Unity’s new install pricing model draws ire from game developers

Unity Technologies, the company responsible for the popular cross-platform game engine Unity, has faced widespread criticism from the gaming community following the introduction of its new pricing structure. Unity is widely utilized by game developers of all sizes, including major studios and independent creators, and it serves as the foundation for popular games such as Pokémon Go, Hollow Knight, Rust, and Hearthstone.

This new payment model implemented by Unity replaces their previous revenue-sharing system with a fee that is based on the number of game installs. According to a blog post by a Unity representative, this decision was made because every time a game is downloaded, the Unity Runtime is also installed. The company believes that this installation-based fee allows developers to retain the ongoing financial benefits from player engagement, unlike a revenue share.

Under this new structure, developers will only be required to pay the Unity Runtime fee once their game surpasses a minimum revenue threshold and a minimum lifetime install count within the last 12 months. The fees for Unity Personal and Unity Plus customers are set at $0.20 per install after surpassing $200,000 in revenue and 200,000 lifetime installs. Unity Pro and Unity Enterprise users will pay $0.15 and $0.125 per install, respectively, after reaching $1 million in revenue and 1 million lifetime installs. These fees will be adjusted as developers reach higher thresholds. Unity claims that these numbers were selected to avoid burdening developers who are still in the early stages of building their business.

However, many game developers have expressed their concerns and dissatisfaction with this new pricing model. One major point of contention is how it will impact subscription services like Microsoft’s Game Pass, as well as free demos, charity bundles, and other successful models utilized by smaller developers. For example, Blinkmoon, a company that recently switched from Unreal to Unity for its upcoming project, will likely have to put their work on hold until more information about the fees becomes available. The uncertainty and potential financial risk associated with this new pricing structure may push Blinkmoon and other developers to switch back to Unreal or explore alternative game engines for future projects.

Other developers, such as Henry Hoffman from Newfangled Games, are concerned about the impact on long-term revenue. Hoffman explains that licensing deals with subscription services provided financial stability for his small team and allowed them to focus on sustainable long-term growth. However, the new Unity pricing model may result in millions of game downloads without generating any meaningful revenue, making it unviable for studios like Newfangled Games to continue using Unity.

Developers with games on Xbox Game Pass also face similar challenges. While Unity claims that the installation and initialization of a game via streaming or web browser is considered an install, many developers are unsure of how Unity will accurately track installs. The uncertainty surrounding this issue raises concerns about player privacy, the implementation of digital rights management (DRM), and the potential negative effects on independent developers.

Developers and players alike have taken to social media to express their anxieties about the fees and the lack of clarity in Unity’s initial announcement. There are concerns about what will happen when a game is installed and played without a purchase, as well as the possibility of malicious install campaigns that could financially impact studios. Unity’s vague wording in their announcement leaves many developers feeling insecure about their livelihoods and the future of their projects.

Despite these concerns, Unity has assured developers that they have fraud detection systems in place to prevent abuse of the new pricing structure. However, the lack of transparency surrounding the implementation of these systems further contributes to the unease felt by the developer community.