Unity, the technology firm responsible for a widely used game development engine, is working diligently to explain the details of a pricing adjustment for its services. This announcement, made on Tuesday morning, has sparked considerable discontent within the game development community.
The significance of this situation lies in the fact that Unity’s fees, which they claim are crucial for financing the development of their technology, raised concerns among game developers. Many of these developers questioned whether achieving success with Unity might result in expenses surpassing their potential earnings.
Throughout the day, developers discussed the possibility of postponing their game releases to switch to competing platforms like Epic Games’ Unreal Engine or other services on X (formerly Twitter). However, by the evening, Unity executive Marc Whitten provided updates on the policies, which could potentially ease some of the concerns expressed by game creators.
In further detail, Unity’s newly introduced “Runtime Fee,” announced on Tuesday, is associated with the number of installations a game accumulates, an aspect that previously did not incur any costs for developers.
Under Unity’s updated plan, developers using the free tier of Unity’s development services would be required to pay Unity $0.20 per installation once their game surpasses 200,000 downloads and generates revenue exceeding $200,000.
For developers subscribing to the Unity Pro plan costing over $2,000 annually, they would encounter higher thresholds and lower fees.
This revised fee system is scheduled to take effect at the beginning of 2024.
Indeed, game developers, who congregated on X, reacted with immediate frustration. They expressed concerns that any game experiencing a surge in installations, whether due to a major sale, inclusion in a charitable bundle, or being featured on a popular subscription service like Microsoft’s Game Pass, would trigger substantial and burdensome fees from Unity.
In response to this, development studio Innersloth, known for creating the popular game Among Us, tweeted their disapproval on Tuesday evening, urging Unity to reconsider, as they believed these fees would not only affect them but also impact game studios of all sizes and budgets.
Another studio, Aggro Crab, went a step further and called on Unity to reverse its plans. They were apprehensive that their upcoming game, set for release to the 25 million Game Pass subscribers, could incur fees that posed a significant threat to the stability of their business.
The interesting aspect here is that Unity has been working fervently to provide clarification and, in a significant instance, modify its statements regarding its policies concerning these fees.
Taking a closer look: Initially, Unity had informed Axios earlier on Tuesday that when a player installs a game, deletes it, and then reinstalls it, this would result in multiple fees. However, Unity’s Whitten later informed Axios that the company would only charge for the initial installation. (A Unity spokesperson mentioned that Unity had “regrouped” to address this matter.)
This adjustment was intended to alleviate concerns about “install-bombing,” a situation where a disgruntled user could repeatedly delete and reinstall a game to accrue fees in order to harm a developer.
However, it’s worth noting that an additional fee will be incurred if a user installs a game on a second device, such as a Steam Deck, after initially installing it on a PC.
Reading between the lines: There are several noteworthy points regarding the runtime fees:
1. Game demos will generally not incur runtime fees, except when the demo is bundled with the full game. Early access games, however, would be charged for installations.
2. Games associated with charity endeavors or included in charity initiatives will be exempt from these fees. Unity plans to offer a mechanism for developers to notify Unity when their games are part of such charitable efforts.
3. For subscription services like Game Pass, developers like Aggro Crab would not be responsible for paying the fees. Instead, these fees are billed to distributors, with Microsoft being the distributor in the case of Game Pass.
This clarification provides a more nuanced understanding of how Unity intends to apply the runtime fees in various scenarios.
An important point to highlight is that Whitten estimates that only approximately 10% of Unity’s developers will find themselves in a situation where they need to pay fees. This estimate takes into account the thresholds that games must reach to trigger these fees, suggesting that a significant majority of Unity developers may not be affected by the new pricing structure.
In their own words:
“Our main goal here is to ensure that we have the proper value exchange so that we can continue to invest in our core goal of providing the best tools for people to create fantastic games.”
Receiving a lot of negative feedback on a specific day is not enjoyable. I believe that some of these topics need to be clarified. However, we’re paying attention and will keep doing everything we can to provide the greatest service.
These statements reflect Unity’s commitment to sustaining its mission of providing top-notch game development tools while acknowledging the need for clarification and responsiveness to feedback from the game development community.