Oh boy, Unity has found itself in the limelight, but not for reasons any company would envy. They recently announced plans to revise their install-based fee policy and AAA and indie devs alike are not happy. In fact, over the week, this has basically lit the internet on fire.
Unity keeps shooting itself in the foot
First up, a quick recap: Unity wants to charge developers a $0.20 fee per install of their game by well, anyone and everyone on in the world who buys and wants to play it. This would only occur after they hit a specific revenue and download benchmark, but it’s still just nuts to think about, especially since the terms of service were found to be changed retroactively and apply to games that were already released!
Understandably, devs were pretty pissed and began putting out their own statements en masse to fight against this policy change. In fact, they felt downright blindsided and betrayed, and a bunch have even decided to shift their projects to Godot, Unreal, or another game engine, adding development time onto their projects.
A half-baked apology
But Unity quickly recognized the ripples they caused. They stepped up, saying sorry for the upheaval and assuring everyone that they’re on the case. They’re actively chatting with team members, customers, and partners to adjust things. They promised to drop some clarity on the issue in a few days. Hey, it’s good to see them owning it, right? Well, no, not exactly. Aside from the statement put out seemingly entirely being generated by AI, it came off as disingenuous and shortsighted to the real root of the problem and the fact that the company had destroyed trust with all of its customers.
The backlash has been real. I mean, this new fee structure could sink some studios entirely. Major game makers even pulled their ad campaigns to protest, hoping to pinch Unity’s pockets for “change”.
An escalated issue
And as if the waters weren’t murky enough, Unity had to temporarily close shop in Austin and San Francisco because of some pretty concerning threats that they thankfully took seriously. San Francisco’s finest later revealed that this “credible threat” was an employee’s social media rant. Oof.
Now, per Bloomberg, Unity’s CEO, John Riccitiello, gave a glimpse into a tentative plan during an all-hands meeting. They’re proposing to cap fees at 4% for game developers raking in over a million bucks. Here’s a silver lining: the counts to hit this magic number won’t get a fee. Plus, Unity might nudge developers to self-report install numbers instead of tracking them themselves which leads to both massive privacy concerns and uncertainty on how these numbers would reliably be counted.
Corporate greed is ruining the gaming industry
Needless to say, this corporate greed could destroy Unity as a company, and no amount of time in the spotlight as the go-to engine for indies is going to fix this if the big wigs at the top are making money-centric decisions that put out millions of developers. To most, the trust has already been shattered, and there’s no turning back. I probably don’t have to tell you that these sorts of things have been going on at Unity for years now, and this install fee decision that exploded in their face is just all of the tension coming to a head. Let’s discuss in the comments!