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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 [unity.com] 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 [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." [insertcredit.com] "Unity is quite simply not a company to be trusted."
Unity initially told Axios' Stephen Totilo [twitter.com] 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 [axios.com] 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.