Shocking everyone today, Unity announced a new pricing scheme charging developers per installed copy of their game, continuing a trend of decisions that have been criticized by many. The new fees will apply to games that meet a total install count and a minimum revenue figure, with charges of up to $0.20 per install.
How it will work is that Unity developers who meet the criteria (which vary between personal, Pro, and Enterprise tiers) will pay each month a certain amount based on the number of installed copies of the game. For Unity Personal users, that will apply at 200,000 lifetime installs, with revenue in the last 12 months of at least $200,000. In its announcement, Unity explained the rationale.
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.
Unity Developers Speak Out
Confusion and anger were prominent in the indie game sphere as many developers shared their initial reactions to the announcement. Facepunch's Gerry Newman shared on X that it would have cost over $400,000 for his studio, and a number of unanswered questions remain even with the FAQ page that Unity published.
Some developers focused on the fact that, unless Unity takes action to prevent it, the new plan could open them up to considerable risks or costs for things like piracy or charity bundles. Rami Ismail, formerly of Vlambeer. shared a number of areas that may be much more costly for developers than they previously were in another comment on X, while also calling it great advertising for competing engines Unreal, Godot, and Gamemaker in another.
Some developers wondered whether they would be able to continue using the engine going forward, as it will add a significant cost, and as of right now, uncertainty. Bright Rock Games' Scott Richmond openly wondered about that and shared some of the questions he is asking Unity in a separate comment.
Hidden in the announcement and FAQ were a few other changes as well: Unity Plus is being retired as of today for new subscribers, and users will be prompted to move to Unity Pro at their next subscription.
Unity Personal will no longer have a hard $100,000 cap on earnings, but instead, it will charge starting at $200,000. It will also need to connect to the internet consistently, allowing only 3 days offline.
We can't be sure of how the situation will evolve, but right now, there's a lot of frustration and anger directed at Unity's decision, as developers feel blindsided by the move, arguing that it is financially untenable for them.
Other uses for Unity, are not being charged this per-install fee, meaning that the US Military won't be facing this charge on projects that Unity has done with them.
Update 9/13/2023: Unity provided some clarity on a few potentially controversial issues, via Axios.
Apparently, after "regrouping" and discussing the feedback, the company decided to walk back the initial stance that deleting and reinstalling a game would result in a further charge. Developers will be charged only for the first installation.
That being said, developers will still be charged again if a user installs a game on another device.
Developers also won't be charged for demos, unless the demo is part of a download that includes the full game. Conversely, installing an early access game will result in a charge.
Games sold or distributed for charity will be exempt. Developers will have a way to let Unity know that their game is for charity.
For Game Pass and other subscribers, developers won't be charged, but the distributor will be (for instance, Microsoft for Game Pass).
Unity executive Marc Whitten estimates that roughly only 10% of Unity developers are about the threshold that results in being charged.