Game developers are not happy with Unity’s new game install fee

Following some recent changes, developers across the internet are pretty pissed off about Unity’s new pricing model. The sentiment is widespread, with many feeling that the changes might significantly impact indie developers and smaller studios.

Unity introducing new fee attached to game installs

Unity is set to raise the cost of using its game engine. Beginning January 2024, it will introduce a new charge known as the “Unity Runtime Fee”. This fee will be calculated based on the number of users installing games built with its engine.

Effective January 1, 2024, we will introduce a new Unity Runtime Fee that’s based on game installs. We will also add cloud-based asset storage, Unity DevOps tools, and AI at runtime at no extra cost to Unity subscription plans this November.

Unity Blog

Updates & Benefits

This will only become applicable once developers surpass certain revenue and installation thresholds. These benchmarks differ according to subscription plans. For example, for developers utilizing the Unity Personal or Unity Plus licenses, this fee will be triggered once a project achieves $200,000 in revenue over a year and accumulates 200,000 total installs.

On the other hand, those operating under Unity Pro or Unity Enterprise licenses will encounter a more lenient threshold. Fees for them will only become due once a game generates $1 million over a 12-month span and exceeds 1 million installs.

Reasons for the Fee

Their decision to add an install-based fee is apparently grounded in the continual development of Unity Runtime. This executable is downloaded alongside every game and facilitates the scalability of games built with the engine. Maintaining this requires frequent updates, and demands lots of resources, apparently. The company says it aims to make its money off of devs with successful games whereas smaller studios will have ample opportunity to cultivate their audience without facing these extra charges. That sounds like corporate speak to me!

Developer Reaction

Unity clarified in a blog post that the decision to implement the Runtime Fee was an alternative to a revenue-sharing scheme. The Runtime Fee also won’t apply retroactively and will only be charged for new installs post-January 1, 2024. Because many devs currently aren’t paying, they won’t be affected, but in my opinion, that still doesn’t make it okay!

Game Director John Draisey points something else out in his post on X. He showed off his renewal receipt and stated that Plus members are automatically being switched to the Pro model of Unity! “Be careful not to have auto-renew on your account if you can’t afford the price. And this is with just 2 people on my team with project access.” For him and the two members on his team, the Unity Development Costs for Pro would be $4,046.45 this year, a massive increase from the $764.45 he spent last year for Plus (This pricing starts in October, and the last day of Plus subs is today).

Unreal indirectly responds

Seemingly in response to Unity’s crazy decision, Ari Arnbjörnsson, Unreal Engine Evangelist at Epic Games and former lead programmer at Housemarque, highlighted Unreal’s model. He tweeted the following:

I think my good friend Isaiah Toth put it best today, stating “Imagine this: Publishers take 20-40% Steam takes 30% Unity charges 20 cents per install. Will devs soon go into debt for making a game? No. This cannot not happen. If it does, the whole gamedev industry will have a massive shift. Let me know in the comments if you use Unity, how much your game makes or made, and if you’ll be switching to Unreal, Godot, or even staying with Unity after this debacle.

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