of Unreal Engine 5‘s pricing model is that you‘re free to commercialize your work and keep the profits, subject to the revenue sharing limits above.
Some game engines restrict commercial use, put limits on revenue you can generate, or charge additional fees for publishing apps and games.
Unreal Engine 5 is totally open. Once you publish a game or app, 100% of profits belong to you until hitting $1 million in gross revenue per title.
You‘re also free to release your work on any platform or store you choose, including:
- Epic Games Store
- Consoles like PlayStation and Xbox
- Mobile app stores like iOS and Android
- Your own website or platform
And best of all, you can build just about any type of interactive 3D content with Unreal Engine 5, not just traditional games:
- Architectural walkthroughs and visualizations
- Film scenes and cinematic sequences
- Interactive product demos and configuration
- Training and education simulations
- VR and AR experiences
- Automotive visualization and CAD
Unreal Engine 5‘s real-time 3D engine delivers stunningly photorealistic graphics and effects to all fields, not just gaming. As long as your projects abide by the platform terms and conditions, anything you create and sell commercially with Unreal Engine 5 is yours to profit from.
Unreal Engine 5 vs Unity – Which Is Better for Your Game?
For new game developers trying to choose between game engines, two options stand out from the crowd – Unreal Engine 5 and Unity.
Both are free to use and offer professional-grade tools and features for building and shipping games. But how do they compare, and which is better suited for your first game project?
The key differences between Unreal 5 and Unity include:
Performance and Graphics
- Unreal delivers higher graphical fidelity and framerates
- Advanced effects like ray tracing perform better in Unreal
- Unity steadily improving graphics but Unreal still seen as higher-end
Ease of Use
- Unity generally has a more beginner-friendly learning curve
- Unreal Blueprints help but C++ coding experience useful
- Massive Unity community provides learning resources
- Unity built with mobile gaming in mind from the start
- Unreal improving mobile support but Unity still better optimized
For most beginners and indie developers, Unity tends to be the easier choice given its focus on usability and simpler workflows. You can easily build graphically solid mobile and desktop games without needing to ever touch code.
However, for developers wanting to push graphical boundaries and maximize performance, Unreal Engine 5 brings cutting edge rendering technology like Lumen and Nanite that set it apart. The learning curve is steeper than Unity but pays off in incredible cinematic-quality visuals.
There is no definitively "better" choice between the two – consider your team‘s technical experience, target platforms, and performance goals. Both engines can produce beautiful looking games in skilled hands.
Getting Started with Unreal Engine 5 Development
If you‘re ready to dip your toes into game development and 3D interactive content creation with Unreal Engine 5, here‘s a quick guide to getting up and running:
Download Unreal Engine 5
First head to UnrealEngine.com and create a free Epic Games account if you don‘t already have one. Follow the instructions to download the Epic Games Launcher app. Open the Launcher, go to the "Unreal Engine" tab, and click Install to get the latest Unreal Engine 5 build.
Note the install size is over 100GB so make sure you have sufficient disk space!
Learn with Free Beginner Tutorials
Once Unreal Engine 5 finishes installing, you can start learning the basics via the built-in tutorials. Go to the "Learn" tab within the Epic Games Launcher to browse beginner Blueprint and C++ programming courses.
Outside the Launcher, Unreal also provides tons of free tutorial content on YouTube and their docs site. Follow along to build your knowledge from zero to creating simple game prototypes.
Explore Interactive Example Projects
Epic includes several interactive sample games and scenes with Unreal Engine 5 to reverse engineer and tinker with. Seeing how professional developers structure gameplay mechanics and scripts will rapidly boost your learning.
Join the Community Forums
Stuck on an issue and need help? The Unreal Engine community forums are an invaluable resource for troubleshooting problems or general advice. Don‘t hesitate to sign up and join the discussion.
With the right commitment and support, a new game developer can go from zero experience to shipping their first game demo within a few months using Unreal Engine 5‘s user-friendly tools.
Unreal Engine 5 Makes Game Development Accessible to All
The bottom line – Unreal Engine 5 remains totally free for hobbyists, students, and independent developers to use. You can download Unreal Engine 5 today and immediately start using industry-leading tools without any prior experience required.
For new game developers, Unreal delivers top-tier graphical quality and performance unrivaled by most other real-time 3D engines. And the ability to commercially publish anything you create with zero obligations up to $1 million in revenue per title is an incredibly fair model.
While Unity still edges out Unreal in beginner accessibility, Unreal‘s Blueprint visual scripting system and excellent learning resources help new users get up to speed quickly.
Thanks to Unreal Engine 5‘s free pricing, anyone with passion and creativity now has access to professional AAA-quality game development tools. No subscriptions or usage limits – just download and start building your dream projects. The 3D interactive content revolution is here!