Crytek, the German maker of video games such as Ryse: Son of Rome, has officially released its CryEngine game development engine as a service today on Valve’s Steam digital distribution service.
The company’s goal is to broaden PC game development by making the high-end 3D game technology available to the masses of developers for a subscription fee of $10 a month per developer. Crytek announced the program back in March at the Game Developers Conference. And Steam, the largest digital-distribution software store in the PC industry, is a great place to reach new customers.
“This is a hell of a thing to undertake,” said Carl Jones, the business development director at Crytek, in an exclusive interview with GamesBeat. “It’s been a dream of our cofounder Cevat Yerli for a long time to enable anybody to create games. It took us longer than anticipated to get it out. Now the time is right.”
While Crytek worked on the technology, the market shifted away from a business-to-business relationship, where large triple-A console game developers paid big fees for game engine licenses. Now, hundreds of thousands of indie game developers are sprouting up to make social, mobile, online, and PC games. Those developers can’t or don’t want to pay the hefty fees. Many of them have switched to cross-platform game engines such as Unity 3D from Unity Technologies. With more than 60,000 active monthly developers, Unity has moved into a leadership position.
Like its rival, Epic Games, Crytek always played at the high end of game development. But it also made it possible for smaller developers to use its tech. In August 2011, Crytek released a free version of its engine, which makes it possible for a game to run beautiful 3D graphics and function on a game platform. More than 500,000 developers downloaded the free version.
But as soon as a developer began making money with whatever they created, they had to pay royalties to Crytek. That resulted in big bills that developers really didn’t like, Jones said. Many of them simply converted to an enterprise-wide business license for their games. Crytek has about 100 of those developers, making games for the PC.
“Clearly, the industry is changing,” Jones said. “We realized a simpler approach was needed.”
As with other software, developers preferred to pay a fixed fee. So in March, Crytek changed its model to the monthly subscription fee. Epic changed its licensing program as well, charging $20 a month plus a 5 percent royalty for its Unreal 4 game engine. But Crytek went one step further, getting rid of its royalty structure altogether.
Jones said that the new CryEngine 3.6.2 has the newest improvements in the technology that Crytek created for Ryse: Son of Rome, the exclusive title that debuted on the Xbox One video game console and other Microsoft platforms. Jones said that many game developers have moved over to mobile, but they’re not making the kind of triple-A games that hardcore gamers are accustomed to. With CryEngine, developers can make more ambitious games, Jones said.
“And they don’t have to spend millions of dollars on their development budgets,” Jones said.
Among the new titles using CryEngine is Star Citizen, the crowdfunding sci-fi space sim from Chris Roberts.
Crytek is also providing more support through the Steam service, which has features for small developers such as the Steam Greenlight service.
“We needed an ecosystem to release games, so Steam made sense,” Jones said.
Crytek is still extending its engine to new platforms such as mobile. It has released one game on iOS to date.
“We want people to make showcase mobile titles with the CryEngine,” Jones said. ”