A few weeks ago, Amazon announced it had co-opted Crytek’s CryEngine for its new Lumberyard engine—and then released it completely free. Free to download. Free to use. Free from royalties. That naturally left us wondering where that left Crytek and CryEngine proper.
Now we know.
Today, Crytek announced CryEngine V. But—surprisingly—it’s also royalty-free. Instead of making money on the back end like Unity and Unreal, Crytek’s adopted a “Pay What You Want” system. In other words, after you make your money on a game, Crytek’s wagering that you’ll send some money its way. “We hope you’ll think of us,” said Crytek’s Frank Vitz, Creative Director on CryEngine.
It’s a risky but probably smart move for an engine that’s slowly-but-surely lost market share with Unity and Unreal ditching the old pay barriers and welcoming small indie devs into the fold. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Crytek definitely needed something to stand out. Asking for even less money could entice some developers.
Crytek’s also (finally) created an asset marketplace to help out those same indie developers. Again, it’s late to the party on this one as Unity started that trend years ago, but it might bring in some people who were previously intimidated by CryEngine.
Crytek’s also leaning on its fabled graphics prowess to push a ready-for-VR narrative—near-photorealism at high frame rates, as seen in its demo for The Climb. Vitz said during today’s press event that “Can it run Crysis?” has now been replaced by “Can it run VR?” Assuming virtual reality takes off, it could be Crytek’s saving grace—as evidenced by the company’s upcoming, CryEngine-fueled VRScore VR benchmark.
Big changes! Now we just wait to see whether it’s enough to save what seems like a struggling company. CryEngine’s always been a stunning bit of technology, but they’ll need to win back developers (and rely on their generosity) if we’re going to see a CryEngine VI.