Epic Games Makes Big Strides For Indie Developers

Epic Games Makes Big Strides For Indie Developers

On May 13, 2020, perhaps in an effort to brighten the mood as the world sits in lockdown, Epic Games not only released its first real-time demo of their new-and-improved Unreal 5 Platform; but also ...


... announced the creation of a new Epic Online Services as well as some significant changes in their revenue share requirement. Such changes essentially make their services now free for developers to use until their game is successful, making the financing and budgeting hurdle of indie development all the more approachable.

In releasing a gameplay demo, titled “Lumen in the Land of Nanine,” running on PlayStation 5 hardware (the public’s first look at anything running on an actual PlayStation 5), Epic showcased the new tech implemented in Unreal Engine 5 that will allow developers to create more realistic worlds in a shorter amount of time. The strange name of the demo actually refers to the technology itself: Nanite is virtualized micropolygon geometry technology that frees artists to create as much geometric detail as the eye can see, and gives the Unreal Engine 5 the ability to provide higher detail models by not requiring artists to meet a polygon count or memory budget; while Lumen is a fully dynamic global lighting solution that allows the lighting to change and react to what’s happening in the scene including bounces and specular reflections. (Don’t believe a lawyer talking about this, take a look here: A First Look at Unreal Engine 5 by Epic Games). Artists will be able to move a light inside the Unreal Editor and experience the lighting the same way a gamer would on their console, allowing creators to save time as they no longer need to wait for lightmap breaks. Although Unreal Engine 5 is not expected to go into preview until the beginning of next year, with a full launch scheduled for later in 2021, Epic promises that its new engine is designed for forward compatibility in mind, so projects made on Unreal Engine 4 will be able to be moved easily onto the Unreal Engine 5 platform.

Just as exciting as the upgraded technology of the soon-to-be-released Unreal Engine 5 is the change in commercial structure of online services provided by Epic Games meant to benefit indie developers. Along with the release of the “Lumen in the Land of Nanine” demo, the creation of a new Epic Online Services was revealed, which gives developers free access to the same kinds of tools used to support Epic Games’ massive Fortnite player base. Epic announced that these online services will now be available to all developers FOR FREE across PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PC, and Mac, with “support coming soon to iOS and Android,” in an effort to “enable developers to achieve the quality and depth of cross-platform experiences that we’ve built for Fortnite, and to make the services available for free for use with all engines, all stores, and all account services” (Epic Online Services featuring Epic Account and Game Services by Epic Games).

In addition, Epic Games has changed their licensing terms so that they will no longer be taking a percentage of revenue made by a game created on any Unreal Engine until $1 million in revenue is reached. Up until this drastic change, developers were paying 5% of revenue $3,000 or more to Epic per quarter (Why Indie Devs Are Calling Epic’s New Unreal Engine Policy a “Game Changer” by Mathew Olson). Now, Epic will no longer be taking a percentage of revenue made from the commercial sale of a game made on any Unreal platform until revenue reaches $1 million, at which point the rev share rate will remain at a constant 5% per quarter. As if this news wasn’t exciting enough, Epic has decided to retroactively roll back these just-released new licensing terms to cover any use of the platform starting from January 1, 2020, meaning that any royalties indies did pay for the first quarter of this year will be refunded. According to Epic’s CEO, Tim Sweeney, the move was made to “level the playing field for small developers who are just starting out, and […] to encourage more experimentation.” While we will still have to wait patiently to access the new technology that Unreal Engine 5 has to offer, such newfound generosity towards indie developers is nothing short of a game changer.

Author: Jennifer Kleinman and Daniel B. Koburger

First Published: 06/01/2020

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Roche Legal, PLLC

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Roche Legal, PLLC

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Alexandre Leturgez-Coïaniz, Esq., LL.M.

Daniel B. Koburger, Esq., LL.M.

Côme Laffay, Esq., LL.M.