Unity's Controversial Pricing Shift Angers Developers
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Unity, a leading video game engine, has announced significant changes to its pricing model, sparking widespread dissatisfaction among game developers. Beginning January 1st, 2024, Unity will introduce a pay-per-download scheme, charging developers each time a game incorporating Unity software is installed.
The crux of this new approach requires developers to pay a "Unity Runtime Fee" every time their game is downloaded. Unity justifies this model by emphasizing that every download also installs the Unity Runtime. Importantly, charges will only apply after a game surpasses a specific revenue and download threshold, which varies based on a developer's Unity subscription tier. Additionally, download fees differ according to the purchase location, with "standard" markets like the US and UK incurring higher costs than "emerging" markets such as India or China.
Developers initially feared retroactive charges based on past sales and downloads. However, Unity clarified that charges would only be based on activity after January 1st, 2024.
The announcement prompted significant backlash, primarily among indie developers. Concerns range from the potential for inflated charges due to pirated games, demos, and games on subscription platforms, to the ability for malicious users to repeatedly download games, incurring unwarranted fees for developers. Unity mentioned introducing fraud detection mechanisms and options for developers to report suspected abuse.
The sudden change without advance warning has left developers feeling trapped, especially those nearing game releases or those who have invested years into a project using Unity. Brandon Sheffield, director at Necrosoft Games, expressed his frustration, stating that they can't just recreate a nearly-completed game on a different engine.
Further stoking the fire, Unity also declared the discontinuation of its Unity Plus subscription tier, forcing developers towards the more expensive Pro subscription after a year.
The revised pricing system has raised concerns about potential challenges to digital preservation and potential violations of privacy laws, given Unity's intent to monitor game installations.
The overall sentiment is clear: developers feel betrayed by Unity's decisions, with many reevaluating their future partnerships with the company. Some, with a touch of humor, like Abhi, developer of the game Venba, are considering alternative ways to share their games while avoiding the newly imposed fees.
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