Usually the Unity game engine gets some unwarranted hate among gamers, but this bit of news has made new Unity haters among game devs. For a good reason.
A new pricing change to the Unity game engine starting January 2024 will now have a “Unity Runtime Fee”, which will see a monthly fee being charged after a game passes a particular revenue threshold (in USD) and install threshold.
This affects to all plans, even Unity Personal, the license to use for small-scale projects.
For example, a Unity Personal and Unity Plus license will be charged a Unity Runtime Fee once the game hits $200,000 USD in the last 12 months in revenue, plus a total of 200,000 installs. The fee kicks in at $0.20 per install, which means that will be at least $40,000 in fees are required to be paid.
Indie developers are at risk here from the high fees. Imagine a cheap game going viral. Or a game coming to a subscription service like Game Pass or PS Plus Game Catalog. Free-to-play games will need to actively push monetisation to ensure their revenue eclipses total installs.
There are a few exemptions to this. Games sold under charity or a charity bundle is exempted. Game demos are exempted. But a unique install, say the same copy of the game being installed on a PC and then a Steam Deck, counts as two installs that adds to the threshold count.
A few indie developers have publicly voiced this. Aggro Crab, developer of Another Crab’s Treasure (which is apparently coming to Game Pass in 2024), has said the following:
“If a fraction of [Game Pass] users download our game, Unity could take a fee that puts an enormous dent in our income and threatens the sustainability of our business.”
Innersloth, indie devs behind Among Us, says that “we’d delay content and features our players actually want to port our game elsewhere (as others are also considering)”.
Kris Antoni, founder of Indonesian-based Toge Productions, calls the new fee “pure extortion”.
Indie dev Dilon Rogers, the person behind the stealth immersive sim Gloomwood, has stated Gloomwood will be their last game on Unity following this news.
Devolver Digital has said to game developers pitching their game to “include what engine you’re using”.
Even as Unity clarifies the limitations and exemptions of the Unity Runtime Fee, the damage, it seems has been done. There will be a wave of Unity devs switching their next projects to another game engine after this.
UPDATE 18/09/23: Unity issued an apology of sorts for the Unity Runtime Fee announcement, which also includes the announcement of the end of the Unity Plus version.
The whole week since the news broke, more and more developers have voiced out regarding this issue. And the issue isn’t just about the fee, but the lost of trust in Unity from having pulled this announcement. And this trust is something you cannot regain by a simple apology tweet. Again, damage has been done.