Unity Suffers Huge Backlash for ‘Runtime Fee’ Based on Installs, Then Rushes to Clarify Some Points

Yesterday, Unity Technologies announced a major change in plan pricing for users of its popular engine. Starting January 1st, 2024, a so-called Runtime Fee based on installs will be required for all games with Unity that cross certain revenue and installation thresholds as outlined in the table below.

Unity Personal and Unity Plus Unity Pro Unity Enterprise
Unity Runtime Fee thresholds to be met
Revenue Threshold (USD) $200,000 (last 12mo) $1,000,000 (last 12mo) $1,000,000 (last 12mo)
Install Threshold 200,000 (life to date) 1,000,000 (life to date) 1,000,000 (life to date)
Installs over the Threshold – Standard Monthly Rate
1-100,000 installs $0.20 per install $0.15 per install $0.125 per install
100,001- 500,000 installs $0.20 per install $0.075 per install $0.06 per install
500,001- 1,000,000 installs  $0.20 per   install $0.03 per install $0.02 per install
1,000,001+ installs $0.20 per install $0.02 per install $0.01 per install
Installs over the Threshold – Emerging market monthly rate
1+ installs $0.02 per install $0.01 per install $0.005 per install

Needless to say, this news created a huge backlash throughout the games industry. Indie developer Aggro Crab Games, currently working on the underwater Soulslike Another Crab’s Treasure, said it would consider switching away from the Unity engine if these fees were maintained, especially as the game would be released on Game Pass next year.

Innersloth, the independent developer behind the hugely successful game Among Us, echoed the sentiment on Twitter with the following message:

We use Unity to make our games. This would harm not only us but fellow game studios of all budgets and sizes. If this goes through, we’d delay content and features our players actually want to port our game elsewhere (as others are also considering). But many developers won’t have the time or means to do the same.

Stop it. Wtf?

Speaking to Axios, Unity’s President and General Manager Marc Whitten rushed to clarify a few key points. First, whenever a game is released through a game subscription service, installs made that way would have fees paid by the distributors (for example, Microsoft for Game Pass). Secondly, the Runtime Fee will only apply to the initial install on a device, preventing users from abusing the system by uninstalling and reinstalling a game over and over again. Thirdly, the Runtime Fee won’t apply for game demos unless those are downloaded alongside the full game. Lastly, codes offered through charity initiatives will be exempt.

Whitten also told Axios only around 10% of Unity’s developers would have to pay the fee according to the thresholds listed above, and the revenue would be used to further improve the engine:

Our core point with this is simply to make sure that we have the right value exchange so that we can continue to invest in our fundamental mission to make sure that we can deliver the best tools for people to make great games.

Whether these clarifications will be enough to assuage the concerns of so many developers remains to be seen. The prospect of switching to Epic’s Unreal Engine has certainly never seemed more appealing than it did yesterday.

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