Yesterday, the team behind the development tool "Unity" conjured up a lot of backlash after announcing plans to introduce a new "Runtime Fee" on January 1, 2024 which would charge for reaching a certain minimum revenue threshold in the past 12 months and a minimum lifetime install count - anywhere from $0.01 to $0.20 per-install.
"As many of you know, the Unity Engine is in fact two substantial software components – the Unity Editor and the Unity Runtime. The Unity Runtime is code that executes on player devices and makes Made with Unity games work at scale, with billions of monthly downloads.
We are introducing a Unity Runtime Fee that is based upon each time a qualifying game is downloaded by an end user. We chose this because each time a game is downloaded, the Unity Runtime is also installed. Also we believe that an initial install-based fee allows creators to keep the ongoing financial gains from player engagement, unlike a revenue share."
You can see a breakdown of how this works in the table below:
As we've mentioned, this was not received well by a large number of development studios, which publicly expressed their concerns on Twitter. Notable examples included Massive Monster (Cult Of The Lamb) and Innersloth (Among Us).
Here's what the latter had to say:
"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?"
Another complaint that was getting a lot of attention yesterday was from Aggro Crab Games, which shared concerns that the Xbox Game Pass release of Another Crab's Treasure in 2024 could be subject to major financial penalties due to the millions and millions of Game Pass users who could potentially download it.
Interestingly, Unity then went on to confirm to Axios that it's Microsoft who will suffer the financial burden:
"As for Game Pass and other subscription services, [Marc Whitten, president of Create Solutions at Unity] said that developers like Aggro Crab would not be on the hook, as the fees are charged to distributors, which in the Game Pass example would be Microsoft."
Unity's Marc Whitten told Axios that he believes it's only around 10% of Unity's developers who will end up having to pay any fees due to the thresholds in place, and when applicable, the charge will only be for an initial installation - in other words, deleting and then re-installing the game on the same device won't count as another install.
Ultimately, Whitten summed up that the company's main focus with the Runtime Fee is to "make sure that we have the right value exchange" to continue "deliver[ing] the best tools for people to make great games". He also mentioned that the company is "listening" to feedback and will "continue to make sure that we deliver the best that we can."