Unity Announces New Rules Sparking Outrage Among Developers
Unity Engine, the cornerstone behind many popular indie games, has sent shockwaves throughout the gaming community with its recent announcement: a new 'Runtime Fee.' Starting from January 1, Unity will impose a charge on developers every time their game, developed using the Unity engine, is downloaded.
This fee will kick in once developers hit a milestone of $200,000 in revenue over a year or 200,000 total installs. The most shocking aspect? The fee could be as steep as $0.20 per install.
This revelation has left the developer community reeling. Garry Newman, the mastermind behind Garry’s Mod, voiced his disbelief on Twitter, questioning Unity's unilateral decision-making, the unexpected costs, and the integrity of their tracking system.
Another indie developer, Tony Gowland, expressed his frustration, emphasizing the unpredictability of the charge, especially for developers who had already paid for Pro licenses.
Dubbed the Unity Runtime Fee, Unity explains that this fee pertains to the Unity Runtime code, responsible for running each game on devices. Until now, this code hasn't been a revenue source for the company. In a statement on their website, Unity mentioned that this fee structure would let creators retain the benefits from continued player engagement. Unity Create’s president, Marc Whitten, expounded on this, mentioning a desire to "better balance the value exchange" with developers and to reinvest in the engine's enhancement.
However, the announcement raises more questions than it answers. How does the charge apply when a game is re-installed on new hardware? What about when a game is part of a subscription model or a charity bundle, where a surge in downloads could suddenly make developers liable for hefty charges?
As highlighted by Rami Ismail, veteran game developer, this system could even weaponize mass installs against developers, causing financial turmoil.
Unity, which began its journey in 2005, quickly became an indispensable tool for indie game developers, powering renowned titles like Cuphead, Rust, and Pokémon GO. Their innovative approach continued with the launch of Unity Muse and Unity Sentis, two AI tools crafted for AI-driven games. However, the company has recently faced challenges. A slowing economy prompted Unity to cut 8% of its workforce in May, and despite posting a revenue of $533 million in the second quarter of 2023, they reported net losses of $193 million.
Developers are now caught in a whirlwind of uncertainty. Many are demanding clarity on how Unity intends to accurately track downloads, safeguard studios with games in bundles or on subscription services, and accommodate games that transition to a free-to-play model or other new business structures later on.
One such grievance came from Brandon Sheffield, who confirmed that even game demos are considered 'installs,' making the financial implications even more daunting for developers.
Unity's decision has, undoubtedly, thrown a wrench into the indie gaming world, and it remains to be seen how this dramatic change will affect both developers and the broader gaming ecosystem.