Unity introduces runtime fees, frustrates developers

Unity, a prominent game development platform, has sent shockwaves through the game development community with its latest announcement: the introduction of a “Unity Runtime Fee.” This fee will be applied to users who exceed $200,000 in revenue within 12 months or accumulate 200,000 lifetime installs on the Unity Personal and Unity Plus plans. For developers subscribed to the Unity Pro and Unity Enterprise plans, the threshold is set higher at $1 million in revenue over 12 months and 1 million lifetime game installs. The fees are somewhat reduced for developers in emerging markets.

This decision, which will take effect at the start of 2024, marks a significant departure for Unity, which has long been an advocate for democratizing game development by providing accessible tools to developers of all sizes.

Despite the inclusion of revenue thresholds, this change has stirred frustration and anger within the game development community. There are concerns that many developers will see their Unity costs rise exponentially due to this substantial shift in the fee structure. 

In response to the backlash, Unity is introducing new tools for Unity Personal users. These tools will be offered for free to developers, irrespective of their revenue, in a bid to offer more flexibility in managing licenses. Among the new additions is Unity Sentis, the company’s AI tool, which will now be available to all users free of charge. Additionally, Unity is introducing new free tiers for the Unity Asset Manager.

As part of these changes, Unity Plus is set to be retired, with subscriptions already closed. Developers will be offered a discounted Unity Pro subscription as a replacement, expected to roll out in mid-October.

Naturally, the news of these new fees has generated significant frustration among developers who have been drawn to Unity for its cost-effective solutions. While the revenue thresholds may alleviate concerns for some, the Unity Runtime Fee has been labeled by some developers as a “back-end tax” imposed on successful games.

Unity’s financial situation has been under scrutiny since its merger with the monetization platform ironSource, which was seen as a move to bolster the company’s financials. This shift in fee structure appears to be part of its strategy to achieve profitability. 

“This is not really that big of a surprise because Unity desperately needs to get profitable. Q4/2022 was the first profitable (non-GAAP) quarter in the company’s 18-year history,” Kim Soares of Social First shared on LinkedIn. And added: “[It’s] not a catastrophe for larger devs at all, and small indies will survive too. In my opinion, the biggest issue remains to be the fact that some countries with [a] lot of low LTV players could become unviable markets and games will not be available there anymore.”

Additionally, Unity recently conducted a report revealing that 77% of players make in-app purchases within the first two weeks of downloading a game

Written by Gizem Yılmaz

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