Unity backlash explained: why game developers are speaking out on Twitter
Unity‘s new fees – which will charge developers every time that their game is installed – have been incurring ire from those who use the software engine to make a living.
Revealed on September 12, the Runtime Fee will be effective from January 1, 2024. From that date, developers will be charged every time a qualifying game is downloaded by a player.
Unity justified this by explaining that the Unity engine is split into two – the Unity Editor and the Unity Runtime. As every time a game is installed, the code supporting Unity Runtime is also installed, the company is seeking the “right value exchange” between both parties with these new fees.
However, the fees will only trigger once two criteria have been hit by the game. Those using Unity Personal and Unity Plus will be charged once the game has generated $200,000 or more in annual revenue and have been installed at least 200,000 times since its launch.
Unity Pro and Unity Enterprise subscribers must have made $1million or more in annual revenue from their game and have been installed at least one million times since its launch.
Developers, especially those on the smaller scale, balked at the new pricing plan. “I’m hearing at least one significant group of developers is talking [of] a class-action lawsuit against Unity,” shared Strange Scaffold founder Xalavier Nelson Jr.
Mega Crit, the developer behind Slay The Spire, described the Runtime Fees as “a violation of trust” and announced it would be migrating its next game to a new engine if the Runtime Fees remain. “We have never made a public statement before. That is how badly you fucked up,” it concluded.
Massive Monster also threatened that it would delete Cult Of The Lamb on January 1, 2024, in protest of Unity’s new pricing plan. In a separate statement, it told the company to “quit being stinky” accompanied by an animation of a cultist character excreting feces with the Unity logo on it.
Others pointed out the timing of Unity CEO John Riccitiello’s choice to sell 2,000 shares on September 6. Members of the company’s board of directors sold shares ahead of the announcement – president of growth Tomer Bar-Zeev sold 37,500 shares on September 1 and director Shlomo Dovrat sold 68,000 shares on August 30.
In response, Unity “[acknowledged] the confusion and frustration” and re-addressed developers’ concerns in a post to X on September 13.
“More than 90 per cent of our customers will not be affected by this change,” it said, reiterating that the Runtime Fees will only be triggered once for an install. Re-installs, demos, trials and installs from an inclusion in a fundraising drive will not count towards total installs.
Furthermore, Unity will only record net new installs from January 1, 2024. “We are not going to charge a fee for fraudulent installs. We will work directly with you on cases where fraud or botnets are suspected of malicious intent,” it explained.
However, the latest post from Unity has done little to diminish concerns over the pricing changes. Additionally, its messaging surrounding anti-fraud measures has been criticised as being too vague.