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Game developers are furious over Unity’s new runtime fees

The makers of Unity, one of the most popular video game engines, announced a new “Unity Runtime Fee” that is set to take effect next year. Game developers aren’t taking kindly to the announcement as the new fee is financially punishing, especially for smaller developers using the Unity Personal and Unity Plus plans.

Unity went into more detail about this in a blog post on Tuesday morning. It explains that starting on January 1, 2024, games that pass certain revenue and install thresholds will have to pay the Unity Runtime Fee. For developers using Unity Pro or Unity Enterprise, games “that have made $1,000,000 USD or more in the last 12 months and have at least 1,000,000 lifetime game installs” will have to pay the fee. For smaller developers using the free Unity Personal plan, this threshold is for titles that “have made $200,000 USD or more in the last 12 months and have at least 200,000 lifetime game installs.” It doesn’t matter whether or not your game was released before January 1 or this announcement, the fee will still apply starting next year if your game boots up with Unity Runtime.

The chart with Unity runtime fees
This chart breaks down the fees Unity game developers will have to pay. Unity

According to a chart produced by Unity, Personal and Plus plan holders will end up paying the big fee proportionally, with it being $0.20 per install. For indie titles that have cheaper price tags and don’t make that much more than $200,000 but are installed a lot, the financial risk is clear. While Unity said it “set high revenue and game install thresholds to avoid impacting those who have yet to find scale, meaning they don’t need to pay the fee until they have reached significant success,” this announcement is not going over well with indie developers, many of whom used Unity Personal because of its cheaper and more accessible nature.

A tweet from game developer Rami Ismail explains that this fee being tied to the number of times the game is installed makes using Unity a risk for developers accounting for subscription service downloads, charity bundles, a free-to-play model, giveaways, and even piracy. Tomas Sala, the developer behind the Falconeer franchise, tweeted about how he’s worried about paying exorbitant fees in the future because he’s given away so many keys to charity. “This is ball-and-chaining me for an engine I already pay every year,” Sala says.

Ultimately, the Unity Runtime Fee will punish developers that release receive don’t receive much in the way of revenue but do see high install counts, which is not uncommon in the indie space bolstered by Xbox Game Pass and Humble Bundle. For now, Unity seems to be sticking with its decision, but this is definitely something developers using one of the most popular game engines out there will need to keep in mind when releasing games in the future.

Update: In response to the backlash, Unity posted the following statement on X:

“Today we announced a change to our business model which includes new additions to our subscription plans, and the introduction of a Runtime fee. We wanted to provide clarifying answers to the top questions most of you are asking. Yes, this is a price increase and it will only affect a small subset of current Unity Editor users. Today, a large majority of Unity Editor users are currently not paying anything and will not be affected by this change. The Unity Runtime fee will not impact the majority of our developers. The developers who will be impacted are generally those who have successful games and are generating revenue way above the thresholds we outlined in our blog. This means that developers who are still building their business and growing the audience of their games will not pay a fee. The program was designed specifically this way to ensure developers could find success before the install fee takes effect. We want to be clear that the counter for Unity Runtime fee installs starts on January 1, 2024 – it is not retroactive or perpetual. We will charge once for a new install; not an ongoing perpetual license royalty, like revenue share. We looked for ways to lessen the impact on developers, and provide ways to bring the Runtime fee to zero. If you’re using any of our ad products, Unity Gaming Services or cloud services, etc. please contact us to discuss discounts. We are actively listening to and following your questions closely. Please review our FAQ on today’s announcement. We also invite you to continue to discuss these changes with us on our forums.”

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Tomas Franzese
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
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