5 Years of Unity vs. Unreal: Who is Leading the War of Giants

At this article we’d like to reflect on the 2014-2019 changes of the two game development engines Unity and Unreal
Aug 9, 2019
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Four years ago we talked about Unity vs Unreal in our huge article. Today, we’d like to reflect on the 2014-2019 changes of the two game development engines Unity and Unreal.

In 2014, only one of these engines was dominating the game development market offering a flexible 3D modeling, scripting, and level design tool – Unity. Back then, Unity’s coverage accounted for 62% of the market share making it the number one engine in game development and 3D visualization.

In contrast, Unreal Engine created by Epic Games was in 4th place accounting for 12% of the market share.

Unity vs Unreal 2014


Understanding their value on the market, Unreal Engine had to do something extremely radical to compete with Unity.

In 2014, Epic released Unreal Engine 4. Was it just a new version release? Not this time.

“For $19/month you can have access to everything, including the Unreal Editor in ready-to-run form, and the engine’s complete C++ source code hosted on GitHub for collaborative development.” – wrote Tim Sweeney in the article at Unreal’s Blog.

While there may have been nothing new in the update, opening the whole source code of Unreal Engine was extremely valuable for developers, startups, 3D development studios, and game development companies.

Back then, Unity remained conservative and would only allow accessing the code on permission and licensing.

The ability to edit the source code was an extremely valuable contribution to the AAA game development market because large companies need extensive customizability over the feature-richness (which Unity seems to be capitalizing on even today).

Unity vs. Unreal today

Unity vs Unreal 2019


Today, in 2019, you can see that both engines go hand in hand while trying to compete with each other. Both engines have a rating of 4.5 out of 5 according to G2Crowd.

At this point, it’s unclear how things are going to work out for each of the engines and who will be dominating the market in 2020 and beyond.

However, what’s clear is that, in 2015, Mark Zuckerberg had a conversation with Unity and tried to acquire it as a platform for their AR/VR endeavors on mobile. However, according to the TechCrunch article:

“The potential deal obviously did not end up going through, and since 2015, Unity has raised nearly $600 million on a valuation north of $3 billion.”

It may or may not say something about the future of the Unity engine. Mark Zuckerberg may have used that opportunity of 2014 when Unreal Engine potentially skyrocketed to get “desperate” Unity into his arsenal but probably Unity kept getting funds so investors and leaders of the company had other plans.

Recently, Unity was valued at $6 billion having got a series E funding of $150 million, according to TechCrunch. That probably means that Unity will keep going and is not going to be merged anytime soon.

While it might be subjective, Unity is the best development engine for mobile devices, so currently Unreal cannot outperform Unity on mobile platforms.

Speaking about Unreal Engine, Epic Games is doing just fine leveraging it for Fortnite 2 and also betting heavily on AR collaborating with Microsoft.

Unity’s Focus

unity 2019 graphics

Instead of simply covering the list of features which you can find at Unity’s Release Notes, we’ll talk about major system changes as well as graphical and performance improvements so it will be easier to understand the Unity’s focus and future development based on its actions.

Over the years, Unity started supporting Vuforia, WebGL, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation VR, Gear VR, ARKit, ARCore, and Magic Leap which are only a tiny fraction of 25 supported platforms.

You can see that Unity wants to maintain the status of being a cross-platform development engine. Apart from that, the release notes at their site also show that a lot of advancements are being made in terms of mobile app development, graphics, and performance.

Recommended article: “10 Best Android Games Built with Unity

Over the years, we’ve seen significant graphical improvements in Unity (desktop) including physically based rendering, real-time ray tracing, particle control, and other rendering optimization actions that were taken in order to compete with Unreal.

You can see the difference yourself by checking out this video on Unity vs. Unreal graphics comparison.

Unreal Engine’s Focus

Unreal Engine Focus

You may have seen this picture already. This is a shot from the “Rebirth: Introducing photorealism in UE4” video.

In their blog, Unreal Engine explained how Quixel and SideFX managed to create this super photorealistic real-time scene which is just mind-blowing. They’ve leveraged the power of Houdini plugin which uses procedural modeling, animation, effects, and simulation rendering.

Looking at this picture and video, you may tell where Unreal is heading. Some users on YouTube even joke about the graphics of Unreal.

unreal engine comment

Since Houdini is a complex plugin, Unreal has recently announced that it will add Blueprints support to Houdini to make it easier for visual programming developers.

Unreal Engine currently supports over 15 platforms including Gear VR, HoloLens 2, Magic Leap, GoogleDaydream, and of course, iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, and Linux.

Regardless of the platform, Unreal’s focus has always been on fancy and photorealistic graphics and performance.

Unity vs Unreal in a nutshell

  • Unity is awesome for rapid cross-platform app development with pretty high quality graphics.
    Focus (subjective): mobile apps, mobile AR/VR, web apps

  • Unreal is awesome for building optimized and photorealistic applications and 3D visualizations.
    Focus (subjective): standalone AR/VR, desktop apps, mobile apps

Final Thoughts

Both engines are extremely competitive when it comes to gaming and non-gaming app development, 3D visualization, AR/VR app development, photorealistic rendering, and animation.

Unreal Engine has made an insane leap from 2014 to 2019 by becoming one of the best game development engines along with Unity and Blender.

At Program-Ace, we provide both Unity and Unreal development services. We mainly focus on virtual training and simulation development, product configurators, 3D visualization, gamification and game development for mobile and AR/VR platforms.

If you have any questions or want to collaborate – contact us here.

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