Next: read the game developers Interview with Unity Create President Marc WhittenBelow we’ll discuss the path to the changes and what Unity learned from the backlash surrounding the original term fee policy.
Unity’s acclaimed runtime Fee is undergoing a major overhaul almost two weeks after its disastrous debut. In an open letter on the Unity blog, the company officially apologized for the chaos that had ensued since the announcement and revealed massive changes to the policy in response to a week of negative feedback from the game developer community.
The Unity term fee no longer applies to games based on Unity Personal. Developers using this plan can now also earn up to $200,000 in revenue, according to the terms of service. These developers also no longer need to use the “Made with Unity” splash screen.
For developers on the Pro and Enterprise plans, the term fee will only apply starting with the next LTS version of Unity, which will be released in 2024. Games created with the current or previous version of Unity are not included unless they are updated to the next version of Unity.
“We ensure that you can comply with the terms and conditions applicable to the version of the Unity Editor you use,” the company wrote in its announcement.
Games subject to the term fee have the option of being subject to either a 2.5 percent revenue share or a calculated fee based on “the number of new people engaging with your game each month.” According to Unity, revenue and “new people” (referred to elsewhere as “first engagements”) can both be reported by developers who “will always be charged the lower amount.”
No game with sales of less than $1 million in the last 12 months is subject to the fee.
This is a huge change from the previous plan, which promised to charge developers between $0.001 and $0.20 for each install of their game. These rates would vary depending on which Unity plan a developer is subscribed to and how many installs above a certain threshold their game has achieved, and would be charged for all games created in Unity, including those created with previous versions of the Terms of Service (although the company would only start counting installations from January 1, 2024.
Speaking to Game Developer last week, Marc Whitten, president of Unity Create, said this fee is being charged to support investment in the engine, particularly the Unity Runtime executable. “We want to make more money so we can continue to invest in the engine,” he said at the time.
Now Unity is adopting a much more conciliatory tone. “We want to continue building the best engine for creators,” Whitten wrote in the latest announcement. “We truly love this industry and you are the reason why.”
Although Unity said the fee would affect less than 10 percent of developers using the engine, developers of all shapes and sizes overwhelmingly rejected the policy, seeing it as a major breach of trust. Free-to-play developers, who see higher numbers of installs, were also unimpressed by Unity’s offer to reduce or waive the fee if they use Unity’s own ad bidding services. Developers such as Innersloth, Massive Monster and Aggro Crab all said the policy would hurt their companies.
Forest Willard, co-founder of Innersloth, even went so far as to say it would be cheaper for this Among us Team to “just hire two people for the port.” Among us away from unity rather than them taxing us for zero added value.”
It was also unclear how Unity’s policy would affect developers using services like Xbox Game Pass, where players can install titles without having to pay when downloading. Unity said last week that platform holders like Microsoft were responsible for these fees.
Unity’s missteps could transform the gaming industry
Whether or not Unity quells the anger of some of its most loyal and (and highest-earning) customers, significant damage has been done to its business and reputation. At least the failed introduction of the term fee has boosted investments in open source game engines like Godot and open source frameworks like FNA.
It doesn’t help that while Unity struggled to respond effectively to developers’ concerns, high-profile indies began sharing methods to port certain games from Unity to Godot in just two days. Those who now begin to follow in their footsteps may see little reason to go back to their old engine.
But wouldn’t a cheaper fee encourage developers to stick with Unity? For some, no. Unity introduced these fees in a way that could have radically changed the business plans of many users – particularly those who entered a two- to five-year development cycle based on certain cost expectations. “The headline is: [Unity] “How much of our revenue you want to take can and will (surprisingly) change at any time after we have already committed,” he wrote At gunpoint And Tactical Breach Wizards Creator Tom Francis, who also said he would never have chosen Unity as a game engine if he had known it would eat up some of the revenue from sales Tactical Breach Wizards after release.
To regain that trust, Unity needs to reassure developers that it will not make any further changes to its pricing models in the future to provide a sense of stability. But would such a promise last? Francis and others were furious when they learned that Unity had quietly changed its EULA in recent months to remove a promise that ensured developers would only be bound by the EULA tied to the version of Unity they were using was.
Symbolically, the change in these terms showed that Unity was fully prepared to keep its promises. Unity’s promise that developers can comply with the terms of service that apply to the version of Unity they use could address such concerns.
As Omdia analyst Liam Deane noted, Unity’s price update ultimately tried to “solve too many problems at once” and may have created new problems in the process.
Even if the company regains developers’ trust with the revised term fee, it still faces major headwinds on the path to profitability. Whatever revenue gains were hoped for from the fee will surely be diminished, and last week’s events could dampen confidence in Unity for years to come.
Disclaimer: Omdia and Game Developer are sibling organizations of Informa Tech