Oh snap! Yesterday, Epic announced that Unreal Engine 4 is now free-to-develop!
Last year, when they launched Unreal Engine 4 for the first time, they also rolled out a new subscription-based licensing fee. For $19/month anyone could get a valid Unreal Engine 4 license with full access to the source code. The royalties owed to Epic were also reduced from around 30% to just 5%. This was a huge step for bringing UE4 to a broader user-base. For the first time, smaller indie teams could actually afford to use one of the more powerful game engines on the market.
Yesterday, on the first day of GDC 2015, Epic announced that UE4 would now be free for development purposes. The $19/month subscription fee would henceforth be dropped. Anyone who had already sent in their fee for next month would be reimbursed, and those who had been actively subscribing to the service would receive $30 of free credit to UE4's asset store. Anyone wanting to download and use UE4 can do so simply by signing up at UE4's website, no further charges.
The 5% royalties to Epic are still in place for monetized projects. If you make some decent money off of a game you make with UE4, Epic will still be taking their cut. But if you just want to grab UE4 and learn how to make some games, there is now zero out-of-pocket cost. This is a huge boon to the indie and hobbyist communities. One more barrier to entry has vanished, and people looking to try their hand at game making have another powerful tool at their disposal.