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Developers will be charged a flat rate based on how many times their game is installed, no matter if that install is attached to a sale.

Sarcasm  I guess this also means RPGMaker Unite, eh?

Popular video game engine Unity is making big changes to its pricing structure that’s causing confusion and anger among developers. On Tuesday, Unity announced that on January 1st, 2024, it would be implementing a pay-per-download pricing scheme that would charge developers a flat fee any time a game using Unity software is installed.

“We are introducing a Unity Runtime Fee that is based upon each time a qualifying game is downloaded by an end user,” the company shared on its blog. “We chose this because each time a game is downloaded, the Unity Runtime is also installed. Also we believe that an initial install-based fee allows creators to keep the ongoing financial gains from player engagement, unlike a revenue share.”

Unity went on to explain in detail how this new program works, but here’s the gist: before a game is charged with these new fees, it must meet a specific revenue and download threshold that changes based on which tier of Unity subscription a developer pays for. These fees are further broken down depending on where a game is purchased, meaning that a game bought in the US, UK, and other “standard” markets is assessed a higher fee than when it’s bought in “emerging” markets like India or China.

Here’s the table Unity included in its announcement that shows the new fees broken down by subscription tier, markets, and download thresholds.

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Yes, if someone bought a game, deleted it and then
re-installed it, that is 2 installs... 2 charges.
Same if they installed the one purchase on 2 devices
Charity games/bundles are exempt

These changes go into effect January 1st, 2024. Developers were concerned that they’d be hit with huge bills come that date, but Unity did make it clear that while it will take a game’s previous sales and downloads into account, it will only charge developers based on activity after that date. So, for example, if you, a Unity Personal subscriber, have a game that has made $200,000 and has 200,000 downloads by January 1st, you will be subject to the new fees but only on any downloads made after January 1st. If you only sell one copy of your game for the month of January 2024, you only owe Unity 20 cents.

The news was met with fear, anger, and disgust from the game development community. The primary complaint is that these changes would be particularly harmful to solo, indie, marginalized, and mobile developers.

Of particular note is the fact that Unity is assessing these fees based on the number of installs a game has without seeming to account for the many reasons, legal or illegal, a game might have multiple installs without multiple purchases. After a game meets the revenue threshold, if its downloads far outstrip its revenue generation, a developer will be on the hook to pay. Pirated games, demos, games downloaded across multiple devices, and games offered on subscription services like Game Pass are all potentially affected by these new fees.

Additionally, there’s the concern that malicious actors could use this information to run up charges by continuously downloading and redownloading games as a form of protest or griefing.

Those fears were seemingly confirmed when Stephen Totilo of Axios tweeted that Unity stated it would indeed charge a developer each time a game was redownloaded or downloaded to different devices.

An additional tweet from Totilo stated that Unity would implement fraud detection tools and allow developers to report potential cases of abuse. Charity bundles (i.e., Humble or are also exempt from these fees, but for a time, it was unclear if subscription services or demos would also be exempt from these new fees.

On Tuesday evening, Totilo shared some clarifications from Unity. Importantly, company executive Marc Whitten told Totilo that Unity is going to charge only for a game’s initial installation. However, as noted in in Totilo’s article on Axios, “an extra fee will be charged if a user installs a game on a second device, say a Steam Deck after installing a game on a PC.”

Whitten also clarified some other points with Totilo. From Totilo’s Axios article:

Quote:As for Game Pass and other subscription services, Whitten said that developers like Aggro Crab would not be on the hook, as the fees are charged to distributors, which in the Game Pass example would be Microsoft.

Runtime fees will also not be charged for installations of game demos, Whitten said, unless the demo is part of a download that includes the full game (early access games would be charged for an installation, he noted).

Another complaint is that these changes were made unilaterally with no real warning to developers, locking them into a product they have no choice but to use and pay for.

“We did not plan for this, and it screws us massively on Demonschool, which is tracking to be our most successful game,” wrote Brandon Sheffield, director at indie developer Necrosoft Games. “[We] have no option to say no, since we’re close to release and this change is 4 months out. You can’t simply remake an entire game in another engine when you’ve been working on it for 4+ years.”

Developers have also noted that Unity is implementing this new fee structure on top of charging yearly subscription fees while removing cheaper tiers and shunting developers into higher, more expensive ones. Embedded in today’s announcement was also the news that Unity would no longer be offering the Unity Plus subscription tier.

“Unity Plus is being retired for new subscribers effective today, September 12, 2023, to simplify the number of plans we offer,” Unity wrote. “Existing subscribers do not need to take immediate action and will receive an email mid-October with an offer to upgrade to Unity Pro, for one year, at the current Unity Plus price.”

A Unity Plus subscription was about $400 per year. After that one year, however, it stands to reason that those former Plus users will have to pay the new Pro rate, which is currently over $2,000 per year.

Developers are also concerned these new fees could impact digital preservation efforts as now game makers are seemingly incentivized to delist older games so they aren’t charged for them. There’s also the question of how Unity plans on tracking installs and whether or not such tools run afoul of government privacy laws. Here’s a tweet from the official Unity account explaining how it intends to monitor a game’s installs.

Suffice it to say game developers are extremely unhappy with this news. Many have lost faith in Unity as a partner or are afraid that they will lose what little money they make with game development's already razor-thin profit margins for developers who are not major publishers like EA, Ubisoft, or Activision Blizzard.

“Everyone buy Venba,” tweeted Abhi, developer of the wonderful cooking game Venba, out now pretty much everywhere, including Xbox Game Pass. “But don’t install it. Come to my house and you can play it on my PC. I’ll serve Idli or Dosa for lunch.”
Up is down, left is right and sideways is straight ahead. - Cord "Circle of Iron", 1978 (written by Bruce Lee and James Coburn... really...)
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Oh, another reason to stay with RMXP. :)
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I'll just screencap my post on twitter because it perfectly hypercondenses my exact reaction.
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Sucks for all the people who have been using Unity for ages though that now have to change engine or be robbed.
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There are people that will significantly get hit by this pricing scheme change. Anybody using Steam on any platform, not just Steam Deck (based on Linux), because they could download and play ANY game on any Windows or Linux or Mac box. Also people offering demos to let people get a feeling of how the game works without providing too many adventures to enjoy there. These group will refrain from offering any in the future. Confused And think about all those guys that download games and ask for a refund! Shocked

And don't make me start on ranting about game installations that seemed to have finished successfully but still go wrong. Confused Forcing you to download the executable file once again...

Sad This mess is so terrible that Gamer gamers still have no idea how much that will impact their gaming life from now on.
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I think this is the first time Kyonides and I have agreed on something.

Unity truly unites us, just probably not in the way they were hoping!
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Developers respond to Unity’s
new pricing scheme

‘We have never made a public statement before. That is how badly you fucked up.’

Earlier this week, Unity, the company that makes the Unity video game engine popular with indie developers, announced that it was changing its pricing model. The changes included a pricing scheme that sought to charge developers on a per-install basis for games that met specific download and revenue thresholds.

Unity wanted to charge developers for game installs without seemingly taking into account the many reasons a game might be installed without being purchased. Unity’s new model could theoretically result in situations where developers would be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees without the revenue to pay for it.

Once the news broke, the video game developer community reacted strongly and negatively to the news, citing Unity’s poor communication, lack of clarity, loss of trust, and what they saw as a naked attempt to squeeze money out of small developer teams. Many developers and even publishers took to social media to register their anger and to call on Unity to reverse its decision.

[Image: attachment.php?aid=1967]

Though the post was a tongue-in-cheek joke, it’s one being repeated by other developers.

“[Please] buy our game,” posted the official Viewfinder account. “But don’t install it after January 1, 2024.”

Other game makers wondered how Unity could put forth such a statement without considering all the ways it could negatively impact its users. According to a post on the Unity forums from someone who claimed to be an employee, objections were raised internally.

“Know also that all of the concerns that are understandably blowing up at the moment have been raised internally by many weeks before this announcement,” the alleged employee wrote. “Why it was decided to rush this out anyway in this way I can only speculate about.”

Shortly after the news broke, Unity addressed some of the questions raised about its new pricing model, specifically those surrounding installs. Initially, developers were concerned that products like demos or game keys given away to be a part of charity bundles would also be subject to fees, as would activity like piracy or repeated installs as a means to harass developers.

Unity stated that it would be implementing a system by which developers could flag malicious activity and that charity bundles or demos would not count as an install. It further clarified, however, that installing a game across multiple devices would still be subject to fees. Also, for games included as a part of subscription services, Unity stated that the service providers like Microsoft would be charged instead.

Since the initial announcement, Unity has updated its FAQ and blog post announcing the fees and answered questions on social media in an attempt to provide additional clarification. In an X post, Unity made one more change, stating that it would not charge for reinstalls while reaffirming that it doesn’t expect these fees to apply to the majority of its customers.

“More than 90% of our customers will not be affected by this change,” Unity posted. “Customers who will be impacted are generally those who have found a substantial scale in downloads and revenue and have reached both our install and revenue thresholds. This means a low (or no) fee for creators who have not found scale success yet and a modest one-time fee for those who have.”

Developers expressed that even with these clarifications, it would not be enough to undo the harm Unity’s announcement has caused. Even if Unity only expects 10 percent of its customers to pay fees, the damage has been done. The trust has been lost.

“Let me be clear.. the cost isn’t a big issue to us,” wrote Garry Newman, founder of Rust developer Facepunch Studios. “If everything worked out, the tracking was flawless and it was 10p per sale, no biggy really. If that’s what it costs, then that’s what it costs. But that’s not why we’re furious. It hurts because we didn’t agree to this. We used the engine because you pay up front and then ship your product. We weren’t told this was going to happen. We weren’t warned. We weren’t consulted. We have spent 10 years making Rust on Unity’s engine. We’ve paid them every year. And now they changed the rules.”

Developers weren’t the only ones to weigh in on this. Other game engine companies and publishers expressed their dissatisfaction, some more creatively than others.

Devolver Digital, notable for being both an indie developer powerhouse and for its unorthodox communication style, posted, “Definitely include what engine you’re using in game pitches. It’s important information,” which seems to suggest that it would look less favorably on future games developed in Unity for the unknown costs they could incur.

“One of the cool things about RPG Maker is that once you buy the engine, you can sell your game as many times as you want and never owe us another dime,” RPG Maker, the engine for games including Yume Nikki, Corpse Party, and Always Sometimes Monsters, posted.

Opera GX, a gaming browser, simply posted a meme.

[Image: attachment.php?aid=1968]

Even video game hype-man Geoff Keighley, who usually avoids direct confrontation with video game companies, got a shot in.

It seems that without a full-scale retraction, Unity has irreparably damaged its brand and its customers’ trust. And even if the company reverses course, there seem to be developers who will not come back or are exploring other engines like the open-source Godot, which is similar to Unity.

“I’ve been through ‘this will destroy indies’ policy changes before, and none of them were as bad as they looked [...] so I’m hoping this Unity thing will be similar,” posted David Szymanski, developer of Dusk. “That said, regardless of what happens, Butcher’s Creek will be my last game on Unity.”

Others put it more bluntly. “Despite the immense amount of time and effort our team has already poured into our new title, we will be migrating to a new game engine unless the changes are completely reverted,” posted Mega Crit, developers of Slay the Spire.

“We have never made a public statement before. That is how badly you fucked up.”

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Up is down, left is right and sideways is straight ahead. - Cord "Circle of Iron", 1978 (written by Bruce Lee and James Coburn... really...)
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I know of a game dev who's 7 years into a 9-year development cycle with their team. It's too late to change to another engine like Godot or Unreal without restarting the entire cycle, so they're stuck releasing their game on Unity. Just not feasible in any way to switch, as you could imagine. They're literally praying that the change is reverted before their game is released, and they're not a prayer type of person. That's how far it's pushing people  Confused

And to think, I toyed with the idea of switching DoE to Unity at one point... so happy I didn't pull the trigger on any drastic decisions like that, but who'd have foreseen this kind of thing? I didn't, I just foresaw a lot of other issues that come with not knowing a new engine, and having to learn to code from scratch  Happy with a sweat
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Mobile developers boycott Unity ads in pricing change protest
Several major mobile studios are turning off ad monetization

Mobile game developers and publishers, with hundreds of games and millions of installs, are protesting Unity’s new controversial install-based pricing model by turning off ad monetization services for their games. In an open letter published by the mobile companies, they say they are turning off all ironSource and Unity Ads features, two services Unity offers to developers to monetize their games. They’ll turn these services back on when Unity reviews and reverses its new policy, which has developers across the entire industry upset.

“We urge others who share this stance to do the same,” a representative of the studios wrote. “The rules have changed, and the stakes are simply too high. The Runtime Fee is an unacceptable shift in our partnership with Unity that needs to be immediately canceled.”

Unity, the company behind the cross-platform game engine of the same name, announced the new pay structure earlier this week, tying a new runtime fee to game installs. The initial rollout was immediately met with anger and confusion from developers and studios who said the fees would be a major financial burden to their companies. (Game developers already pay subscription fees tied to several different tiers for use of the engine.) Game developers have expressed several concerns: How are installs tracked? How can studios ensure privacy conditions are met? How can you simply change your terms of service? To put it bluntly, it’s been a mess; Unity ended up closing its offices in San Francisco and Austin, Texas over an alleged threat to the company.

More than 18 studios have signed on to the letter since it was published on Friday morning: Azur Games, Voodoo, Homa, Century Games, SayGames, CrazyLabs, Original Games, Ducky, Burny Games, Inspired Square, Geisha Tokyo, tatsumaki games, New Story, Playgendary, Supercent, KAYAC, TapNation, Matchingham Games, and Moonee. Polygon has reached out to some of these developers to confirm their signature; several companies have published the letter on their own websites.

Unity reportedly responded to the removal of ad monetization by pausing access to one company’s user acquisition features, which help market the mobile games that use it, according to an email obtained by Polygon. In the email, a Unity ironSource representative recognized that the ad monetization pause may have been connected to the Unity pricing change before notifying the developer that user acquisition features were turned off on their end. GIMZ Agency founder Nikita Guk, representing the group of developers around the letter, said the move from Unity has the potential to threaten growth for impacted businesses.

“In the world of mobile games, advertising is the key driver to get your game into gamers’ field of view,” he said. “Unity’s new rules will impact all projects that don’t have enough revenue from one user and will force developers to switch to other game engines or focus even more on monetization rather than creating engaging gameplay.”

With ad monetization turned off in protest of the change — something that’s designed to attempt to hurt Unity financially, too — the lack of user acquisition tools becomes a problem for these studios. But the pushback against Unity overshadows that, for now: “We strongly oppose this move, which disregards the unique challenges and complexities of our industry,” the studios’ representative wrote. “To put it in relatable terms — what if automakers suddenly decided to charge us for every mile driven on the car that you bought a year ago? The impact on consumers and the industry at large would be seismic.”

Mobile game developers have the potential to get hit with major fees when the runtime structure gets implemented next year; according to Azur Games’ website, the majority of its games have well over 10 million downloads — that’s a lot of fees to rack up. The exact fees these studios could expect to pay would differ based on the subscription plan each company uses. Companies paying for Unity’s top-tier subscriptions would pay less per install. However, Unity is offering “qualifying customers” credit toward the runtime fee should they implement Unity Gaming Services or Unity LevelPay, which supports mobile ads in games.

Unity brought in more than $1 billion in revenue last year, despite not being profitable. The runtime pricing model is a bid to add profit to the company.
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I recall reading about this early on this week but I had no idea it had escalated to this point.

When it comes to idiotic, self inflicted wounds, this ranks pretty high.
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[Image: unity-burns-genshin-impact.jpg?itok=2Iw65YNm]

After shocking the industry by publishing a new pricing structure for developers using its engine, Unity took to X (formerly Twitter) to apologize and promise change.

The company said on Sunday evening that it had heard the complaints and delivered an apology for the "confusion and angst" caused by the new policy.

It also vowed to listen to all parties involved and make changes accordingly. We'll hear more details in a couple of days. 

Quote:We have heard you. We apologize for the confusion and angst the runtime fee policy we announced on Tuesday caused. We are listening, talking to our team members, community, customers, and partners, and will be making changes to the policy. We will share an update in a couple of days. Thank you for your honest and critical feedback.

Back on September 13, Unity announced that it would charge developers past specific revenue thresholds a fee depending on the number of installations for their games.

This triggered extremely negative and very public reactions among developers, including boycotts and announcements of abandoning the engine unless Unity reverses course.

Of course, we'll have to wait and see whether the changes promised by the company will be enough to satisfy its users and customers.

Some partial concessions and clarifications have already been announced, but the general reaction has not been enthusiastic, with many developers judging them as insufficient or too little, too late.

Unity is extremely popular among mobile developers (for instance it's used by HoYoverse for both Genshin Impact and Honkai: Star Rail) and indies, especially on Steam, or at least it was before this policy change was announced.

We'll have to wait and see if the company will manage to avert this existential crisis before it's too late. The next few days will likely be crucial.
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