Unity updates controversial “Runtime Fee,” walking back some but not all changes

Following two weeks of drama and chaos, Unity walked back on some of the more controversial changes on its new “Runtime Fee,” with Unity Create president offering an apology.

“I’m sorry,” Whitten stated in a blog post that also detailed the revised pricing policy. With the changes, Unity retains the controversial pay-per-install model of the new Runtime Fee policy, but changes the thresholds needed to trigger it.

The Runtime Fee will only apply to developers using Unity Pro and Unity Enterprise plans, and only for future versions of the engine. Developers on those plans will not be affected should they choose not to update.

“Your games that are currently shipped and the projects you are currently working on will not be included—unless you choose to upgrade them to this new version of Unity,” Whitten clarified.

Meanwhile, developers on Unity Personal—the free version of the engine—will not have to pay at all. In addition, the combined funding cap for using Unity Personal has been raised to $200,000 from the previous $100,000.

New thresholds

As for the thresholds, Unity explained that the Runtime Fee will now kick in when a game achieves both $1 million in gross revenue over the past 12 months, and 1 million installs or “initial engagements” in Unity’s words.

Developers on Unity Pro and Unity Enterprise will only see the new Runtime Fee with the next version of the engine—called 2023 LTS—which is expected to ship in 2024. Should they choose to update, they’ll be able to choose either the Runtime Fee as calculated by the installs or a 2.5 percent revenue share.

In addition, Unity also promised that it would always charge developers the lower amount between the revenue share and the Runtime Fee.

As for how Unity will know if a game has met the thresholds, Unity expects developers to self-report this information. On its Q&A page, the company stated that it is working with its partners and customers to create “tools and processes” to aid in the collection of this data.

Unity is also recommending that developers estimate their initial engagements through Unity sold and first-time user downloads, and has provided a “Runtime Fee estimator” for developers to use.

As for games hosted on subscription services such as Xbox Game Pass, Unity stated that the developers of these will still have to pay the Runtime Feel. The company stated that studios should instead work with publishers on a “mutually-beneficial” agreement on the fees.

Responses to changes mixed

Unity announced the changes to its pricing policy on September 12 to massive backlash from the developer community. The negative feedback caused the company to quickly move into damage control mode, announcing that changes would be made. Changes that are now seen in the updated pricing policy.

Reaction to the changes, however, has been mixed. Some developers lamented Unity’s unwillingness to open dialogue with developers.

“Sadly, Unity is also unwilling to openly communicate with its community in a true dialogue to find common ground and a workable solution,” stated Nikita Guk in an interview with Polygon. “Instead, it chose again to inform its community of its changes as a fact.”

Guk, who represents a group of mobile game developers protesting Unity’s Runtime fee, added that mobile games are particularly vulnerable to the changes.

“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 this in mind, Unity’s Runtime Fee—and the company’s perceived refusal to engage in dialogue—could force mobile game developers to move to other engines.

“The market rules are simple,” Guk added. “Everyone prefers to do business with partners whose changes in terms and conditions are transparent and consider developers’ interests.”

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Franz Co

managing editor | addicted to RGB | plays too many fighting games