Unity begins backtracking on new runtime fees, but it hasn’t addressed indies


Yesterday, we covered Unity’s surprise announcement that it was instituting a “runtime fee” that would charge developers as much as 20 cents per download of a game using the Unity engine onto a player’s device, depending on their total installs and incomes.

Game developers on social media were understandably incensed, pointing out the obvious ramifications for small- to mid-size studios, free-to-play titles, demos, charity bundles, and so forth. Others pointed out that given the long runway for game projects, many studios will have long since begun Unity projects only to find this week that they’re going to get slammed with new fees that were never part of their licensing agreement – and for some of those games, that’ll mean devs stuck pondering whether to switch or shut down now or be squeezed dry later if they’re unwilling to insert Unity’s alternative monetization schemes.

Following the uproar, Unity is already starting to backtrack. Last night, the company told Axios that it has already changed its mind on multiple installs; now, it’s decided it will charge the fee only for the initial installation of a game (but a new fee for every device for a single person). It also claims it won’t charge for small-scale demos, charity items, or Game Pass-esque fees, and Unity insists that the fees will affect only 10% of teams (which those 10% are obviously still going to feel is 10% too many).

However, the company hasn’t addressed the main problem raised by gamedev Twitter: the high cost for smaller games and the institution of new fees mid-development for many of these games.

Source: Axios
Garry Newman – aka the Garry from Garry’s Mod and the absurdly popular RUST – penned a blog post that is pretty emblematic of what the dev community is angry about. The post is called Unity can get fucked.

“[T]he cost isn’t a big issue to us. If everything worked out, the tracking was flawless and it was 10p per sale, no biggy really. If that’s what it costs, then that’s what it costs. But that’s not why we’re furious. It hurts because we didn’t agree to this. We used the engine because you pay up front and then ship your product. We weren’t told this was going to happen. We weren’t warned. We weren’t consulted. We have spent 10 years making Rust on Unity’s engine. We’ve paid them every year. And now they changed the rules. […] Unity is the worst company to be in charge of the Unity Engine. The trust is gone. It’s our fault. All of our faults. We sleepwalked into it. We had a ton of warnings. We should have been pressing the eject button when Unity IPO’d in 2020. Every single thing they’ve done since then has been the exact opposite of what was good for the engine. We had 10 years to make our own engine and never did. I’m sure a lot of game companies are feeling the same today. Let’s not make the same mistake again, Rust 2 definitely won’t be a Unity game.”

As Eurogamer points out, Unity execs surely knew how controversial this move would be; Riccitiello and multiple other execs sold stocks in the weeks before the announcement.

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