If you’ve been following the game industry over the last few days, you might have heard that Unity, the creators of the far-reaching game engine of the same name, have made a bit of a mess. A new scheme to start charging developers every time a Unity engine-based game gets installed on a PC or console has indeed united gamers, developers, and publishers…in condemnation of this boneheaded bit of naked profiteering.
The New Monetization System: A Game-Changer for Unity
Starting January 1st, 2024, all games that use the Unity engine will be charged 20 cents (USD) for each game installation, once it hits a threshold of 200,000 downloads and $200,000 in revenue. A lower charge and a higher starting threshold — $1 million in sales and a million installations — will be offered for higher tiers of Unity subscriptions, starting at around $2000 a year.
The Impact on Indie Game Developers
This is a stark change from Unity’s previous monetization system, which offered the engine and installation for free, then relied on more advanced software subscriptions, an integrated advertising platform, and paid analytical tools. The new fees apply retroactively, taking in historical sales to calculate whether already-published games will be charged. Many indies simply won’t be able to afford to publish games using Unity and may have to abandon the platform altogether.
Unity’s CEO Under Fire
Necrosoft director Brandon Sheffield posted an essay he called “The Death of Unity,” pointing unequivocally at Unity CEO John Riccitiello as the villain of this drama. Sheffield says that the engine itself has declined in both features and stability under his tenure. The change to the licensing system is the proverbial last straw.
Alternatives to Unity
Cult of the Lamb‘s official Twitter account told gamers to buy the popular title now, “cause we’re deleting it on January 1st.” A massive shift of both existing and in-development games to alternative engines, including the industry giant Unreal, appears to be in the making. Unreal’s development tools are more friendly for simpler and more basic games, and their monetization scheme is much more palatable for smaller developers.
The Future of Unity
Even if Unity were to reverse its proposed changes, simply proposing this change might have killed it as the go-to tool for indie developers large and small. Unity has just demonstrated that it’s a company willing to change its fundamental agreements with an entire industry on very short notice.
1What is Unity’s new monetization system?
Unity’s new monetization system charges developers 20 cents (USD) for each game installation once it reaches a threshold of 200,000 downloads and $200,000 in revenue.
How does the new system impact indie game developers?
The new fees apply retroactively, potentially causing financial strain for indie game developers who may not be able to afford to publish games using Unity.
Are there alternatives to Unity?
Yes, many developers are considering shifting to alternative engines like Unreal, which offers more favorable monetization schemes and development tools.
Who is being blamed for the controversial changes?
Unity CEO John Riccitiello is being pointed at as the one responsible for the decline in features and stability of the engine, as well as the unfavorable changes to the licensing system.
Is there any hope for a reversal of the changes?
While Unity has acknowledged the backlash and promised changes to the policy, there is no information yet on what substantial changes will be made.