Yesterday, Unity woke up and chose idiocy – at least that’s how developers and the rest of the industry took its announcement of a new install-based royalty fee, where developers would be charged for every time their game is installed past a certain threshold.
Developers could end up paying up to $0.20 per game install, and in its original announcement, that would include downloading just a demo, a player deleting and re-installing a game, and potentially games downloaded through a service like Xbox Game Pass, or games given away through charity campaigns.
Across the globe developers and studios made their thoughts on this new fee publicly known, with some calling this move “the death of Unity” as a viable engine for anyone to make a game with.
Multiple developers pointed out the obvious issues with this new fee, that would essentially be most predatory to free-to-play titles, mobile developers, and the smallest of indie developers suddenly finding they have a hit on their hands.
It would be a system where developing a successful game on Unity could bankrupt the developer behind that hit.
All of which resulted in Unity immediately going into damage control mode, as it tried to further clarify and then also adjust parts of the new policy.
For example, Unity is now saying that the fee will only be charged on the “initial” install, and it won’t be charging developers for every single install past its per-determined thresholds.
That only tracks however for a single device. If you have a PC and a Steam Deck, developers would still be charged for two installs.
Games given to charity, and games available on services like Xbox Game Pass or PS Plus will be exempt from the fee, and demos will be “mostly” exempt, according to a report from Axios.
As it stands, there are still plenty of details that need to be explained, and developers still aren’t happy with this new fee. How Unity will track installs in the first place is a big point of contention, as it is currently saying it’ll use a “proprietary” method to do so.
Unity is asking developers to trust them that these fees will be calculated honestly, though how can developers trust a company that seems to be raising prices and creating fees where they don’t exist anywhere else at a whim?
It also doesn’t help that Unity executives and its chief executive officer John Riccitiello seem to only be interested in how to make the next buck, especially considering that multiple executives including Riccitiello sold thousands of Unity shares a week before the Runtime Fee announcement.
Shares that unsurprisingly dropped in price following the announcement of the Runtime Fee, and made these executives a pretty penny a week before anyone knew about it.
With Unity already beginning to walk back certain aspects of the Runtime Fee, it’ll be interesting to see what the state of it is by the time it’s meant to be rolled out this January, or if it simply doesn’t happen at all.