Unity, the cross-platform game engine, announced major changes to its fee structure, angering indie developers around the world. The company has introduced a new ‘Unity Runtime Fee’, where studios will be charged every time a game built on their engine is installed. The new pricing structure will take effect on January 1, 2024, with different installation fees charged based on the multiple subscription levels. Understandably, developers are angry and confused, speaking out against the rules and their lack of clarity, which can easily put them out of business. While this only applies to a certain group of developers who have reached a prescribed threshold for sales or download numbers, a revenue sharing model would have been ideal.
“Yes, this is a price increase and will only affect a small subset of current Unity Editor users. Today, a vast majority of Unity Editor users currently pay nothing and this change will have no impact,” the company outlined in a tweet. The thresholds are determined based on the plans a developer chooses. Smaller creators who rely on Unity Personal and the Unity Plus models will be forced to pay $0.20 (approximately Rs. 17) per download once their game reaches $200,000 (approximately Rs. 1.65) in one year. crore) in revenue and exceeds 200,000 installations. This would amount to approximately $40,000 (approximately Rs. 33 lakh) in payments to Unity annually. Meanwhile, AAA developers using the Unity Pro and Unity Enterprise accounts have set their thresholds at $1 million (roughly Rs. 8 crore) in revenue and 1 million lifetime installs before the Runtime Fee is levied.
“We chose this because every time a game is downloaded, the Unity Runtime is also installed. We also believe that an initial setup fee allows creators to retain ongoing financial profits from player engagement, as opposed to a revenue share,” reads Unity’s original blog post. Initially, the company claimed that uninstalling and reinstalling a game on the same system would also count towards the cost, but has since backtracked on the claim that developers would only be charged for the initial installation. That said, if the same game is downloaded to another system(s), the developer will incur additional costs.
NEW – I received an important update from Unity regarding their new rates
– Unity has “regrouped” and now says that ONLY the first installation of a game will incur a fee
– Demos usually do not charge any fees
– Developers are not interested in Game Pass
More here: https://t.co/GCKjEeFtYR
— Stephen Totilo (@stephentotilo) September 13, 2023
The internet’s angry developers have since come together to point out how these rules could also put them out of business. You can simply pirate a game, download it and delete it, then repeat the process on different systems to increase a studio’s supposed cost. In response, Unity referred to its ongoing “fraud detection practices” that will be used as a starting point to prevent studios from being charged for games they never sold. In short, the company doesn’t have a good answer and is trying to figure it out. “We recognize that users will have concerns about this and we will provide a process for them to bring their concerns to our fraud compliance team,” the blog post said.
In addition to piracy, freemium games that generate revenue through in-game purchases will also be affected by Unity’s new rules. They are essentially forced to pay more than they earned simply because of the millions of downloads it brings in within a year. Fortunately, if the game was downloaded via subscriptions such as Xbox Game Pass, the distributors, in this case Microsoft, will be charged the cost. Likewise, games offered through charities or even demo installations are exempt from fees. However, there is no transparency in how Unity tracks these installation numbers, other than claiming that they believe in the accuracy of their ‘proprietary data model’.
In retaliation, some developers have expressed their distaste for Unity, starting with Massive Monster, which has threatened to remove their critically acclaimed roguelike Cult of the Lamb from storefronts on January 1. The studio specializes in Unity and has several projects in the pipeline. all of which are now postponed as the team figures out new engines and workflow. Even Innersloth, developers of the pandemic-era sensation Among Us, confirmed to IGN that pulling the game from stores is on the list of plans.
The answer is completely justified when you consider how many popular titles have emerged from the Unity Engine – Genshin Impact, Cuphead, Ori and the Blind Forest, Rust and Hollow Knight to name a few. The last of them even had a long-awaited sequel planned: Silksong, which was postponed earlier this year due to a better finish. And now fans are worried that it could be further delayed if developer Team Cherry decides to rebuild it on a new engine. There has been no official comment from the studio yet.