War of the 3D Engines

Posted on:March 28 2014

Last week, something strange happened: First Epic Games announced that you can now develop for their Unreal Engine for 19$/month (+5% of your revenue), making their AAA engine very, very cheap, especially in comparison to what they charged previously.
Then, one day later, Crytek countered with a similar offer: CryEngine for just 9.90$/month.

I think this is a reaction to their now 'new' competitor, Unity, (who just announced version 5), which for some time now is free for the basic edition. Maybe even Unity will now try to get cheaper, who knows?

What we see here might be a begin of the phenomenon known from various app stores: The race to the bottom, where the app developers try to undercut each other, and prices for the apps drop, so far that even 90% of the developers can't live anymore from their apps, and only developers of very popular apps survive. It's conceivable that this won't work for 3D engines: Those are incredible complicated beasts, and need a lot of time and resources to be developed and kept up-to-date. Making them available for peanuts can only be sustainable when you have many, many users.

I hope this move just didn't start the death of some nice 3D engines. It would be a pity for those developers to go bankrupt or similar.

Disclaimer: I'm the developer of the commercial 3D engine 'CopperCube', with which you can create games and 3D apps without programming, and I might have a slightly skewed view to this.


As a small indie gamedev, I like this. It makes the step to get into gamedev much smaller. On the other hand, it'll probably mean we'll see more crappy games by part-time wannabe gamedevs with a already decent income. I'm curious how it'll work out.
2014-03-28 10:05:00

I have a suspicion that in the long run this isn't really a that big threat to Unity and some of the small indie engines. Unity's easy for a beginner to get started with (as is Irrlicht). With an engine like Unreal or CryEngine, I would think there would be a steeper learning curve to actually making something with the engine.
2014-03-28 10:24:00

You forget one detail (a least for the UE4).
Those prices are for indie devs, triple A developers will still pay millions trough customs deals to get those engines
2014-03-28 11:08:00

Maya, 3DSMax and Softimage all participated in a race-to-the-bottom, then Maya ran out of money and were sold to Autodesk, then Softimage weren't profitable enough for Avid and were sold to Autodesk, and then Softimage was EOL'd by Autodesk recently.

Expect the same thing to happen in the 3D engine market. Only much much faster.
3D Guy
2014-03-28 11:51:00

Actually, Unity3D has had a very accessible pricing option for a while now: $75/mo for the pro version (plus other monthly fees for various platform targets beyond the core Windows, Mac, webplayer and a handful of other deployment targets).

I suspect that this price point became scary given that Unity 5 is beginning to encroach upon them in terms of their core areas like advanced rendering techniques. (Unity 5 has real-time GI on high-end mobile, and desktop, plus physically based shading, IBL, etc.)
Jon Frisby
2014-03-28 21:29:00

Since Unity's subscription model has been mentioned, I'll state that Unreal can be cancelled at any time and you keep what was released during the period you were subscribed.

Cancel the subscription for Unity though and you lose all access.
2014-05-19 18:44:00

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