New Unity Engine Install Fees Upsets Game Developer Community

Unity Engine new plans upset developers

Anyone who plays video games knows how important and influential the Unity Engine has become. It powers some of your favorite games and is the go-to engine for indie game developers and small-time students to tinker and learn game development. Recently, numerous AAA Studios have opted to use the Unity engine for their projects. So, everyone was taken aback when Unity announced their new pricing policy and how they plan to earn more money from the engine. And frankly speaking, the new policy is anything but supporting the developers.

What is the New Unity Engine Pricing Policy

As per an official blog post by Unity, the new engine policy changes the pricing and licensing for developers. Starting 1st January 2024, developers have to pay a monthly runtime fee for new game installs. This system will kick in for developers who earned above $200,000 in the last 12 months and have a lifetime of 200,000 game installs. Unity Pro and Unity Enterprise subscribers have to pay after they pass the $1 million revenue and 1 million lifetime install threshold.

If we do some basic maths (which developer Rami Ismail explained aptly), Unity personal users will have to pay $0.20 per install once they cross 200,000 downloads in a year. This means you pay approximately $40,000 yearly once you reach the threshold. Frankly, this sounds unrealistic and hurts smaller developers more than the bigger ones.

You know, the actual user base of the engine over the AAA or AA studios. In comparison, competitor engines like Godot, GameMaker, and RPG Maker do not charge a single penny when using their game engine. Even Epic Games charges only 5% of your revenue once you reach a lifetime of 1 million dollar sales.

Things keep getting upsetting when you get more details on how this system works. Firstly, the company plans to add this system retroactively to every Unity game in the market. Secondly, every game install will be considered for the $0.020 charge. This means even if a person pirates the copy, Unity will charge you for that install. And it doesn’t take rocket science to understand how badly this system can be used by people to make a developer bankrupt.

Unity Responds to Worries of Game Devs

One of the most popular indie titles Cuphead uses Unity Engine

Unity took to their official X (formerly Twitter) account to clarify their stance, saying it would only affect developers making money. The majority of their developers are safe and can freely use their engine as it is. Furthermore, the Unity runtime fee is not retroactive and perpetual.

They will charge once for a new install. It is not like a perpetual license royalty, like revenue share. Furthermore, they claim that they offer ways to bring this runtime fee to zero, where users can contact them to discuss discounts on the pricing. They also launched an FAQ section outlining every concern of developers. Furthermore, there is no clear explanation of how Unity will track the installation of games running on its engine.

Let’s not sugarcoat the situation, though. Unity has been doing questionable things over the last few years. Earlier, their news of merging with ironSource brought some disapproval from the public. People believe that implementing monetization earlier in game development is not okay. When asked about it, Unity CEO John Riccitiello, in the most tasteful fashion, called its users “fu*king idiots.” He did apologize, and after, you guessed it, people were upset. The introduction of the new runtime fees has pushed developers so far away from the company that many are considering shifting their games to another engine and leaving Unity behind.

And why shouldn’t they? This new fee structure from Unity affects everyone. Some popular titles made in Unity Engine include the likes of HoYoverse’s Genshin Impact, Honkai: Star Rail, indie gems like the System Shock Remake, Cuphead, Rust, Hollow Knight, Ori, etc. When you consider their install base, these game developers will pay thousands of dollars per install over the royalty they have to pay (since I assume they’re on the Unity professional plans). If bigger games such as these are in trouble, imagine what would happen to a smaller indie title that becomes well-known and enjoys thousands of downloads.

Hopefully, we see a solution from Unity in the coming weeks. After all, developers are voicing their concerns, and they are genuine. And if something works wonders, it is voicing your concerns. Sometimes.

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