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Unity vs. Unreal: What to Choose for Your Project?

Considering the massive interest studios and businesses have shown towards building apps with Unity o Unreal development, we decided to revisit the facts to help you make an informed choice in the development of your next project.
Apr 13, 2021
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In 2015, Unity and Unreal were the hottest names in the game development industry, spurring discussion and comparisons anywhere they were mentioned. The discussion grew so fierce that we wrote an entire piece about the two engines and how they were showing their stripes. Though just a few years have passed since then, this is an eon in the fast-changing world of software development.

Sweeping changes have affected both engines recently, and considering the massive interest studios and businesses have shown towards building apps with Unity or Unreal development, we decided to revisit the topic. We’ve got the facts to help you make an informed choice in the development of your next project.

What is the State of Unity and Unreal in 2021?

In case you’re new to the conversation, the first thing you should know is that Unity and Unreal Engine are two of the most prominent engines used for software development today. Though both started as tools for game building, they have evolved into much bigger and better platforms. Let’s take a closer look at the changes and current state.

Over the years…

UnityUnreal Engine
2005 – The first open-use version of the engine launches, being met with quick acclaim.1998 – the first version of UE debuts with the release of the game “Unreal
2007 – launch of v 2.02002 – launch of v 2.0
2010 – launch of v 3.02006 – UE 3 is released, being applied for its first AAA titles – Gears of War and Mass Effect
2015 – Unity 5 launches. It is a major breakthrough, with support for dozens of new platforms, major graphic improvements, HD video support, and VR.2014 – UE4 is released with major improvements to graphics and scripting. It achieves widespread use, being adopted in the creation of hundreds of major video and mobile games.
2017 – seamless integration with top 3D design tools (3DS Max, Maya) is added2016 – Support for VR application development is added.
2018 – the first in-engine machine learning tools are introduced, along with a rendering pipeline for traditional and immersive platforms2019 – support for real-time ray tracing is added, along with additional rendering output options.
2019 – DOTS, an innovative data-oriented tech stack is introduced for massive improvements to processing performance.2020 – UE5 is announced, with a planned release in late 2021. This iteration is expected to provide groundbreaking improvements to photogrammetry, LOD optimizations, and asset creation.
2020 – Integration for BIM 360 is added; a solution called Unity Forma is made available for easy creation of 3D marketing content.

Today…

UnityUnreal
Mobile games made with Unity account for 71% of the top 1000 titles on the marketOver 2 million games powered by the engine
The user base (developers + users) amounts to over 2.7 billion peopleMarketplace features over 16K assets
Asset Store features over 65K assetsDeveloper community exceeds 7 million people
Revenue increased by 43% in 2020Market share is estimated at 13%
Market capitalization is approximately $27.8 billion.Epic Games’ (parent company) market cap is approximately $17 billion.

Is Unreal Harder Than Unity?

This question is a major concern both for new developers and businesses looking to hire devs.

In terms of hiring specialists or forecasting their productivity, there should be no immediate worries. After all, tens of thousands of devs in both categories (Unreal/UE) are working on the market nowadays, many of them through freelance and outsourcing services.

The current versions of the engines are very well-optimized, so most competent specialists should be able to make full use of them at least until major overhauls like UE5 are launched. Even then, you can still choose to work with previous versions of the software.

In terms of learning, there will be a significant level of difficulty regardless of which platform is chosen – you can expect months of just learning the basics. Still, many devs who have worked with both options admit that Unity is much easier to jump into, simply because of the more streamlined and understandable language of C#.

Unity vs Unreal Market Share

What Are The Limits of Unity vs Unreal App Development?

Before you choose the engine for your next app, you will certainly need to make sure that it supports the type of project you are envisioning.

Apps by purpose (with examples):

Unity vs Unreal
  • Enterprise apps (for company's internal use)
  • Client-side apps (commercial)
  • Game & Entertainment apps

No limits here. As we have mentioned, both engines are currently used for much more than games, so you can use either for your project, even if you never plan on sharing it with the world.

Apps by platform:

  • Desktop
  • Mobile
  • AR/VR/MR
  • Console
  • Web
  • Android TV
  • Stadia

Mostly the same. Nearly all the listed platforms are supported on both, except for Android TV, which is unavailable on UE.

Expectations for Development

Though the two engines let you accomplish most of the same things on a broad scale, there are undoubtedly differences when it comes to the nitty-gritty of development. Below are some of the peculiarities you or your team may face throughout the process:

UnityUnreal
Mobile apps
Unity was built with mobile apps in mind, so development for these devices is very streamlined, both for 2D and 3D titles. Most of the optimizations are meant for small and indie games with limited processing requirements.Using the powerful graphic capabilities of UE is overkill for most mobile apps, yet the UE optimization for high-processing apps makes it more suitable for AAA titles and those geared toward high-end devices.
Immersive apps
Immersive apps based on VR/MR/XR technology are supported in both engines, but the option of Unity is perfect for prototyping and experimenting with immersive functions.This is the superior choice for immersive assets designed with a great level of detail. It also offers a lower barrier of entry into immersive design thanks to its Blueprints system.
Graphics
This software provides a few impressive graphical features from the onset (e.g. global illumination and physical-based rendering), but achieving better visuals often involves plenty of tinkering/editing.In addition to the impressive default graphic features provided by its counterpart, UE assets often look polished right out of the box thanks to a wide range of presets.
Community
The asset store on the company website is massive and filled to the brim with 3D assets, with some smaller yet notable collections of 2D assets, templates, and VFX. Learning materials are galore on the platform website.While UE’s asset marketplace is smaller, it also offers a decent variety, mostly focused on game elements. Devs are supported with countless manuals and forums.
Cost
The most basic plan (Personal) is free to use, but more expansive and business-oriented plans cost $399 annually per account or more.This option is free to use, but engages a royalty system that kicks in as soon as an app is monetized, bringing the company (Epic Games) 5% of earnings.

Making the Final Choice for Your Project

You should not make the decision of Unity/Unreal lightly, so we suggest analyzing your project from both a business and technical standpoint, finding the common tissue that will make it easiest to connect to one of the two options. As an additional reference, feel free to refer to these broad strokes of engine strengths and weaknesses:

Unity

Unity Plus Great for building simple mobile apps, including prototypes and mobile AR/VR apps.
Unity Plus Broadest available cross-platform support
Unity Plus Simpler and faster coding with C#
Unity Plus Impressive asset store
Unity Minus Polishing graphics takes more time and work
Unity Minus Rendering can be slow without optimization

Unreal

Unreal Plus Geared towards achieving the highest quality of graphics
Unreal Plus Allows users to customize shaders without coding
Unreal Plus Lightning fast post-processing
Unreal Plus All user groups have access to source code
Unreal Minus Licensing model disadvantageous for large commercial projects
Unreal Minus Too cumbersome for small-scale games

Get Started With Development

Getting started with a major project can be quite overwhelming, especially in the early stages when you’re forming your game plan. The important thing to remember is that you don’t need to do everything alone, and learning how to masterfully exploit a game engine is not the only path forward.

With the help of a reliable development partner, you can quickly dive into the process and leave the technical matters to the experts.

Even if you already have a team of devs working on a project, you can back them up with an external team or selected specialists that will provide work of the highest quality at a great rate. Program-Ace is one of many companies that provide such services, but Unity and Unreal are particular strengths. We have one of the largest and most talented Unity teams in Europe, with a solid portfolio to prove it.

You choose the engine, and we will push your project forward at full speed! Just contact us, and we can begin discussing how to make it happen.

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