Though Unity doesn't require a username authentication, it does still require online activation (even the free version) so is just as possible that in years to come you will be unlikely to use Unity just like CryEngine.
If you are already confident as a programmer or if you are happy with a steeper learning curve then definitely try out some of the open-source solutions like Irrlicht or Ogre3D. If you do need to use a proprietary engine, try to get a futureproof one (though without access to the source, I cant see how any engine is futureproof quite frankly)
These days a lot of big companies seems to create their own game engine. A lot of marketing seems to happen around them, announcing that a certain game is using this engine, another that one. It becomes the main selling point. Even a lot of gamers seems to praise a certain game engine like it's the king,
I feel your observation is spot on. For companies, there is a lot of money to be gained from selling products to indie developers (effectively now consumers). It is a very different situation in professional gamedev (and open-source gamedev) and frankly it seems sad to see potential developers stunted with products rather than actually learning to create a game themselves.
This is probably also why the modding community is dying. Modifying someone elses game / engine is harder than starting from scratch using a product like Unity.