GameEngines have different Business Models, with some needing a paid license, while others require you to pay royalties or are completely free.
This article is meant to provide a quick overview of the pricing employed for the most popular Game Engines available on the market, we’ll be taking a look at license costs for Unreal Engine, Unity, Game Maker Studio and Godot. Let’s check it out!
Unity is greatly appreciated by Indie Devs for several reasons, one of which is its tiered licenses: Unity’s Personal plan is completely free for individuals and teams below 100000 USD in revenue or funding in the previous 12 months.
As your revenue grows, you will be required to switch to paid licenses:
- Plus for 40$/month, if your revenue or funding is above 100000 USD.
- Pro or Enterprise for 150 or 200$/month, if your revenue or funding is above 200000 USD.
There are some perks accompanying these paid licenses: Plus gives you access to analytics, while Pro and Entreprise licenses are the only one with Technical Support.
Unreal Engine made big news in 2014 when it announced its new and very generous pricing policy: a flat rate of 5% of royalties for revenues above 1 millions USD. If your game makes less than 1 million USD, you owe Unreal Engine nothing! If your game has made more than a million in its lifetime, you will need to pay 5% of quarterly sales to Epic Games, except if the quarterly sales are below 10000 USD.
What’s more, this policy applies per game and not for the whole company, unlike Unity so it is indeed extremely generous.
If you want an example of royalties to be paid for your upcoming critically acclaimed game, or just out of curiosity, I advise you to read the “Can you walk me through a few example royalty payment scenarios?” of the Unreal Engine FAQ.
After the recurring licensing cost of Unity and the royalties-based Unreal Engine, here comes GameMaker, the darling of 2D game devs, with a mix between One-Time licenses and Recurring licenses.
Compared to the other game engines, GameMaker studio is much more modular in its offering and focuses on build targets (aka what platform do you want to sell on):
- You can start your GameMaker experience, with a free 30-days trial
- Then you can upgrade to a Creator license, a single target, 39$-a-year license for Mac or Windows
- Next are the Developer licenses. These are permanent licenses to build on Desktop, or Web. It is also possible to get a license to build for Mobile and UWP (Universal Windows platform). Prices range from 99$ for Desktop to 199$ for Mobile and UWP.
- Finally, if you’re planning to release your game on console, you will need the aptly named “Console” license. A single target 12-month license (PS4, XBOX One or Switch) will cost you 799$, while the Ultimate Console License, which allows to target all consoles, will set you back 1500$.
I personally find the pricing very steep for indie devs compared to other Engines, but I guess the “Drag-and-Drop” focus for the development interface is a great selling point.
Godot is an Open Source Game Engine which benefits from grants and donations. This means they are dedicated to providing a great engine at no cost for the user: there are no fees associated with using Godot, while still developping great features like this Signed Distance Field based Illuminations System.
While the editors for all these Game Engines look extremely similar, the pricing practices vary a lot. Here’s the handy recap table for you:
|Licene Cost or Royalties||Details|
|Unity||Recurring License||Tiered Licenses dependent on Earnings|
|Unreal Engine||Royalties||Flat 5% royalties on sales > 1 million USD|
|GameMaker Studio 2||Recurring and One-Time Licenses||Target Dependent Fees|
|Godot||Free and Open Source||It’s Free as in Freedom|
In conclusion, costs are really low for you to start developing your own video games using one of these engines:
- Godot is completely free
- The Unreal Engine License Cost is almost non-existent
- Unity has a nice free tier for indie devs
GameMaker Studio stands out compared to the others, but that seems to be the no-code tax.
Speaking of which, we have a great free 2D platformer tutorial in Unity C# for you to get started!