Unity asks game studios to trust its download estimates, closes offices over death threat


As the bulk of the gaming industry unites against Unity’s new “runtime fees,” the company is continuing to spin the fees as a smart decision.

On Tuesday, the company announced fees for game developers that would apply per install of the game – as much as 20 cents per install, hitting indies, mid-size titles, and free-to-play titles particularly hard. Yesterday, the company backtracked a little, telling the outraged gamedev base that it won’t charge fees for multiple installs on the same device, for small demos, or for charity bundles. But those minor concessions were lost admit news that Unity execs sold stock before the announcement and the ongoing anger at a company that has unilaterally added massive new fees to companies that trusted in the licenses they’d already agreed to.

Last night, the company released another statement reiterating that it won’t be charging for reinstalls, charity installs, web and streaming games, or fraudulent installs (i.e., people using botnets to reinstall games thousands of times to harass devs), but it doesn’t specifically clarify how it’ll do any of that filtering. It also says it won’t charge for “trials, partial play demos, [or] devops,” but it doesn’t consider early access titles to fall under that banner.

The company continues to say that “more than 90% of [its]” customers will not be affected by this change, but gamedevs aren’t buying it. Here’s former SWTOR dev Damion Schubert summing it up: “These answers do nothing to allay my primary concern, which is that billing on installs instead of revenue has the potential to destroy a company that makes a popular game they can’t figure out how to monetize, something common in mobile gaming.”

“It hurts because we didn’t agree to this,” RUST’s Garry Newman said in his own blog post. “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.”

Leaks coming from alleged Unity workers suggest that Unity has yet to figure out how to count all these installs it wants to charge for, which makes sense given that it’s still publicly negotiating what to count at all.

“We leverage our own proprietary data model and will provide estimates of the number of times the runtime is distributed for a given project – this estimate will cover an invoice for all platforms,” is all the official FAQ says. In other words, devs will have to just take Unity’s word for it – at a time when trust for Unity is already at its lowest.

Source: Twitter
Bloomberg is reporting that Unity was planning to host a town hall today that was canceled following what the company says was a “potential threat to some of [its] offices.” Bloomberg characterizes the threat as a “credible death threat.” Unity has closed down two of its offices (in San Francisco and Austin) for the rest of the week and says it is “fully cooperating with law enforcement.” Polygon reports that it reached out to the FBI as well as Austin and SF police; SF police told the publication it was unaware of reports.
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