Unity, the prominent cross-platform game engine, announced a new “Runtime Fee” that has spurred considerable controversy within the indie developer community. Set to launch in 2024, this fee structure is tied to game installations and the revenue generated. While Unity aimed to offer clarity on this decision, their efforts seem to have increased confusion and frustration among developers.
The Details of the Runtime Fee
- Unity’s new fee structure, as outlined in their September 12 blog post, will take effect from January 1, 2024.
- The fee is dependent on both the number of installations and the revenue of a game developed using Unity.
- Thresholds differ based on the Unity plan used. Unity Personal and Unity Plus plans have thresholds at $200,000 annual revenue and 200,000-lifetime installs, while Unity Pro and Unity Enterprise have them at $1 million revenue and 1 million installs.
- The costs per installation past the threshold vary across plans:
- Unity Personal and Unity Plus: $0.20
- Unity Pro: $0.02 to $0.15
- Unity Enterprise: $0.01 to $0.125
Developers’ Immediate Reaction
Soon after Unity announced its decision, Garry Newman, the developer of Rust, expressed his shock at potentially owing Unity a significant sum based on the new model. Developers have shared concerns on social platforms like X (formerly Twitter) about the uncertainty of Unity’s calculations and potential charges.
One crucial clarification is that the fee will only affect monetized games, with charity games and bundles exempted. However, gray areas still persist. Stephen Totilo of Axios clarified that a player reinstalling a game or installing it on multiple devices would be considered as separate installations. This raises concerns for developers about the potential for abuse by players who might repeatedly uninstall and reinstall games. While Unity promises fraud detection tools and reporting systems, this approach has added to the apprehensions.
Complications and DRM Concerns
Tiani Pixel, an indie developer, voiced concerns about measuring actual installs and potential privacy issues. Implementing such a policy might necessitate adding Digital Rights Management (DRM) tools to track installations, which have historically been perceived negatively within the gaming community. These tools could breach user privacy and are sometimes equated with malware, benefiting neither developers nor users.
Developers Rallying Players for Protest
The Unity decision has caused some game developers to urge players to rally against the new pricing. Many developers have expressed the financial risks this structure poses, especially for indie developers. Some are considering migrating their projects to other game engines like Godot or Unreal.
FrogteamGames, the developers of Frogsong, declared they would move away from Unity for future projects due to the risks the new fee structure poses. They urged the community to stand against these changes.
Innersloth, the developers of the popular game Among Us, also expressed similar sentiments. Their concern is that the changes could cause delays in content and features as many might consider migrating their games.
AGGRO CRAB pointed out potential pitfalls in Unity’s new policy, especially concerning platforms like Xbox Game Pass. With games free to install for subscribers, Unity’s new fees could threaten the sustainability of businesses, especially when taking into account sales on other platforms.
Unity’s Potential Countermeasures
Given the strong backlash, Unity may reconsider some aspects of its new pricing model. They could:
- Offer further clarification to address prevailing ambiguities.
- Introduce transitional schemes or discounts for indie developers, lessening the immediate financial impact.
- Improve transparency regarding install tracking and potential DRM implementations.
- Engage in open dialogues with developers to understand their concerns and collaborate on finding a middle ground.
Unity’s new pricing model has undeniably stirred a pot of concerns and discontent within the game development community. The impact on indie developers, potential financial risks, DRM concerns, and a perceived shift in Unity’s priorities have all been central to the discussions. With the launch of the new fee structure in 2024, the coming months are expected to witness continued dialogue between Unity and the game development community. As developers rally for Unity to reconsider its decision, it remains to be seen how this situation will unfold, but it’s clear that the stakes are high for both Unity and the indie developer community.