UPDATE: They have largely walked back a number of the outrageous claims but there are still a ton of questions, especially on who is responsible for things like XBox Game Pass. Will it be Microsoft and Sony? Will it be the developers? The links below are still valid and contain the whole lurid tale.
In a move that has surprised everyone in the game development community and caused more than a few developers to scream and shout and try to figure out how to change engines, Unity has announced a run-time install fee for games created using their engine. So, not only do developers have to license the engine, they also have to pay up to $.20 per install once they reach a revenue/install threshold.
First, the blog announcement:
Then, the FAQ:
And the MASSIVE forum post with EXTREME feedback:
They have clarified some of the licensing on X:
(2) Unity on X: “We want to acknowledge the confusion and frustration we heard after we announced our new runtime fee policy. We’d like to clarify some of your top questions and concerns: Who is impacted by this price increase: The price increase is very targeted. In fact, more than 90% of our…” / X (twitter.com)
So, what does this mean for the little guy trying to make a game that will be released in 2024? Initially, nothing. At the time of writing, you would have to have made $200,000 in the last year as well as having 200,000 downloads (demos not included in the count) to qualify. But after that, you would be charged $.20 for each install. $.20 doesn’t seem like much, but if you have a Free to Play or mobile game, it can really add up since many people will install it and never even open the game (or open it once and let it die on the back pages of their mobile desktops until they need space).
This post on Reddit is probably the best example I’ve seen of the problems that may arise from this licensing change:
While there are a lot of questions circulating right now as Unity tries to figure out how best to answer the criticism, the developer response has been damning. It is pretty much on par with Wizards of the Coast deciding to charge developers for Open Gaming License content. This decision was reversed pretty quickly as major third-party developers of tabletop games using the D20 system revolted and left the table. It also spurred others to create new open gaming licensing systems that did not incur such royalties on content.
So far, and it is early in the cycle, Unity has not followed the same path and most likely will not. When looking at their reasoning on the pricing and install base, it seems they are funneling F2P and mobile customers to their own ad services, which will lower the install fee significantly. If you do not wish to use Unity Ads and such, then you are stuck with a potentially crippling fee over the lifetime of your product.
It sure makes the 5% revenue share with Unreal look enticing. Or the 0% fees for Godot, for that matter.