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Exclusive: Is Unity demanding 'six figure sums' from games with gambling?

Exclusive: Is Unity demanding 'six figure sums' from games with gambling?
A change to Unity's end-user license agreement could, according to one developer, result in studios having to pay "six figure sums" in order to license the engine.

Tony Novak, who serves as president and CFO of Bad Juju Games, contacted PocketGamer.biz to highlight the aforementioned change, which he alleges puts Unity's position as a "royalty free, paid up, and all good to go" engine for indies under threat.

The new EULA for Unity 4.x, he suggests, is "much the same as before, unless you are in any way associated with the gambling industry or simply plan to build a system that may enjoy profits from wagering."

In those cases, Novak claims, developers could find themselves having to give up a large chunk of cash for the privilege.

An eye on the EULA

Indeed, a quick look at Unity 4.x's EULA compared to the one put in force for Unity 3.5 does throw up a few alterations.

According to the text, developers looking to "distribute or publish any Licensee Content in connection with any Gambling Activities" can only do so now with "a separate license from Unity" - a clause that isn't mentioned in Unity3D's EULA.


Excerpt from the new Unity Software License Agreement

Unity's defines gambling activities as any "product or service that is used to accept, record, or register bets, or carry on a policy game or any other lottery, or play any game of chance, for money or other thing of value, or any activities that otherwise constitute gambling or gaming under applicable law, regardless of whether such activity is legal."

It's here, however, that Novak suggests issues may arise. For starters, the details of the separate license agreement are not widely known, while just what games fall under its remit is also up for debate, he claims.

A real gamble?

"I own a digital interactive agency called 2Advanced Studios that was approached by a very prominent client in the gambling industry to build them a poker game," Novak told us.

"Naturally, I recommended Unity3D, especially given that they wanted to take their gambling client cross platform. Somewhere along the path, my client reached out to Unity3D and came back to me saying 'Forget Unity, they want over six figures!'.

"I argued like an idiot with them, saying that makes absolutely no sense.

"Unity3D was born for the indie developer – it has never played the royalty games that so many others are trying to force down people's throats. Unity has always been solely focused on selling a development environment, making it better and looking to make their software the de facto standard for cross-platform reach."

Novak alleges that's no longer the case, with his client apparently forwarding an email from Unity's director of business development, Ngozi Watts, suggesting that the separate license agreement "steeply" penalising games that employ gambling.

PocketGamer.biz has not seen this email, however.

Going beyond

Nonetheless, Novak's main concern is that the new rules could go beyond gambling games to target titles that employ any form of wagering within their gameplay.

"The reality is that the broad reach of these restrictions goes way beyond the gambling industry," he added.

"In fact, anyone even considering any form of wagering would be applicable to requiring a totally separate license in which we would have to pay Unity more money and potentially royalties as well.

"I am very close to the roadmaps of many major video game developers and publishers, and the concept of wagering is continually coming up for firms looking to expand their games with new innovation. In fact, in my most recent discussions regarding one of the top 'fighter properties' we were discussing on online wagering system.

"This is actually becoming closer to a reality given that there are a number of published legal opinions indicating that Wagering in a 'skill based game' is not considered an illegal form of gambling.

"Therefore, as companies are trying to build out new revenue streams for their games – if they happened to have Unity on the mind – the price tag just went up by an order of magnitude."

Dealing with definitions

As a precaution, Novak claims Bad Juju's legal counsel has reviewed the language used by Unity in its new EULA.

It believes Unity could potentially brand any game that "isn't 100 percent deterministic in outcome", or that relies on "any element of luck/randomness to determine a winner" as one that features gambling activities, even if the prize that results is something as menial as a free t-shirt.

While the ramifications are unclear, Novak says his own Unity account manager has confirmed the new policy is in action, branding it a "departure from their philosophy."

But, while references to gambling only appeared in Unity's most recent EULA, do the new rules genuinely represent a change in direction for the engine?

We contacted Unity for clarification and were told that, rather than an attempt to clamp down on gambling, the company is looking to better support studios working in the sector.

A matter of support

"We've been working on a product that can be used effectively by the gaming industry for a couple of years, first through Linux-based embedded systems, and we now list several of the world's largest and most successful gambling companies as part of the Unity developer community," said Unity in its statement.

"Through our experience and explorations, we've begun to ramp up our own support of the gambling industry through adding personnel – we now have over 20 years of gambling industry experience on staff – and through technological advancement and research.

"We're looking to continue investing heavily in the space to build the best solutions possible for making gambling products (land-based, mobile, or online) and that means development of specific features and targeted support for customers serious about competing in one of the world's most energetic industries."

Unity claims its gambling license includes Unity Pro seats, six months of premium support, architectural consulting, and "the option to purchase source code at a reduced rate whether that's for regulatory or technical issues."

"We'll also be integrating gambling specific features to Unity across 2013 in order to empower developers and better facilitate their success in the gambling space," Unity added.

'Case by case'

The company also confirmed that the new license is part of additional provisions within the Unity 4.x EULA specifically focused on the "creation of real money gambling titles".

"Gambling is generally defined as an activity that has all of the following elements: 1) wagering of money; 2) in a game of chance (an event with an uncertain outcome); and 3) to win additional money or material goods," the company clarified.

"Our EULA restriction is aimed at real-money gambling games that include each of these elements but we will evaluate proposed titles on a case by case basis."

So, what's your take? Are you a Unity developer that's had to take out the new gambling license, or are you worried about how the new EULA may impact on your game?

Let us know in the comments below, or email keith [at] pocketgamer.co.uk.
UPDATE: Unity CEO David Helgason has now issued a response on the Unity blog.

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.

Comments

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Volure Darkngel
It seems to me that unity isn't happy with the 5000$ they get per developer. Now they want 125,000 to 250,000 a year for any company doing anything gambling related. Its bullcrap. They aren't providing anything extra for this "Privilege" that I could not get from a support contract. The companies new tactics make me sick. Its like they shove this little price in your face to get you all excited about using it. But Now they throw a monkey wrench into the works and limit creativity just because they want to make a cut of your action. Hey unity, How about you concentrate on making the game engine and get paid for that, Ill concentrate on the products I want to make and keep your fingers out of my pie. Pretty good possibility that I will be looking elsewhere for my game engine now.
John Little
In terms of profit and turnover, I have seen reports that the video game market is bigger than the cash (gambling) game market. I don't see how this change can do anything but harm Unity, as smaller studios and Indie developers must be asking themselves, will my games be next to require revenue based licencing which will put me out of business? Gaming operators like Victor Chandler, 888, bwin etc. work on fairly small profit percentages, and they are on a knife edge. Just look at bwins loses and layoffs this year, and look at Gala interactive profits (or lack of them).
julie
I really thank for presenting valuable information in this site as it is useful for me. I hope you will update more and more. I will keep visiting this site and also I will suggest my friends.
305 Games
Developers stand to make higher profits off gambling games, Unity wants a cut.
Greg Quinn CEO/Lead Developer at Meltdown Interactive Media
I'd like to hear from UT if a money is allowed to be wagered on a 'game of skill'.
Ric Moore
Social casino games make more money than real-gambling games. In those games you only ever pay in, they never pay out real cash. By the sound of it these won't fall under the new licence terms.
I think for real gambling games it will just make developers think twice about using Unity to build them. Suddenly HTML5 looks more appealing.
Adam
Unity need to spell out this new addendum to their UELA in clear terms to prevent any ambiguity for existing Unity developers or new ones.

For some time we sought to add gambling features to our games, however this will simply mean we have to explore ways of developing these features in tandem on other platforms with our games rather than in Unity itself.

A very odd change in their philosophy, perhaps they see a shift and have identified a new potential revenue stream to exploit?
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