Game developers react to Unity Engine's new pricing changes

The announcement of Unity Runtime Fees has caused a stir amongst developers.


This morning, Unity released a blog post informing users of an important update coming to its engine: Runtime Fees. These fees will be charged to developers whose games cross a specific revenue and install threshold, siphoning away a portion of their earnings. The news quickly spread among the game developer community, with many having overwhelmingly negative reactions to the announcement.

The news from Unity was enough to elicit reactions from developers in both indie and AAA spaces. This includes Thirsty Suitors Director Chandana Ekanayake, who quoted an opinion piece from Insert Credit that urges developers not to use the Unity Engine for their projects. Rami Ismail aired his frustrations as well, stating that it’s highly unlikely that any video game developers were consulted before this decision was finalized.

A table depicting the respective fees applied to developers based on Unity tier.

Source: Unity

According to the Unity blog post, the Runtime Fees will apply to games developed with Unity Personal and Unity Plus that have made $200,000 USD in the past 12 months and have at least 200,000 lifetime installs. For Unity Pro and Unity Enterprise, the fees apply to games that have made $1,000,000 USD and surpassed 1,000,000 downloads in that period.

Unity provided some clarifications in a statement provided to Axios. If a player were to uninstall a game and then reinstall it at a later point, that would count as two unique installs towards the developer’s threshold. Many have pointed this out as something that can be weaponized against developers by bad actors. Unity has also clarified that the fees will not apply to charity games and bundles.

With such a strong negative reaction across the board, and several developers stating their intentions to switch to different engines, it feels like only a matter of time before Unity provides a statement on the situation. We’ll be sure to update this article with any additional information once it’s shared.

News Editor

Donovan is a young journalist from Maryland, who likes to game. His oldest gaming memory is playing Pajama Sam on his mom's desktop during weekends. Pokémon Emerald, Halo 2, and the original Star Wars Battlefront 2 were some of the most influential titles in awakening his love for video games. After interning for Shacknews throughout college, Donovan graduated from Bowie State University in 2020 with a major in broadcast journalism and joined the team full-time. He is a huge Scream nerd and film fanatic that will talk with you about movies and games all day. You can follow him on twitter @Donimals_

From The Chatty
  • reply
    September 12, 2023 1:35 PM

    Donovan Erskine posted a new article, Game developers react to Unity Engine's new pricing changes

    • reply
      September 12, 2023 10:19 AM

      So apparently now Unity is planning to start charging developers whenever a game using Unity is downloaded.

      There’s all sorts of conditions like it has to be X number of installs after Y amount of revenue but if folks on Twitter are reading this right, there are circumstances where you’d need to pay money because someone out there has decided to reinstall your game they paid you for ages ago.

      • reply
        September 12, 2023 10:25 AM

        Didn't they try that before and backed off?

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        September 12, 2023 10:29 AM

        good fucking luck with that

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        September 12, 2023 10:36 AM

        I guess that's one way to get more people to use Unreal and Godot.

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        September 12, 2023 10:41 AM

        lol glwt

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        September 12, 2023 10:43 AM

        Hearing it's retroactive too, so if you were in a humble bundle and then a bunch of those users install your application in a year that you do sales that break the thresholds you could be super duper ultra fucked?

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          September 12, 2023 11:40 AM

          Man, how the fuck would that be legal?

          Probably some nonsense buried in their EULA I guess.

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            September 12, 2023 11:53 AM

            Most EULAs have something buried in them to the effect of "we reserve the right to change these terms at any time and by accepting this you accept those changes"

            I'm sure there's more to it but that's the gist of it.

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          September 12, 2023 11:51 AM

          Looks like the fee is something like $0.15/install and perhaps it's unlikely that a bunch of people will spontaneously install your old games, but really the issue is that it exists at all. You paid your fees to Unity or whatever and now the mere continued existence of your game might cost you money you weren't planning on spending.

          I kinda think they did this announcement on an iPhone launch day so it would get buried in the press.

          • reply
            September 12, 2023 12:23 PM

            Can you imagine pairing a review bomb with a buy-install-then-Steam-refund bomb?

        • reply
          September 12, 2023 11:54 AM

          you just triggered my trap card!

      • reply
        September 12, 2023 11:50 AM

        Go for it. See how that works out.

      • reply
        September 12, 2023 12:20 PM

        The Death of Unity:

      • reply
        September 12, 2023 12:25 PM

        GG + oof

      • reply
        September 12, 2023 12:31 PM

        What has happened? Across the last few years, as John Riccitiello has taken over the company, the engine has made a steady decline into bizarre business models surrounding an engine with unmaintained features and erratic stability.

        Same guy that was CEO of EA

        Riccitiello returned to EA to serve as CEO from February 2007 to March 2013,[10][12][13] when the board of directors accepted his resignation because of the company's financial performance

      • reply
        September 12, 2023 1:02 PM
        "I got some clarifications from Unity regarding their plan to charge developers per game install (after clearing thresholds)
        - If a player deletes a game and re-installs it, that's 2 installs, 2 charges
        - Same if they install on 2 devices
        - Charity games/bundles exempted from fees"

        • reply
          September 12, 2023 1:03 PM

          They're so fucked. No one's going to use their shit if they actually go through with this. Absolutely ridiculous.

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            September 12, 2023 4:36 PM

            Marvel snap and hearthstone use it and have millions of users. Yikes.

        • reply
          September 12, 2023 1:07 PM

          So the first two points there are basically what everyone feared and the third one sounds like it’s going to be a nightmare to sort out and enforce.

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          September 12, 2023 1:09 PM

          charging developers for pirated games is certaintly a choice

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          September 12, 2023 1:13 PM

          That is totally INSANE :( , I really don't want to them to go under for we need competition against the other engines.

          I would rather they try and catch up to UE5 then focus on this stuff, I am not sure this is going to increase you market share or new leads :( .

          Maybe they are hurting financially and want to basically make rent from all the existing Unity games.

          Regardless I think this is going to piss off a lot of shops and individuals.

          • reply
            September 12, 2023 1:21 PM

            To me this sounds like the sort of thing you do when you've achieved vendor lock-in.

            Unity is used for tons of shit and it's nontrivial to switch to something else so just put the screws to everyone and make more money.

            The hell of it is I remember the Dear Esther developers (The Chinese Room) moving *to* Unity to get *away* from the Source engine because the then-necessary fees to the Havok physics engine were preventing them from putting the game on more platforms. The Vampire Survivors guys just got done porting their game from whatever web based bullshit to Unity because the web based bullshit was preventing them from putting the game on more platforms. Now Unity is on its way to becoming a problem.

          • reply
            September 12, 2023 1:36 PM

            I also kinda get the impression that Unity is/was the engine you used on lower budget titles or games where cross platform across mobile was a benefit. And that it was a go-to if you had like a 2D game. If you want the best graphics and performance you go with Unreal but it'll cost you since you'll need C++ programmers if you're changing the engine at all. UnrealScript goes some of the distance but it's a more hardcore engine than Unity.

            Unity is in .NET/Mono and lets you use C# programmers and the origin story I've always heard is that they were trying to make middleware (think: game mod code) and they made an engine to show how to use it. The engine and middleware combo proved more valuable than the middleware since their examples ran on desktop and mobile so they switched gears but it also means for years they were saddled with an engine that had bad day-one design decisions because it wasn't intended to be used in a production scenario. I think they've hammered a lot of that out over the years but still there's a reason you don't associate it with graphics powerhouses.

            Granted, all of the above is from the perspective of me, a guy who dabbles in getting stuff to build but has never worked on a real commercial title, so the real game devs on here are welcome to point out if I'm wrong about something.

        • reply
          September 12, 2023 1:15 PM

          This can't be real. It's insanity.

        • reply
          September 12, 2023 1:23 PM

          "If a player deletes a game and re-installs it, that's 2 installs, 2 charges"

          That's complete fucking madness, like I've uninstalled/reinstalled games just to free up disk space before now (the early days of Modern Warfare patches where it'd download like.. 130GB AGAIN on top of the installed size springs to mind here), the notion of CHARGING THE DEVELOPERS OF THE GAME I REINSTALL when I do that...

          the fuck.

          what in the actual fuck.

          Straight up 1980s cocaine businessman thought process.

        • reply
          September 12, 2023 1:45 PM

          Remember when the worst an angry community could was review bomb a game? Now they can bankrupt the company.

        • reply
          September 12, 2023 2:42 PM

          were they bought by private equity or something

        • reply
          September 12, 2023 3:20 PM


        • reply
          September 12, 2023 3:56 PM

          Yikes! Review bombs just became a financial DEATH SENTENCE...

          • reply
            September 12, 2023 4:15 PM

            Install bombs! Install the game 1000 times, bankrupt the dev

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          September 12, 2023 4:05 PM

          Skeezy as fuck

        • reply
          September 13, 2023 4:37 AM

          The google method of pricing and gouging. Awesome

      • reply
        September 12, 2023 1:07 PM

        Oracle buy Unity or something?

        • reply
          September 12, 2023 7:51 PM

          As a former system administrator over cluster of Sun servers, I felt that.

        • reply
          September 13, 2023 7:32 AM

          I think you mean IBM. and renamed it IBM Game Developer Toolkit With Watson X Supercharger Studio

      • reply
        September 12, 2023 1:07 PM

        So if i dont like a developer that uses unity i just set up a bot farm to download their game file over and over.

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          September 12, 2023 1:08 PM

          Yep, sounds like a good way to really hurt things trivially.

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          September 12, 2023 1:16 PM

          What is crazy you can easily write a Windows service in C# that will do this and just put it on a box and it could literally do it all day 24/7. Man you could probably do it in power shell too.

          Unity DDoS install attacks here we come, LOL + Yikes.

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          September 12, 2023 1:26 PM

          Sounds like you don't even have to download it -- just

          10 INSTALL
          20 UNINSTALL
          30 GOTO 10

      • reply
        September 12, 2023 1:24 PM

        i dont mind them asking for more money, they provide a decent service, but they got to do it via sales above a threshold just like unreal. doing this weird shady complex stuff is wack

        • reply
          September 12, 2023 1:29 PM

          Well there is a threshold - for Unity Personal and Plus (and I have no idea what all the levels mean) it's 200k installs (ever) or $200k over the previous 12 months. For Pro and Enterprise it's 1M installs (ever) or $1M over the previous 12 months.

          At the very least it really puts a hurt on the idea that Unity is a simple engine to work with, license-wise, since now you'll have to figure out if people are still installing your game, if those installs came from charity sites, can you afford to do sales now that you're paying per install, etc.

        • reply
          September 12, 2023 1:41 PM

          Also the article kallanta links to above alludes to the idea that Epic also changes their EULA to change the licensing terms but they're not retroactive. If they were to make a change like this it would just be on new titles going forward, not retroactive to old games.

          The real interesting thing is going to see if they cancel or modify their plans in the face of backlash or if they just say fuck it like Reddit and push through it.

    • reply
      September 12, 2023 1:48 PM

      Nice to know if I don't like a game enough that uses Unity I can spin up a few virtual machines and just create a bot to just keep uninstalling/installing it in order to bankrupt the company that made it.

    • reply
      September 12, 2023 1:50 PM

      If this spurs more devs to ditch unity going forward, then I think it's a great idea they came up with here.

    • reply
      September 12, 2023 2:21 PM

      How does this work with gamepass or playstation plus, is this Unity trying to grab some of that money?

      • reply
        September 12, 2023 2:30 PM

        It applies across the board so yes and on the service side(Plus and Gamepass) that scheme will make a lot of money for that is what ever one does install uninstall.

        Crazy, I don't think it will last, if it does this is going to be an insane mess and a lot of devs are going to go under.

    • reply
      September 12, 2023 2:40 PM

      This might be the biggest self-inflicted critical hit I've ever seen in a while.

    • reply
      September 12, 2023 3:23 PM

      I don't even really understand how these calculations work. It seems like it wouldn't even be that much but it's just such a weird way to do the charges?

      Unreal charge 5% revenue after the first million. That seems a lot fairer but also would make them a lot more than this?

      Baldur's Gate 3 sold 2.8 million copies, I wonder how much they would have to pay if it was Unity based?

      • reply
        September 12, 2023 3:38 PM

        yeah a triple AAA $60 game will benefit cause unity is only asking 5-20 cents per copy, but for a cheaper indie title it becomes closer to that 5%. but with unity its so annoying with this install stuff that we are paying for pirates and reinstalls

        im worried about like, if microsoft buys a indie game for a million, and that becomes a huge hit like vampire survivors, 10-20mil downloads, now they have to pay 200k lol

      • reply
        September 12, 2023 4:19 PM

        Seems easier to calculate than revenue (how does unreal do it? Self reporting and auditing?) if the software just phones home and you get bill in the mail.

        The only thing that seems unfair about this is applying it to games that have already been sold.

        • reply
          September 12, 2023 8:57 PM

          easier for unity for sure. but now what happens when we get install brigaded. do we have to go through the usual big tech nonexistent customer support where we dont get answers for months

    • reply
      September 12, 2023 3:36 PM

      Currently playing (and loving) Chained Echoes which was built on Unity by a single person (Matthias Linda) from what I understand. This would fuck him since it's retroactive, right? That BLOWS.

      • reply
        September 12, 2023 4:31 PM

        Why would any developer choose to use unity if, at some unknown point in the future, they can retroactively change the agreement and you now owe them additional fees that weren't planned for?

        Isn't this just pushing more and more people to unreal engine?

    • Zek legacy 10 years legacy 20 years
      September 12, 2023 3:38 PM

      This feels like a cash extraction from existing customers in a business they do not expect to be around in 5 years. The execs will have sailed away in their yachts by that time.

    • reply
      September 12, 2023 3:40 PM

      Oh man, good bye review bombing, hello reinstall raiding.

      I can just imagine a bunch of pissed off, entitled nerds, reinstalling a game a thousand times just to screw over a dev they don't like.

      • reply
        September 12, 2023 3:58 PM

        Sure, some people might take advantage of this pricing model to financially target developers.

        And you'll obviously be able to monitor for trends of abuse and not charge the developer in those cases...


    • reply
      September 12, 2023 3:52 PM

      Interesting as CEO John Riccitiello keeps selling off shares..

    • reply
      September 12, 2023 7:39 PM

      NEW - I got a major update from Unity about their new fees
      - Unity "regrouped" and now says ONLY the initial installation of a game triggers a fee
      - Demos mostly won't trigger fees
      - Devs not on the hook for Game Pass

      • reply
        September 12, 2023 7:41 PM

        More lol.

        Heard from inside Unity that the blog post was reviewed for weeks and internal concerns about poor / confusing messaging, Game Pass, etc, were all ignored. It's resignation time for some folks.

        Hopefully we will see a walk back. I fear for Unity.
        #gamedev #IndieGameDev #unity3d

      • reply
        September 12, 2023 8:54 PM

        How are they gonna know it's the initial installation?

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          September 12, 2023 9:02 PM

          pretty much impossible lol. i have no clue. if they did per-hardware that would be more ok, like tracking MAC address or motherboard serial or something. the thing is Apple is prettty strict on what you can harvest from iOS, I dont know if you can uniquely identify

          • reply
            September 12, 2023 9:06 PM

            It's not like you can't simply change your mac address.

      • reply
        September 13, 2023 5:21 AM

        Oh good, devs aren't charged for Game Pass installs, that charge falls on Microsoft!

        ... Who is now disincentived from signing games that use Unity and will use that to negotiate lower payments to devs.

        Fuck everything about this policy, yo

      • reply
        September 13, 2023 6:18 AM

        But 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.


    • reply
      September 12, 2023 8:14 PM

      Pure fucking garbage. This screws over indies and all gamers.

      I could see Unity was heading in a shitty direction for a while now, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

    • reply
      September 12, 2023 11:55 PM

      Under John Riccitiello, Unity has really taken a turn for the worse.

    • reply
      September 13, 2023 2:29 AM

      I dropped Unity when I paid a lot of money for a pro license for iphone development and then Unity made it free the next month.

      Best decision ever.

    • reply
      September 13, 2023 2:46 AM

      Good thing we use Godot internally lol.

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