Back in November 2009 Epic Games decided to make its Unreal Development Kit completely free to use. That way it could be picked up by an individual or indie team with little to no money to spend on their first project.Epic is in the business of making money, though, so while the engine was free to use some royalty payments kicked in after a time. Non-commercial use remains free forever, but if you sold a game Epic would start claiming a 25% royalty after said game had accrued more than $5,000 in revenue.While it still allowed a developer to make some serious cash with a popular game, $5,000 was still quite a low threshold for royalty payments. So yesterday Mark Rein, CEO of Epic, announced on the Unreal Development Kit forums that the threshold for royalties had been lifted. Now instead of $5,000 a game can earn $50,000 before Epic want a cut.In the post Rein explains:We’re really excited about folks making some amazing things with UDK and we realize that a lot of you are just started in the business so not having to pay royalties on your first $50,000 should help you get a financial footing toward building a quality game development business. Developers using the Unreal Engine are understandably very happy about this news, which some are appropriately stating is “epic”.Read more at Unreal Development Kit forums, via Gamesindustry.bizMatthew’s OpinionEpic clearly see this free access to the Unreal Engine as an investment in the future. Those developers using it today for free may be paying customers in the future with large teams of developers requiring a license.The threshold increase also makes sense from a long-term viability standpoint. If a small developer starts losing 25% of its income past $5,000 then the chances of them growing are cut. Give them $50,000 per game, though, and there may be money in the bank to fund a new, and bigger project. In the end Epic end up with more paying customers who have grown out of this program.