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Unity Half-Baked Fee Changing Undermines Entire Indie Game Industry

Unity Half-Baked Fee Changing Decision: A Tale of Distrust and Shady Underpinnings?

Unity's recent clarification on its new fee structure, rather than alleviating concerns, only highlights an increasingly worrying trend from the game engine behemoth. Many of us in the community are left scratching our heads, wondering, "What on earth is Unity thinking?"

Unity Half-Baked Fee Changing Undermines Entire Indie Game Industry
Let's put a face to this disaster. John Riccitiello

From January 1, 2024, Unity intends to charge developers per game installation, a move that seems both insane and detrimental. While their follow-up "clarifications" tried to put out the fires of developer discontent, they may have only added more fuel. They seem to miss the mark entirely on understanding the livelihood and nuances of indie game developers. To me, and many others, their decisions appear half-baked, poorly thought out, and even predatory.

Take, for instance, their fee on reinstallations. Unity claims that only the first-time installation of a game will incur a fee. But the moment it's installed on a different device? Ka-ching! Another charge. This could result in unexpected and exorbitant costs for developers, especially in an era where gamers frequently switch devices. And their exception for demos feels like a last-minute addition, almost as if they suddenly remembered demos existed.

But perhaps the shadiest of it all, hidden amid the storm of the fee controversy, is John Riccitiello. There are reports of Unity CEO's stock sales prior to making this absurd announcement. Knock knock, John, it's the SEC and we'd like to have a chat.

Unity Half-Baked Fee Changing Undermines Entire Indie Game Industry
Knock knock, John, it's the SEC and we'd like to have a chat.

John Riccitiello. Does that name sound familiar to you? It should. He's the same dude who destroyed EA's video game powerhouse in the name of making an extra buck.

Whenever a company makes a controversial change, paired with executive stock sales, it’s hard not to smell something fishy. Such actions inevitably raise eyebrows and questions about insider knowledge and the true stability of the company.

Many developers, such as Among Us creator, Innersloth, have already expressed the burden this fee structure imposes, suggesting delays or even shifts to other platforms. Not to mention Rami Ismail's poignant commentary, indicating how this move is a potential threat, especially given its retroactive implications. He rightly pointed out:

"Them making this move says they're willing to, and that should be terrifying."

Or Adam Smith, the creator of Lost Caves, on Twitter, stating:

I am now beyond anger and am just sad at this point. The fact that I’ll have to unlearn everything I know about the engine and probably learn a new one, and the fact that I already have a Unity game I released, leaving its future uncertain, just has me really distraught.

Unity's recent fee structure shift feels eerily reminiscent of the classic Walmart strategy. Just as Walmart has been known to enter a town, undercut local businesses with rock-bottom prices, only to hike them up once they've monopolized the market and the competition has been wiped out, Unity initially courted developers with affordable and flexible tools. They positioned themselves as the go-to engine for indie game creators. But now, with a significant share of the game development market in their grasp and many developers heavily invested in their ecosystem, Unity's sudden decision to charge per game installation seems like an unexpected price hike. They've cornered the market, and now, like Walmart in many small towns, they risk becoming the only game in town, with developers feeling trapped and beholden to their ever-changing whims. Just because it's "legal", doesn't make it right. There are serious ethical concerns with the business model that Unity is showing here.

It's clear that Unity's decisions and clarifications are not rooted in a profound understanding of their user base. Instead, it paints a picture of a company possibly in turmoil, willing to make rash decisions at the expense of its users, with a potential side of insider shenanigans. As a part of the wider game development community, it's increasingly hard to put trust in Unity, and one can only hope they truly start "listening" as they claim, rather than merely paying lip service.


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