Game engines price comparison

Hi guys,

I’m new to 3d game engines, and i’m comparing the engines. I want to understand something, i have looked at the Unity game engine’s pricing, and came to the conclusion that Unity is less expensive than Unreal Engine 4. This is my logic, let me know if i’m wrong:

Unity is free until u get an annual revenue of 100k, which is 25k quarterly.
UE4 is free until u get a quarterly revenue of 3k.
So Unity wins here, except that I’m not sure if you would be missing features with Unity with the free version, and if there are paying features in UE4?

Now if u make let’s say 30k quarterly with your game, with UE4 you would pay 500$ per month (because 5% royalties). With Unity you can pay (35$ * [platforms used]) a month with their “Plus” plan.
Then if you make even more money, you would pay even more with UE4.

So am I correct that Unreal engine is more expensive? Or maybe just more expensive depending on the features used? or just more expensive if the game makes lots of money?

Thank you

UE4 has a lot of standard features that Unity doesn’t which require you to buy things from the asset store. For example, their UI system is pretty much useless, and they don’t have anything as good as the UE4 material editor or Blueprints. You also don’t get source code access to Unity without paying more for it. Also, the free version of Unity requires you to use their opening Made with Unity splash screen which is something people like to avoid.
Also, with Unity Free you can only get up to $100k revenue, otherwise you have to buy a higher tier subscription, and also you have to buy subscriptions for each person on your team.

With UE4, if the game is going to make a lot of money, you can negotiate custom licensing terms–for big games, 5% royalty is a significant cost where that might be more than what they’d typically pay for licensing without royalties in the past.

Just going to nitpick a tiny amount here but the 5% royalty is applied AFTER the first 3k quarterly.

So in your example of making 30k in a quarter the calculation goes:
($30,000 - $3,000) * 0.05 = $1,350 quarterly or $450 monthly

Now on top of this, this is the end of what you’ll pay, you can have infinite devs on your team and the cost is the same.
With Unity you’re paying PER DEV, and so you need to multiply your $35 per platform per developer on your team.


It’s not per dev, same no matter how many.

For a large title contact the licensing department for a custom license.

Thanks, is there any detail on what the custom license would be if the game makes a lot of money? Or is it just negotiation? I think there should be a chart with precise values, so that we can know what will happen in case our game works out.

Thanks, i forgot those details.

If your game works out, I honestly don’t think you’ll care too much about the 5% royalty. If you take home $1 million in your first year, you’re still paying less than $50,000, which is pretty reasonable.

Another thing to note is that Unity’s costs are all up-front; you’re paying them regardless of how your game performs, even if you don’t sell a single copy. With UE4, it’s all based on revenue, which reduces your risks somewhat.

It’s kind of a wash in most situations. You want to pick the game engine that best fits your needs, your project, your time, and your skills. What really matters is what engine will help you make a more successful game. They are both so cheap that it shouldn’t really be a factor.

For example, Steam takes roughly 30% from all sales, but you don’t see very many indie devs avoiding the Steam store, because in the end, being on Steam makes them more money. You have to be pretty big and successful before revenue cuts are a huge deal (EA’s Origin and Uplay for example).

For me Ue4 is a better choice, you don’t pay anything upfront and if your game gets successful you only pay 5% to Epic, if your game gets successful you don’t really care about that 5%.

If you choose another engine due to UE4’s EXTREMELY FAIR 5% royalty being the only reason, then I don’t know what to say… This is a top end game engine that does all the heavy lifting for you, and allows you to create anything you could dream up. SURELY that is worth 5% to you, if you were to make a very successful game. For example, my main line of work is music- after cuts, I lose about 70% of the profits and that just has to be accepted- I can’t believe my eyes whenever I see people upset about this insanely fair deal.

Personally I’d pay almost any % in royalties to use UE4 over another engine- the power, flexibility and quality is unmatched, and it’s something new users seem to take for granted. Most professional tools of this caliber cost thousands of dollars annually but UE4 is completely free until you make a very successful product, which is the best deal I could possibly imagine!

One thing that also springs to mind, is that Unity’s subscriptions might say ‘monthly’, but the subscription period is for 12 months.

If your game takes 13 months to develop, you still have to pay for the other 11 months.

To be frank, generally price is far, far, far from being the number one criteria in an engine. It’s such a fundamental part of your entire production that it’s hard to save a buck here and there if you’re forcing yourself to a tech that doesn’t really work for what you want and what you want your workflow to be.

The only real ding against Unreal Engine 4 that I can think of is that it generally requires a higher level of knowledge/experience to really work within efficiently than Unity does.

I think both pricing models are fair and very worth it. Do not expect to use so powerful engines for free forever. Everything has a cost, but with both you can study, learn and begin for free, which is already amazing. 5% royalties is fair but not even close to low; it’s gross revenue share, in a world where you give ~30% to Steam/Apple/Google + many other revenue deals you can have + taxes, those 5% are to be considered and are not to be overlooked. Considering the scenario above of $1million revenue, you’ll generally get only 50 or 60% of net profit. In that case, $50,000 is something you’ll not give away easily. That said, it is still fair and worth the price, because as said above UE4 comes with a lot of built-in features that Unity does not and it’s not charged per seat.

But it’s always good and bad. Unreal charges you for every feature equally, whether you use them or not, while Unity only charges for what you’ll effectively use (looking things up and purchasing on the Asset Store is a skill on itself, but it’s something you’ll definetely have to do if you want to use the engine effectively). Unity’s model becomes a bit annoying at first because you’ll want things that do not come in the engine. But on the long term I think is very cool as well.

Who costs more really depends; Unity will cost progressively more the more devs you have on your team, while Unreal will cost more the more revenue you make. I’d say that if you’re successful your revenue will grow much faster than your team number, based on many cases I have seen. But… who can foresee that?

Thanks all for your replies.
I understand that 5% is low in most situations, if you make multiple small to medium games. But maybe people who want to make a single huge game could be reluctant. I am not sure if you can compare this percentage to online stores, because they don’t own a percentage of your game, you are just selling on their store, if I am not mistaken.

@ambershee Well with unity you can use the free version until you reach 100k revenue. So i think it’s risk free also. Or did I not understand what you said?

The free version of Unity is pretty limited, so if you’re developing a serious game, you’re probably going to want to be paying for a more complete version.

Established players can still opt to negotiate custom rates directly for their large-scale game, nothing prevents that.

They don’t own the game, but the big online stores all charge a whopping 30% upfront that hits into every sale…
Plus, there’s no minimum sales threshold. Whereas most Indies don’t make a lot and won’t hit Epic’s quarterly cap!

@franktech the only issue is that I will not know if the game will make a lot of money until it does, so is there a way to know what the custom license would be depending on the revenue? Or is it something we cannot know in advance?

A custom license is if you expect to make a lot of money or you have a unique sales situation. It’s not going to apply to most people, it would be for something like ARK which is very successful or from a AAA studio, where it’s clear that paying a license upfront is much cheaper than paying for royalties.

Although there is a good number of things missing in free version of Unity with no Asset Store purchases, I don’t think it’s fair to say that is “pretty limited”. It was pretty limited before, years ago, not now. And in order to use all or most features Unreal has to offer, one would have to make a pretty big game, which is not most cases. You can do an insane amount of things with 100% free Unity, but you may need specific features that you can code yourself or purchase on the store. It’s a trade-off.

My opinion: if you’re just starting out in game development, don’t waste a lot of time thinking about engine prices; none of the two engines is clearly more expensive. Choose the one you feel most comfortable with and don’t be afraid.