Just two days ago Epic announced that you can use their powerful Unreal Engine 4 with no upfront costs. And a 5% revenue fee is only collected when your gross is over $3.000,- per quarter. This used to be $100.000 per developer seat just a couple of years ago. One day later, Unity announced that they basically give away their engine for free with their personal edition. Only when your revenue/funding exceeds $100.000, you will have to pay. And today, Valve revealed that they will give their Source engine for free for developers. And although the exact licensing terms are a bit vague for the Source engine, it seems they are following Epic and Unity in this trend.
Well, that escalated quickly.
They all seem to scream out: Developers, Developers, Developers!
Obviously, this is very good news for (indie) developers around the globe. There are just no entry barriers anymore. It really represents a shift in the business model of commercial game engines. In the last years there has been a steady increase in released indie games. Most not very profitable, but some have become enormously popular, generating a lot of revenue. So it seems that these engines are betting on riding along with these trends. Thereby participating in some of the revenues in the long-tail, but also betting on benefiting from the next big indie blockbuster. Being a part of the ecosystem of the rising indie industry seems to be more important than short-term revenues in this regard.
These are exciting times to be a game developer.