The year after its unveiling, Epic Games announced a few days ago that they will be changing the rules that govern development using the Unreal Development Kit, a free-to-download version of their widely used Unreal Engine 3. Anyone can download the UDK, and it remains free if it is only being used for educational (or any other non-commercial) purposes. However, if you do use it to make a commercial game, all you need to do is pay a measly $99 upfront fee and the whole toolbox is yours to play with. This also applies to schemes of world domination. Previously, Epic would start taking a chunk of your profits (a 25% royalty fee) for every cent you made over $5,000. With the new rules, the royalties threshold has been upped to $50,000.
Epic's Mark Rein posted on the UDK forums providing a reason for this surprising move, "We're really excited about folks making some amazing things with UDK and we realize that a lot of you are just started in the business so not having to pay royalties on your first $50,000 should help you get a financial footing towards building a quality game development business." Well, that sounds downright reasonable. Epic is not only providing us gamers with high quality titles like Bulletstorm and the Gears of War series, but they're inviting others into the arena and asking--nay, begging--them to make something and share it with the world, only collecting for themselves once a game has really made it. This continues the trend of a gaming industry that is becoming increasingly accepting of start up and independent ventures.
UDK has already been shown to be quite the game development tool, capable of creating games for iOS and Android devices as well as the PC. Among other notable titles, Infinity Blade and The Ball were made using UDK. Powerful tools in the hands of creative people who aren't risk-averse and get to directly reap the benefits of their hard work, up to $50,000, without signing over a penny? There's no way this can be a bad thing.