SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – As Epic Games held its annual press conference at the 2014 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco this week,, Tim Sweeny, founder and CEO of the Cary-based game studio, revealed a brand new business model for the company’s Unreal Engine 4 technology.

Game developers big and small, as well as everyday people, will now be able to get full access to the very same technology the studio uses to develop new games like Fortnite by paying $19 per month.

This subscription model can be used to make games for PC, iOS and Android devices.

Epic will collect a 5 percent of gross royalty on any games that generate revenue in any form, whether that’s micro transactions in free-to-play games or traditional pay models.

“This is the start of something new for Epic,” said Sweeney. “There has been a lot of change over the last few years at the studio. Most of the news has been about what games we won’t be developing and what key people won’t be developing for us. But we’ve been developing new technology behind closed doors. The key to the future of Epic is Unreal Engine 4.”

Sweeney wrote 80 percent of the original Unreal Engine code back in 1998. Today, there are 100 developers around the world working on the technology. And there are dozens and dozens of hit games that run on Unreal Engine 3 technology from top game studios around the globe.

There are multiple game studios working on new Unreal Engine 4 titles, many of which have yet to be announced. In addition to Fortnite, Epic’s first UE4 game, Sweeney said the studio is working on several original, unannounced games using the technology.

“The future of the Unreal Engine has been inspired by a lot of changes in the games industry,” said Sweeney. “In 2005, the PC was in decline, Steam was this funny download service and next gen were building gigantic games. People might have thought every year games were going to be bigger and more complex and teams would be growing. But a huge amount of exciting things have happened over the last few years. Apple has introduced the iPhone, independent developers have popped up around the iOS and Android platforms, the Oculus Rift is coming and Steam has celebrated indie games and is coming to the living room with Steam Machines.”

Sweeney said that over the years Epic’s licensing model has cost developers many millions of dollars. While many large, successful teams have created critical and commercial hit games with Unreal Engine technology over the years, that business model is now outdated for most people.

Sweeney and his executive team want to release the Unreal Engine 4 toolset so that everyone can benefit from this technology, regardless of the team size or budget.

“We asked ourselves how we can make the most valuable and useful engine available for everyone and we came up with new business model,” said Sweeney. “We’ve released the tool kit for Unreal Editor 3 with Unreal Development Kit, which allowed developers to build and ship indie games. But that hasn’t grown to the level we had hoped. With UE4, we’re wiping the slate clean.”

The Unreal Development Kit did not include the full C++ source code, which Sweeney referred to as Epic’s “crown jewel.”

This new subscription model for Unreal Engine 4 includes the entire code base that Epic makes available to licensees. The one caveat is that the subscription model does not currently include console games. The UE4 console source is available under a negotiated license.

“We hope in the future to make all of this console support available to everyone,” said Sweeney. “We’re working with Sony and Microsoft to see if we can do that. Console terms are custom negotiated for teams that want to pay up front in exchange for not paying royalties. For a good team working on a good console game, we’re going to try to be very supportive.”

Sweeney said Epic has created new forums that will help subscribers that want to develop games for PC, Android and iOS. The studio has recorded video tutorials and released a large set of documentation online.

“This is just the beginning,” said Sweeney. “We’re working on many new initiatives in UE4 that can be used and experimented with like Linux and Steam OS for Steam Machines, as well as for HTML5 within a Web browser. Everything we develop will be accessible in our source code. It will be a very open and collaborative environment, rather than a secret and elite process of the past where only a few could get access to this technology.”

Epic is releasing 10 sample games for developers to use, including a next-gen shooter game, a tower defense strategy game, and some simple 3D games. These games won’t be released at retail, but instead will serve as inspiration and building blocks for game developers.

“The community can take these games and build their own games from this technology,” said Sweeney. “Unreal isn’t just a shooter engine. It’s for anything you might want to build. Developers are only limited by their imagination and their ability to go out and build cool things with this technology. We’re looking forward to seeing what people build with this.”