Unity Technologies has announced a new pricing and packaging update for its game engine that introduced a fee that charges users for each game install, sparking controversy among developers.
According to an official blog post, the game engine will be introducing the Unity Runtime Fee that is based upon each time a qualified game has undergone an install by a user, an action that previously did not cost developers any money.
UPDATE (25/09/23): Unity has announced changes to the policy.
The new Unity Runtime Fee is slated to begin on January 1st, 2024, and will affect games that have met the criteria of surpassing a set revenue threshold in the last 12 months and a certain amount of lifetime install count.
The fee will be charged monthly and varies depending on the game’s install count, ranging from $0.01 USD to $0.20 USD per install.
According to the announcement, only games that have met the following criteria will be qualified for the Unity Runtime Fee:
- Unity Personal and Unity Plus – The game has made $200,000 USD or more in the last 12 months and a minimum of 200,000 lifetime installs.
- Unity Pro and Unity Enterprise – The game has made $1,000,000 USD or more in the last 12 months and a minimum of 1,000,000 lifetime installs.
The company has released a breakdown of the new pricing:
|Unity Personal & Unity Plus||Unity Pro||Unity Enterprise|
|Unity Runtime Fee thresholds to be met|
|Revenue Threshold (USD)||$200,000 (last 12 months)||$1,000,000 (last 12 months)|
|Install Threshold||200,000 (lifetime)||1,000,000 (lifetime)|
|Installs over the Install Threshold||Standard monthly rate|
|1 - 100,000||$0.20 per install||$0.15 per install||$0.125 per install|
|100,001 - 500,000||$0.075 per install||$0.06 per install|
|500,001 - 1,000,000||$0.03 per install||$0.02 per install|
|1,000,001+||$0.02 per install||$0.01 per install|
|Installs over the Install Threshold||Emerging market monthly rate|
|1+||$0.02 per install||$0.01 per install||$0.005 per install|
Unity is a popular and widely used game engine among game creators, ranging from hobbyists to large-scale projects such as HoYoverse’s Genshin Impact, which garnered 175,499,418 total lifetime downloads.
With the new policy, this would mean that developers who use Unity Personal, their free development service license have to pay the company $0.20 per installation once their game meets the set criteria.
Concerns and Outrage
After the announcement, the new pricing policy has generated a lot of online discussion among game creators, especially from indie developers who raised concerns that the Unity Runtime Fee might hurt their profitability moving forward.
One concern raised was that any game that garnered a spike in installations during a big sale, inclusion in bundles, or even as part of a subscription service like Xbox Game Pass may trigger the Unity Runtime Fee and cost developers more money.
— Innersloth 🦥 (@InnerslothDevs) September 12, 2023
“This would harm not only us but fellow game studios of all budgets and sizes,” said Among Us developers Innersloth.
Aggro Crab, another indie game studio, called out Unity and said, “Another Crab’s Treasure will be free to install for the 25 million Game Pass subscribers.”
“If a fraction of those users download our game, Unity could take a fee that puts an enormous dent in our income and threatens the sustainability of our business,”
“This decision puts us and countless other studios in a position where we might not be able to justify using Unity for our future titles.”
Your new pricing model is just pure extortion.
And you want it retroactively enforced on past games?! What the hell?
This is a big F-U to all game developers.
We’ll be moving to other game engine alternatives for our future games. Bye Unity
— Kris Antoni – Toge Productions (@kerissakti) September 13, 2023
Kris Antoni from Indonesia-based studio, Toge Productions, also chimed in and called Unity’s new pricing model an act of “extortion”, saying that the game engine company might also try to retroactively enforce the new fee on already-released titles as well.
As reported by Axios, who reached out to Unity for clarification, the company has come forward with changes to the policies around the Unity Runtime Fee.
According to Unity, the fee would only incurred for an initial installation of a game, and subsequent downloads would not result in multiple charges.
The Unity spokesperson said that this would prevent “install-bombing”, where an angry player may keep deleting and reinstalling a game to rack up fees to mess with the developers.
However, Unity also stated that they will still charge an extra fee if users install a title on a second drive such as a Steam Deck after initially downloading the same game on a Windows PC.
Furthermore, the game engine company has also confirmed that fees will not be charged for installations of game demos unless it is part of a download included in the full game.
As for subscription services, Unity said that the fees would be charged to the distributor rather than the developer; for example, Microsoft would have to pay fees for each game installed from Game Pass.
Additionally, games included in charities or in bundles will be exempted from the fees and Unity said that they will provide a method for developers to mark the games that are being offered in such a way.
Moreover, users may also be eligible for credits toward the Unity Runtime Fee through the adoption of services beyond the Editor, such as Unity Gaming Services or Unity LevelPlay.
On the flip side, Unity noted that early access games would still be charged for an installation.