WTF?! Unity is a cross-platform game engine launched in 2005 with the aim of “democratizing” game development and making it accessible to a wider range of developers. Nearly 20 years later, some of those same developers are voicing their frustration and disappointment with Unity’s newly revealed business model.
Unity recently unveiled a new “Unity Term Fee,” set to take effect on January 1, 2024. Under this new model, game developers and studios will have to pay a flat fee of $0.20 for each new “install” of their game. This licensing system comes into play as soon as a game exceeds a certain sales threshold.
The announcement was met with significant criticism as very few developers viewed Unity’s approach as a viable or sustainable business opportunity. Unit clarified that every time a game developed with the Unity editor is downloaded, a “Unity Runtime” is installed. Unity believes the initial installation fee will allow game developers to reap ongoing financial benefits from player engagement.
The company has revised to adapt its FAQs to the changes in its pricing structure. The Unity term fee applies to games that have generated $200,000 or more in revenue in the last 12 months and have at least 200,000 lifetime installs. Although the subscription plans have been changed to provide “added value” to developers, they have not been discontinued.
As a result, the Unity Term Fee applies to games created with both the Unity Personal and Unity Plus plans. It’s worth noting that the Unity Pro and Unity Enterprise plans have different, higher thresholds.
Unity’s first blog post had a significant impact on the game development community, especially because the company’s explanation of how it determines “game installs” was quite unclear. As a result, Unity was forced to do this offer Further clarifications on this matter led to aggravation of the situation. The company has now stated that it will use its own “proprietary data model” to accurately calculate the distribution of Unity Runtime for a given project.
Unity confirmed that when customers reinstall a game, re-download a game, or change their hardware, the above proprietary data model counts these actions as additional game installs. Additionally, the new per-install fee also applies to demos if developers want to offer a way to “upgrade” the demo to a full game installation. Unity claims that it will be able to identify pirated games and avoid charging an additional fee because the company already employs “fraud detection practices.”
Unity tried later clear up that the new licensing model would only affect a small portion of current Unity Editor users. It appears that charity games and packages are exempt from the term fee. Still, the game developers were extreme openexpressing strong opposition to Unity’s new business plan.
The prevailing consensus is that the new plan is “absolutely terrible” or “terrible.” Many developers see this as an unacceptable additional cost burden and assume that many will switch to another engine like Unreal as quickly as possible. One developer noted that the Unity term fee appeared to have been designed by financial experts, and they implored Unity to immediately reverse this decision, claiming that “every developer I know is probably jumping ship tomorrow.”