Unity's new "per-install" pricing enrages the game development community
For years, the Unity Engine has earned goodwill from developers large and small for its royalty-free licensing structure, which meant developers incurred no extra costs based on how well a game sold. That goodwill has now been largely thrown out the window due to Unity's Tuesday announcement of a new fee structure that will start charging developers on a "per-install" basis after certain minimum thresholds are met.
"There's no royalties, no fucking around," Unity CEO John Riccitiello memorably told GamesIndustry.biz when rolling out the free Personal tier in 2015. "We're not nickel-and-diming people, and we're not charging them a royalty. When we say it's free, it's free."
Now that Unity has announced plans to nickel-and-dime successful Unity developers (with a fee that is not technically a royalty), the reaction from those developers has been swift and universally angry, to put it mildly. "I can say, unequivocally, if you're starting a new game project, do not use Unity," Necrosoft Games' Brandon Sheffield—a longtime Unity Engine supporter—said in a post entitled "The Death of Unity." "Unity is quite simply not a company to be trusted."
Unity initially told Axios' Stephen Totilo that the "per-install" fee applies even if a single user deleted and re-installed a game or installed it on two devices. A few hours later, though, Totilo reported that Unity had "regrouped" and decided to only charge developers for a user's initial installation of a game on a single device (but an initial installation on a secondary device—such as a Steam Deck—would still count as a second install).
Meanwhile, in its FAQ, Unity made a vague promise to adapt "fraud detection practices in our Ads technology, which is solving a similar problem" to prevent developers from being charged for pirated copies.
Unity shuts two offices, citing threats after controversial pricing changes
Unity Technologies has temporarily closed two of its offices amid what the company says are threats to employee safety. The move follows Tuesday's announcement of a highly controversial new fee structure for the company's popular Unity Engine.
News of the closures started dripping out via social media this morning, with employees describing "credible threats" reported to law enforcement and "safety threats" targeting the company's San Francisco and Austin, Texas, offices. "Surprising how far people are willing to go in today's age," Unity Product Manager Utsav Jamwal wrote. "Unfortunate."
A Bloomberg report confirmed that the Austin and San Francisco offices had been closed and reported that the closure had led to the cancellation of a planned employee town hall meeting led by CEO John Riccitiello.
Garry Newman, creator of Garry's Mod and the Unity-based Rust, also announced Wednesday that "Rust 2 definitely won't be a Unity game," because "Unity has shown its power. We can see what they can and are willing to do. You can't un-ring that bell... The trust is gone."
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After nearly a week of protracted developer anger over a newly announced runtime fee of up to $0.20 per game install, Unity says it will be "making changes" to that policy and will share a further update "in a couple of days."
In a late Sunday social media post, Unity offered apologies for the "confusion and angst" caused by the sudden announcement of the policy last Tuesday. "We are listening, talking to our team members, community, customers, and partners, and will be making changes to the policy," the post reads. "Thank you for your honest and critical feedback."
[...] "Publishers can no longer trust that the deals they make with Unity developers won't worsen over time," Zeboyd Digital Entertainment's Robert Boyd said in a statement that sums up similar feelings being expressed publicly by many developers.
[...] "If they make line 1 of their EULA one that guarantees we can continue to use current and past versions of Unity under those terms, maybe with a provision that they can scale the sub fee within some reasonable bounds—that's better than trust," indie developer Tom Francis wrote in a blog post about the complicated legal terms underlying the whole situation.
[...] Caves of Qud developer Brian Bucklew memorably documented his marathon porting work from Unity to Godot over the weekend, though the situation for the retro-styled 2D roguelike might not be representative of more complex porting efforts.
[...] Earlier this year, about a week after Dungeons & Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast faced widespread criticism for changes to its longstanding Open Gaming License, the company tried to partially walk back those changes with a draft that kept many of the most controversial points. A week later, the company fully backed off and promised the original license would "remain untouched."
Developer Dis-Unity - 20230915
In the wake of Unity's sudden fee structure change announcement last week, a European trade group representing thousands of game developers is calling on governments to "update their regulatory framework" to curb what they see as a "looming market failure" caused by "potentially anti-competitive market behavior."
In an open letter published last week, the European Games Developer Federation goes through a lot of the now-familiar arguments for why Unity's decision to charge up to $0.20 per game install will be bad for the industry. The federation of 23 national game developer trade associations argues that the new fee structure will make it "much harder for [small and midsize developers] to build reliable business plans" by "significantly increas[ing] the game development costs for most game developers relying on [Unity's] services."
[...] Beyond simply being bad for the industry, though, the EGDF argues that "Unity's move might be anti-competitive" in a way that demands government action. The group takes a special exception to Unity's history of bundling its game engine with services like analytics, in-game chat, ad networks and mediation tools, user acquisition tools, and more. That kind of bundling creates "a significant vendor lock risk for game developers using Unity services," which "also makes it difficult for many game middleware developers to compete against Unity."