Last week, Unity dropped a bomb on developers with a new runtime fee on its game engine that would be charged each time a title is installed — summed up by one developer as an “abysmally catastrophic decision.” Now, the company appears to be backtracking, promising changes to the policy that will be revealed shortly.
“We have heard you. We apologize for the confusion and angst the runtime fee policy we announced on Tuesday caused,” the company said in a post on X. “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.”
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…
— Unity (@unity) September 17, 2023
News of the fee structure created furor in the developer community, which quickly closed ranks against Unity. “We have never made a public statement before. That is how badly you f—-ed up,” wrote Slay the Spire dev Meta Crit. “There is no way Unity talked to a single developer before launching this,” added Rami Ismail. In protest, many developers switched off Unity ads, and others were considering a class action lawsuit.
Unity announced the changes following a difficult couple of years that saw an Apple privacy change cut off much of its ad revenue. Last year, the company’s stock price plunged and it initiated layoffs that impacted 8 percent of its staff, or 600 employees. It has also had a controversy around CEO John Riccitiello after he called game makers who don’t consider monetization “f—ing idiots.”
Following the initial uproar, Unity attempted to clarify its policies, saying it would only charge for initial installs, charities would be exempt and demos wouldn’t count. Owners of subscription services would be required to pay the fee, not developers.
However, some developers who committed to Unity and its previous pricing structure have said they are still effectively screwed. “Put years and years of work into my pipeline. I did so under a simple per-seat license I am happy to pay. Now while I am close to release they spring something new on me. Not a price increase [but] a fundamental change in how we do business together. I have no options, cannot go back, can only bend and [pay up],” wrote The Falconer dev Tomas Sala.
It remains to be seen if Unity’s changes will placate developers. “Just be honest, upfront, reliable. We need stability,” wrote one developer in response to the company’s post.