I'm at a Unity [official site] special event at GDC and I've had a donut for breakfast. Take everything I'm writing below with a pinch of the sugar rushing through my veins, but Unity have just announced that Unity 5 is available to download now and that there's a free, no-royalty Personal Edition for use by small companies.
There's a livestream of the event and more details below.
I am adding more details on what Unity 5 contains in between looking for some fruit.
For starters, there's a question over whether Unity have an answer to Epic MegaGames' announcement yesterday that the Unreal Engine would now be free (with a 5% royalty on games released using it). Unity 5 Professional's pricing is the same as Unity 4 - $75/month or $1500 with no royalty. However, they also announced Unity Personal Edition, which is free, with no royalties, and for use for companies with earnings below $100k.
That sounds good, though a larger coup is maybe that Unity CEO John Riccitiello then introduced Mike Capps to the stage, who was the long-time president of Epic (MegaGames). That's some top corporate trolling. Capps talked about Unity's graphics engine and how it now allows small teams to reach "high-end graphics". It's weird to think that small indie developers are basically repeating the graphics race that triple-A went through in the late '90s.
The second big thing is how Unity has been working with Oculus to put native-support for the virtual reality headset into Unity 5. An alpha for that has just launched. I have no idea what that means over the old plugin implementation, but Oculus Rift inventor Palmer Luckey seemed excited. And young. He's very young.
This is a developer-focused event, and the focus so far is on ways that Unity 5 can make development either easier or make games potentially prettier. The first example is a quicker-to-use lighting model, which one of Unity's founders demonstrated by building and lighting a scene live on stage. Then the developer of Republique talked about how Republique Remastered - the PC/Mac version of the iOS sneak-'em-up - was made within Unity 5. It seems that lots of lighting that was previously faked by being baked into the textures is now able to be rendered in real-time.
Hey look, screenshots of what Unity 5 can do.
They're now bigging up Unity Ads, a service for monetizing mobile games. The example they give is Crossy Road, which apparently has made $3 million from its in-app adverts. This is definitely a developer-focused event.
The highlight of the event for me is i) the introducer pronouncing John Riccitiello's name wrong and ii) Riccitiello doing mouth sound effects when the first trailer's audio didn't work. I am not a game developer, YMMV.
Here's the livestream.