Unity reveals plans to charge per game install, drawing criticism from development community

Unity has announced dramatic changes to its Unity Engine business model which will see its introduce a monthly fee per game install beginning on 1st January next year – a move that has already send shockwaves across the development community.

Unity – the engine behind countless acclaimed games including Tunic, Cuphead, Hollow Knight, Citizen Sleeper, RimWorld, Outer Wilds, Fall Guys, Ori and the Blind Forest, and Cities: Skylines – was previously licensed to developers using a royalty free model built around subscriptions tiers. Anyone whose revenue or funding was less than $100,000 over the course of the year (or who didn’t want access to features such as the ability to remove the Unity splash screen) could stick to the free Unity Personal license, while a Unity Plus subscription was required up to $200,000 in revenue, and a Unity Pro or above subscription was needed for more.

As of 1st January, 2024, however, developers will be expected to pay an additional Unity Runtime Fee per new game install – seemingly including re-installs and installs across multiple devices – per month, on top of their existing subscription, with those fees kicking in for titles that have made $200,000 or more in the last 12 months and have at least 200,000 lifetime game installs. Unity Pro and Unity Enterprise subscribers, meanwhile, will see their fees apply after passing the $1m threshold and 1m lifetime installs.

As of 1st January 2024, developers using Unity Personal will be expected to pay $0.2 per new monthly install above the 200,000 threshold, while Unity Pro and Enterprise subscribers will be required to pay $0.15 and $0.125 respectively after crossing the 1m line – a figure that will fall as further further install thresholds are reached. Unity Plus, meanwhile, is being retired as of today, meaning access to advanced features will now require at least a $2k annual subscription – an increase of over $1,600 compared to a Plus subscription.

Unity’s new fees will be applied retroactively to all games already on the market that cross its thresholds, and to all to all games regardless of price – raising questions around the viability of free game giveaways, game demos, bundles, and the like – and there is concern developers may now face charges for pirated game installs. Questions also remain about how the new fees will complicate the logistics of being on services like Game Pass.

The industry response so far appears to be a mixture of outrage, disbelief, and confusion, with some developers already publicly pledging to switch engines. Eurogamer has reached out to number of studios for their response to today’s changes, including Size Five Games’ Dan Marshall, creator of the acclaimed Lair of the Clockwork God, The Swindle, and more.

“It’s an absolute fucking catastrophe,” Marshall said, “and I’ll be jumping ship to Unreal as soon as I can. Most indies simply don’t have the resources to deal with these kind of batshit logistics. Publishers are less likely to take on Unity games, because there’s now a cost and an overhead,” he continued. “How this is being tracked is super vague and feels half-thought-through. It seems open to review-bombing exploits, but in a way that actually costs developers. If someone buys a game on Steam and installs in on three machines, are Devs liable for three payments? If so, that sucks. Gamepass is suddenly a massive headache… the list goes on.

“It’s all just utterly horrible, and they need to backtrack on this instantly or every Dev I know is likely jumping ship tomorrow.

“I have a couple of projects on the go in Unity right now, and they’re far enough along that changing engine isn’t an option, and I get a sickly feeling in my stomach just thinking about this. A horrendous policy, presumably dreamed up by the money men. I’m legitimately quite angry. I’ve been using Unity for over 10 years, that’s a lot of investment in a system I’m about to drop like a hot rock.”

We’ll continue to share developers reactions as we hear more.

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