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Game developers interested in Unity and Unreal will often ask about pricing. Both engines have paid tiers, with very specific caveats–and considerations for those of us interested in comparing the two from a price perspective.

Unreal Engine requires you to pay 5% of your gross revenue beyond $3,000 per quarter. That means you can make up to $3,000 in any four-month period without paying royalties, but if you exceed $3,000 before that 4-month period is over, you will pay 5% royalties on the amount above $3,000.

Unity requires you to buy a Pro license ($25/month) once you are making more than $100,000 in a calendar year.

I have aggregated some sales data for a quarter to compare the net profit from Unity vs Unreal, and even incorporated self-employment taxes.

Unity being a static rate and Unreal being a variable rate means that we know in the long-run Unity will be cheaper–but, as I ask others, “at what cost”? Let’s first look at the numbers:

Sales and revenue calculations for Unity vs Unreal for a game priced at 19.99 and sold on Steam.

“It’s cheaper” is often what I see as the number one reason for indie developers suggesting Unity to other indie developers. Unity is in fact cheaper, but the savings doesn’t come in until you are well out of the median publisher category. What I mean by that is most indie developers are not going to sell more than a hundred or so games per quarter. This is entirely due to the saturation of the market, not that indie developers aren’t making great stuff.

The most important thing to consider if all you care about is price is that the savings gained by choosing Unity over Unreal is exponential over time–and doesn’t really kick in until you are selling > 100 units per quarter. Take a look here:

If you do the math, after subtracting Steam fees and taxes, after selling 1,000,000 units, you will have an additional $1M if you chose Unity vs Unreal. This is assuming you sell that million during a single calendar quarter, by the way.

Edit (9/23/2018):

I just want to point out that if you are basing your choice of which game engine to use for your project solely on this information, then you might have more things to worry about than which engine to choose. Both Unity and Unreal offer great things. Be sure to pick the engine that’s right for your project.

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