Unity, the game engine, has announced a controversial change in its policy, which involves charging developers a fee for every game installation by a user, even if it’s a reinstallation on a new computer. This decision has incited anger and disbelief within the game development community.
Starting from January 1, Unity Technologies will impose a Unity Runtime Fee on all games developed with Unity, provided they meet specific criteria related to revenue and lifetime installations. In Unity’s explanation, they state, “We are introducing a Unity Runtime Fee that is based upon each time a qualifying game is downloaded by an end user. We chose this because each time a game is downloaded, the Unity Runtime is also installed. Also, we believe that an initial install-based fee allows creators to keep the ongoing financial gains from player engagement, unlike a revenue share.”
The new program’s mechanics involve a game needing to surpass revenue and download thresholds, which vary depending on the developer’s subscription tier. Additionally, the fees differ based on the market where the game is purchased, with “standard” markets like the US and UK incurring higher charges than “emerging” markets such as India or China.
Unity’s rationale behind this change is to prevent players from “install-bombing” a game, where they repeatedly delete and reinstall it to trigger multiple payments. However, it’s important to note that multiple fees will still be applied if a user downloads the same game on various devices.
Unity developers have unanimously expressed their dissatisfaction with these fees, deeming them unfair. Some developers have raised concerns about the impact on studios whose games are available on subscription services like Xbox Game Pass, as these services aim to maximize downloads. Unity has clarified that download fees will be charged to subscription service owners, such as Microsoft in the case of Xbox Game Pass.
The backlash against these changes has been widespread, with top indie developer Dan Marshall describing Unity’s move as “an absolute catastrophe” and expressing intentions to transition to Unreal Engine as soon as possible.