Unity Technologies, makers of the Unity game engine, has dropped a bombshell that could see games, the ridiculously popular Among Us included, switching to another engine. They’ve unveiled a new fee based structure that will charge per install and, unsurprisingly, developers are up in arms.
You may not be familiar with Unity, but chances are several of the games you’ve played make use of it. It’s been hailed as easy to learn and easy to use, hence its popularity with developers. But with this announcement, Unity Technologies may have killed it, at least as far as smaller devs are concerned.
From January 2024, those who publish games using Unity will be subject to the new fee structure. According to Unity Technologies, “We are introducing a Unity Runtime Fee that applies to certain Unity subscription plans based on per-game installs across any Unity-supported game platform. Creators only pay once per download.”
How much will creators have to pay? That depends on their turnover and the license they’re on. For example, those on a Unity Personal and Unity Plus licence will have to have made “$200,000 USD or more in the last 12 months AND have at least 200,000 per-game lifetime installs.” At that point, they’ll be charged $0.20 for each install over that threshold.
Since the news was announced yesterday, many, many developers have been voicing the opposition to this move. Among Us developer Innersloth explained that if the fee change goes through, the game will be changing platform. However, as the dev pointed out, not all developers will have the time or the means to do so.
Feeling the heat, Unity has clarified the situation. They’ve explained that it won’t be retroactive: only installs after January 1st 2024 will count. Journalist Stephen Totilo was also able to get some answers, confirming that the fee will only apply to the initial install and that demos won’t trigger the fee. But it still seems as if games published prior to January 1st 2024 stand to be charged, once their installs rack up.
Unity did also tell Totilo developers are not on the hook for Game Pass, meaning they won’t be charged for games install via Microsoft’s subscription service. However, that could mean that they still expect Microsoft to pay, something that will raise eyebrows at Xbox HQ.
It has the potential to hurt a lot of indie developers and perhaps even those who were on the brink of publishing their own games. As developer Rami Ismail notes, there are plenty of other engines out there that are a better prospect. There’s also a big question over just how accurately the company can measure installs. According to the company’s latest update, “We leverage our own proprietary data model. We believe it gives an accurate determination of the number of times the runtime is distributed for a given project.” That’s still kind of a fuzzy answer.
So is this actually going to happen? Seeing just how poorly the industry has reacted, we’d expect Unity to either cancel or radically alter these plans. And if not? Game developers will likely think twice about using Unity.
UPDATE 13/09/23 12:10 BST: As has also been noted, with games such as Genshin Impact using Unity, there’s also the possibility of a company, or companies, issuing a legal challenge to Unity Technologies.