Dedicated servers, source code, end users and EULA

I got some questions about EULA and the end users.

A. If I create a game using a source code version for example from 4.11 Github version, with the default settings I package the “Game” and the exe file of the “Server” as in this guide (Or how in the current version is build): (All binary) my end users to who I sell the game need to accept the EULA of Epic Games (Note the game don’t have mod tools, is a normal game + the server exe)?

B. The server executable from A. can be used in their computers or in other dedicated hosting and they probably can donate between they money to pay the rent of the hosts and that common things. I need pay to Epic some type of extra for this ? or is only the first case 5% from MY revenues ? (This no include donations between users etc?)

So basically that are the questions if the A and B happen I just need give to Epic the 5% of my revenue, but the users that buy my game need accept the Epic Games/Unreal Engine EULA ? or the people that host their own servers using the exe provided in binary form with the game need pay because get donations of others users to pay their host costs ? or the people that sell hosting with for my game ?

A. The end users that buy my game and host in their computer need pay 5% to me or Epic Games ?
B. The end users that buy my game and host the game server in a host provider need pay the 5% to me or Epic Games ?
C. If the end user that manage the server and pay the host get donations from the users that play in their server need pay 5% to me or Epic Games ?
D. The end users that host my game in a host or buy a host that give hosting for my game need pay 5% to me or Epic Games ?
E. Can be the server setup without the need of buy the game ?
F. The server/host providers of my game need pay the 5% to me or Epic Games ?

Note in any of the cases I no provide hosting or manage their servers, and I don’t get revenue from their server or nothing of that.

I’ll answer your questions in turn:

  • Your end users don’t need to be UE4 EULA licensees unless you are distributing the editor tools (as further described in the EULA).
  • Donations are not subject to royalty if they lead to no in-game benefit or game access (i.e., they are purely donations).
  • Your end users are not our licensees. You are our licensee and you are responsible for paying Epic 5% royalty on gross revenue.

If you have technical questions about server setup, you may want to ask on a different subforum.

But about the last point, they host providers are not related with me but sell the server service including the server exe and the needed files to run the server,they need pay any kind of % ? or something ? I can’t control they, because you know the people start to make business of that things without question the creators.

So I think what Hevedy is asking:

  • If the end users decide to run their own private servers (for money)
  • Would the game devs be liable at all for that, even though they are not condoning it OR not even making money off of it?
  • Will Epic pursue legal actions against those end users for their share of the royalties (since the end users who are hosting private paid servers are now making money off use of the server tech)?

So, just to clarify (because we had a very intense discussion about this on Slack yesterday), if the end user hosts private servers for a dev’s game, even if they are making money off of it:

  • Game Devs will not be held responsible for the actions of their end users hosting private servers and making money off of it.
  • Epic will most likely not pursue actions against those end users for money made off of hosting private servers, even though they are hosting a UE4 game and using server tech owned by Epic.

Any chance we could get that specified in your own EULA/Royalties FAQ? What you guys actually consider “Commercial Products” and such. I mean, for most of us, it means games that we sell for $$$, but I think I read something about non-interactive stuff (films/animations), but couldn’t someone sell “UE4-made movies” even though they are not “games”?

I don’t see us pursuing legal action against end users who run servers for the game and charge money (or seek donations for) hosting costs. If there were some scheme to circumvent royalty obligations, I’d have a different answer. But this sounds like charging for hosting and not charging for the game.

These are interesting questions and unfortunately I think the answers are fact dependent and thus will vary depending on the situation.

At a high level:

  • Any donations, regardless of for the game or for hosting, are royalty free if they don’t lead to game access or in-game benefit.
  • Paying for hosting and happening to play the game, regardless of who’s doing it, is royalty free.
  • Paying for online server access as a means of monetizing the game, regardless of who’s doing it, means the developer/licensee owes a royalty on that revenue.

That may sound scary for the developer, but remember that the developer (presumably) owns the game and can license the game under any rules that they want. So you can set the rules as to how and under what circumstances an end user or other third party can monetize game servers.

Probably the biggest factor in this situation is how the game is monetized. If the game is freely accessible (paid or otherwise) and freely playable by any end user, but someone happens to run a dedicated server with some monetization that probably isn’t royalty bearing. But if that’s how you access the game, by paying to play on someone’s server, that sounds like monetization for the game itself rather than just a hosting service, so a royalty would be owed.