Unity Introduces Controversial Per-Install Fee, Several Indie Devs Respond

Update, 9/13/23:

Unity recently announced changes to its pricing and packaging plans that will go into effect on January 1, 2024. These changes include the introduction of a new Unity Runtime Fee that will be based on the number of game installs. In addition, Unity will be providing cloud-based asset storage, Unity DevOps tools, and AI at runtime at no extra cost to Unity subscription plans starting this November. You can find more details about these changes in Unity’s original announcement blog post and FAQ.

Unity Answers Forum Highlights:

“Q: How are you going to collect installs?
A: We leverage our own proprietary data model to accurately determine the number of times the runtime is distributed for a given project.
Q: Is software made in unity going to be calling home to unity whenever it’s ran, even for enterprise licenses?
A: We use a composite model for counting runtime installs that collects data from numerous sources. The Unity Runtime Fee will use data in compliance with GDPR and CCPA. The data being requested is aggregated and is used for billing purposes.
Q: If a user reinstalls/redownloads a game / changes their hardware, will that count as multiple installs?
A: Yes. The creator will need to pay for all future installs. Unity doesn’t receive end-player information, only aggregate data.
Q: If a game that’s made enough money to be over the threshold has a demo of the same game, do installs of the demo also induce a charge?
A: If it’s early access, Beta, or a demo of the full game, then yes. If you can get from the demo to a full game, then yes. If it’s not like a single level that can’t upgrade, then no.
Q: What’s going to stop us from being charged for pirated copies of our games?
A: We already have fraud detection practices in our Ads technology that solve a similar problem, so we will utilize that know-how. We understand that users have concerns about this, and we will provide a process for them to submit their concerns to our fraud compliance team.
Q: When in the lifecycle of a game does tracking of lifetime installs begin? Do beta versions count towards the threshold?
A: Each initialization of an install counts towards the lifetime install.
Q: Does this affect WebGL and streamed games?
A: Games on all platforms are eligible for the fee but will only incur costs if both the install and revenue thresholds are crossed. Installs are counted on all platforms in the same way (WebGL and streaming included).
Q: Are these fees going to apply to games that have been out for years already? If you met the threshold 2 years ago, you’ll start owing for any installs monthly from January, right?
A: Yes, assuming the game is eligible and distributing the Unity Runtime, then runtime fees will apply. We look at a game’s lifetime installs to determine eligibility for the runtime fee. Then we bill the runtime fee based on all new installs that occur after January 1, 2024.”

Original story, 9/12/23:

This morning, Unity Software announced updates to its pricing and packaging plans, set to take effect on January 1, 2024. The key change is the introduction of the Unity Runtime Fee, which will charge developers each time their game is installed by a user. The fee is justified by the fact that the installation of a game also includes the installation of Unity Runtime.

Unity Runtime Fee

Starting in January, games will be subject to the Unity Runtime Fee if they meet a minimum revenue threshold in the past 12 months and have a minimum lifetime install count. Unity has intentionally set these thresholds high to avoid impacting smaller developers. Currently, the threshold for Unity Personal and Plus plans is $200,000 or more in the last 12 months and at least 200,000 lifetime game installs. Once the threshold is reached, developers will be charged $0.20 per install over the threshold. For Pro and Enterprise versions, the thresholds are $1,000,000 or more in the last 12 months and at least 1,000,000 lifetime installs. Pro license holders will be charged between $0.02 and $0.15 per install over the threshold, while Enterprise license holders will be charged between $0.01 and $0.125 per install over the threshold.

Unity will be using proprietary data models to track and determine the fees owed by developers. However, some developers have voiced concerns about transparency regarding how these fees are calculated.

It is important to note that the new pricing plan does not directly address methods of acquiring video games outside of traditional sales, such as subscription services or piracy.

There are also concerns about the impact of game deletion and reinstallation on the fee. If a player deletes a game and reinstalls it, it will count as two installs towards the developer’s threshold or, if the threshold has already been reached, two individual charges to the developer. The same applies if a game is installed on multiple devices by the same user. Unity has stated that games and bundles sold for charity are exempt from the fees, but questions have been raised about how Unity will accurately differentiate between standard sales and sales for charity.

After the announcement, Unity took to Twitter to address some of the concerns. The company acknowledges that this is a price increase but assures developers that the majority will not be impacted by the change. Unity has designed the program in a way that developers who are still building their business and growing their game’s audience will not have to pay the fee until they have reached a certain level of success.

Unity has also released a FAQ post on its user forums to provide additional clarification on the new pricing and packaging plans. The FAQ covers various topics, including demo downloads, fraud detection, and when tracking of lifetime installs begins.

Developers have taken to social media to express their dissatisfaction with the new pricing plan and the install-based fee. Some fear the financial impact it may have on their businesses.

To read the full post from Unity, you can visit the Unity Blog.