Unity Pro License Changes Hit Xbox Indie Devs Hard

Back in June, Unity changed its licensing requirements for publishing on "closed" platforms like gaming consoles — and Xbox indie devs are going to see a big jump in their annual costs.

Published: August 6, 2021 3:37 PM /


Unity Pro console development cover

A Unity Pro license is pretty pricey, but it isn't strictly necessary for making your game. That has now changed as of June 30, 2021 — Unity Pro is now required to publish on consoles, and Xbox indie devs are having a rough time as a result.

Unity is a popular game engine that serves as the foundation for many popular video games including Genshin ImpactFall GuysValheim, and dozens of others. Part of the engine's appeal is the ease of publishing a game on multiple platforms, but a recent policy change at the company has just made publishing on consoles a heck of a lot more difficult.

Unity Pro console development slice

How the Unity Pro License Changes Impact Xbox Indie Devs

As Gamasutra reports, the Unity Pro license changes went into effect last month following an announcement on an internal forum for developers using the engine. Going forward, game developers must use Unity Pro to publish their games on "closed platforms" such as PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and Google Stadia.

Previously, Unity Pro was simply "recommended" for development and not a requirement unless a developer had greater than $200,000 in funding or revenue in the previous 12 months. Developers could potentially get by with Unity Plus or a "Preferred Platform" license arranged by the publisher. These coveted Preferred Platform licenses are made available by Sony, Nintendo, and Google. Microsoft, however, no longer provides these licenses to developers — and that means that upcoming indie devs will see a pretty big increase in cost.

Currently, Unity Plus costs $399/year per seat as shown on Unity's website. "Per seat" means that each computer using Unity needs to pay that licensing fee on a yearly basis. Unity Pro adds some more features for game developers, but it also has a whopping jump in price to $1,800/year per seat.

Xbox indie devs are understandably not happy about the situation as shown in this Reddit submission. Unity also released a statement as a comment in that submission, explaining why it has made these changes.

Hi everyone. Thanks for the conversation and comments. We'd like to clarify a few points to address some possible confusion.

We are making these changes in order to continue providing the best-in-class tools and supporting our Unity Creators need to successfully develop on these platforms, and for us to continue investing in new technology, features, and services that provide value and benefit all Unity Creators. Targeting a console platform is a major undertaking, and Unity Pro is the best solution to support developers with platform-specific build modules, features, learning resources and support to help power success.

In the past, closed platform partners like Sony (for PlayStation®), Nintendo (for Switch), Microsoft (for Xbox), and Google (for Stadia) have all provided a preferred platform license key for approved games and developers on their respective platforms. Today, this is still true for Sony, Nintendo, and Google. If you are working on an already-approved project for Xbox (prior to June 30, 2021), you will not have to purchase Unity Pro to finish and publish your project to the platform.

Happy to answer any specific questions or concerns!

As the above statement notes, any games that have already been approved for their respective platforms will not have to upgrade to Unity Pro; only new game projects or creators updating to the 2021.2 tech stream will have to upgrade their license to Unity Pro.

Unfortunately, these Unity Pro license changes mean that Xbox indie devs are likely going to be paying a lot more money every year to develop their game. There's an outside chance that Microsoft will save the day by joining the Preferred Platform program and providing indie devs with subsidized licenses, but there's no word on that just yet.

What do you think of the Unity Pro license changes? Do you think Microsoft will one day become a part of the Preferred Platform program? Let us know in the comments below!

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