Traditionally, the video game software engine is both a coveted and proprietary entity.
Developers form rivalries that ultimately benefit the consumer, with each company looking to
produce that next big hook for players to bite.
So what’s going on this year with engines being flouted about like so many cocktail
napkins? The answer lies in a new hybrid of consumer: the Player-Developer. Many gamers
would love to try their hand at creating new titles, or at least programming modules for
existing ones. Although there are free engines available, they tend to lack power. The
professional-strength engines while feature-complete, tend to be priced out of reach. The
now trending solution is to give away the big engines, either for free or for a small royalty.
On March 2, Epic Games offered its Unreal Engine 4 free of charge, asking only a
5% sales royalty for any product created with the engine. One day later, Unity Technologies
released its new Unity Engine 5 multi-platform solution for free, minus some source code and
product support found in the paid “Pro” version.
As for the latest announcement in the runaway-engine saga, Valve plans to hand out their
upcoming Source 2 Engine free to everyone…and royalty-free! The only catch is that games
created with the engine be sold exclusively via the Steam downloading platform. But with an
elaborate user profile system and the practically household term “Steam Achievements”, this
could be marketed less as a restriction and more as a feature.
All told, this year could go on to redefine how games are made, distributed and licensed.
In the meantime, to the game companies who have generously opened their hearts and engines, we thank you.