Unity recently announced a new price increase for their video game engine called the Runtime Fee that would take effect on January 1, 2024. It would charge $0.20 per installation of a game after 200,000 installations and after earning $200,000 in revenue. Several game developers such as Innersloth and Aggro Crab took to Twitter to raise their concerns about the new pricing structure. It wasn’t initially clear if a game would count as installed if it was part of a charity bundle or Xbox Game Pass, among many other questions. This also caused confusion about players deleting and reinstalling games, which would count towards the total.
The lack of clarity forced Unity to shed some light on its structure and walk back a statement. Only initial instalments would be subject to the fee and the Runtime Fee would not be charged for game demos.
NEW – I got a major update from Unity about their new fees
– Unity "regrouped" and now says ONLY the initial installation of a game triggers a fee
– Demos mostly won't trigger fees
– Devs not on the hook for Game Pass
— Stephen Totilo (@stephentotilo) September 13, 2023
Unity executive Marc Whitten estimates that approximately 10% of Unity game developers would be affected by these fees. While the price increase won’t be an issue for several months, there may be more calls for clarity as the date gets closer.
The situation attracted more controversy when Guru Focus revealed that, prior to Unity’s stock taking a sharp dive in value following this announcement, Unity CEO John Riccitiello sold 2,000 Unity shares a week ago on September 6th. Guru Focus also notes that Riccitiello has sold 50,610 Unity shares this year alone, and purchased none. This joins a number of other high-ranking Unity executives who have also sold a large amount of stock leading up to the announcement, as per the Nasdaq.
The reaction from developers has been substantially negative, considering the extra fees they are being charged for using the Unity game engine. Cult of the Lamb developer Massive Monster has gone a step further and announced it will “delete” its very successful roguelike on January 1st 2024 if Unity proceeds with this policy change. Though potentially said as a joke, the statement still holds weight. The company also advised that its future games will see “significant delays” as the studio adapts to working with different game engines in the future.
Unity has been a very common game engine for developers, particularly indie studios, to utilise, due to being generally quite flexible and easy to use. Even if this change is ultimately only going to impact a minority of developers, confirmation of installation fees imposed on developers who make games with Unity is likely to drive more successful studios like Massive Monster towards other engines in the future. It will remain to be seen what the final impact of these changes will be, and if any further backtracks by Unity will be forthcoming as the negative reactions continue to pile on.