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Rein: Free Unreal Engine 3 Dev Kit Surpasses 800K Install Base
Rein: Free Unreal Engine 3 Dev Kit Surpasses 800K Install Base
May 31, 2011 | By Frank Cifaldi

The free version of Epic Games' Unreal Engine 3 development kit (UDK) has been installed by over 800,000 game developers since its November 2009 launch.

That's according to Epic spokesman Mark Rein, who spoke to Gamasutra following his presentation at the Go Go Games Conference in the UK earlier this month. According to Rein, that figure represents the number of unique installations the company has seen since its launch a year and a half ago.

UDK is free to use, but operates on a revenue share model if employed for commercial products: when it was first launched, the terms saw Epic receiving twenty-five percent of a game's revenue after its first $5K was made. That threshold was raised to $50K earlier this year.

As part of his presentation at the British conference, Rein provided a sample of the terms a commercial developer might see.

In the example, a developer creates a game using UDK, and pays the upfront $99 fee to make it a commercial product. The developer goes on to sell 15,000 copies of the game at $4.99 each, for a total of $74,850. The hypothetical digital store takes a 30 percent cut, which puts revenues at $52,395.

As the initial $50K is royalty-free under UDK's current terms, Epic takes 25 percent of the remaining $2,395, or $598.75. Adding in the initial $99 licensing fee, Epic has collected $697.75 in this scenario, or 1 percent of the game's total retail sales.

UDK is available for consoles, PCs, iOS devices, and eventually, Android. It is not currently available for web browsers, but with Unity surpassing 500K users itself, it seems like a logical next step for the company -- though Rein wouldn't provide a comment for us.

In 2010, 65 percent of 3D game SKUs used Unreal according to Epic, citing a report from Acacia Research.

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Scott Southurst
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Do they count the fact that I have it installed twice? ;)

I think the UDK is a great concept, and the royalty model described above is great - but it'd be really nice if Speedtree Modeler actually worked (Mine just hangs on startup - which is a problem that has been around for years - and is supposedly fixed). The UDK tools seem to be fairly robust. I did have problems with Terrains causing the editor to crash - but installing the next version appeared to fix that. I just wish I had more time to play with it... Damn you 24 hour clock!

illian Quinn
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You could make a switch.... A day on Venus takes 243 Earth days!

David Marcum
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@Scott - Don't listen to illian!

His suggestion is penny wise, dollar foolish. True a day on Venus takes 243 Earth days, but 1 year takes 225 Earth days. So - sure if you made a game on Venus in 240 Earth days you would in fact be making a game in less than a day. But it would also be more than a year. On Earth the same objective development time would be less than a year.

I hope that helps.

Jared Thorbahn
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I wonder how many of these downloads are from the same person. I've downloaded it many times due to new updates, reboots, and the like.

Jacek Wesolowski
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Note this is 800k installations, not 800k development projects. It's hard to tell how many people downloaded UDK (or Unity, or whatever) just to see how it works. This number estimates the market size, rather than popularity of a given engine.

I guess UDK must be a natural first choice for two kinds of people: professionals with Unreal Engine experience, and enthusiasts from modding / fan content communities.

A much more interesting stat would be the number of projects completed using given solution, i.e. how many UDK-based projects have been completed so far. My wild guess is that it isn't very large.

Unreal Engine has the best content editor I've ever worked with, particularly thanks to the extreme ease of setting up a new scene with all basic actors in it. I love how BSP (or what's left of it) helps you think in terms of playable spaces rather than surfaces. But the codebase is not very flexible. It's super easy to create another Unreal Tournament or Gears of War map, but it's not easy to create something completely unlike UT or GoW.

Unity is the opposite: the content editor is, frankly, mediocre, but you can prototype a simple game mechanic in an hour.

Now, before a bunch of fanboys starts yelling how this proves one engine is better than the other - no, it doesn't. But it does make these engines best suited for different kinds of projects. Very simply put, UDK is better for teams, while Unity is better for lone wolves. The question is - which group is a bigger market these days?

Taure Anthony
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@ Jacek I definitely agree with you.