Unity, the technology company responsible for one of the most popular game engines, is scrambling to elucidate how a price increase for its services will be implemented after its announcement Tuesday morning infuriated the game development community.
Why it is crucial: The fees, which Unity claims are essential for financing the development of its technology, have left many game developers questioning whether creating a hit game with Unity will cost them more than they can earn.
Developers discussed delaying their games in order to move to Epic Games’ rival Unreal Engine or other services on X, formerly known as Twitter.
In the evening, however, Unity executive Marc Whitten updated Axios on the policies, potentially assuaging game developers’ concerns.
The new “Runtime Fee” announced on Tuesday morning is attached to a player’s installation of a game, a previously cost-free action for developers.
With Unity’s new plan, developers who use Unity’s free tier of development services will incur $0.20 per installation once their game reaches the download and revenue thresholds of 200,000 and $200,000, respectively.
Developers paying more than $2,000 annually for a Unity Pro plan would be required to meet higher benchmarks and be charged reduced fees.
The newfee system will be implemented beginning in 2024.
Yes, but: Game developers, rallying behind X, were outraged to learn that any game experiencing a spike in installations due to a large sale, inclusion in a charity bundle, or even just by being included in a popular subscription service such as Microsoft’s Game Pass, would incur crippling Unity fees.
Developers of the successful game Among Us, Innersloth, tweeted “Stop it” on Tuesday evening. This would be detrimental not only to us, but also to game studios of all sizes and budgets….”
Another studio, Aggro Crab, demanded that Unity reverse its plans, expressing concern that its upcoming game, which is scheduled for release to Game Pass’s 25 million subscribers, could accrue fees that “threaten the stability of our business.”
The intrigue: Unity has scrambled to clarify and in one key instance alter what it has said about its policies around the fees.
After telling Axios earlier on Tuesday that a player who installs a game, deletes it, and reinstalls it would incur multiple fees, Unity’s Whitten later clarified that the company would only charge for the initial installation. (According to a spokesperson for Axios, Unity “regrouped” to discuss the matter.)
He hoped that this would alleviate concerns about “install-bombing,” in which an irate user deletes and reinstalls a game to build up fees and punish a developer.
If a user installs a game on a second device, such as a Steam Deck, after installing it on a PC, an additional fee will be charged.
Runtime fees will not be charged for the installation of game demos, according to Whitten, unless the demo is part of a download that includes the complete game (while early access games will incur installation fees).
Games offered for charity or included in charitable events will not incur fees. Unity will provide a method for developers to notify Unity that their games are available in this manner, according to Whitten.
Regarding Game Pass and other subscription services, Whitten stated that developers such as Aggro Crab would not be responsible for payment, as the fees are charged to distributors, in this case, Microsoft.
Runtime fees will not be charged for the installation of game demos, according to Whitten, unless the demo is included in a download that contains the complete game (early access games will be charged for installation).
Notably, Whitten estimates that only about 10 percent of Unity’s developers will be required to pay any fees, given the requirements for games.
What they are saying is, “Our primary goal with this is to ensure that we have the appropriate value exchange so that we can continue to invest in our core mission to provide the best tools for people to create great games.”
“It’s not enjoyable to receive numerous furious comments on any given day. I believe that this is why we need to clarify some of these themes.
“However, we are actively listening and will continue to provide the highest quality service possible.”