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Mobile Mavens: The Unity aftermath… Can it reignite the faith or are doubts only growing?

Our industry experts discuss the current industry sentiment toward Unity after last year's Runtime fee farrago
Mobile Mavens: The Unity aftermath… Can it reignite the faith or are doubts only growing?
  • “We like Unity, but it doesn’t feel like they want to keep us as a customer”
  • “Unreal and Godot received a large influx of developers looking to make their new titles I believe we will see a lot of new studios popping up because of all the layoffs”
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In September last year, the popular game development platform Unity announced that it intended to start charging an installation fee to its users. The runtime fee was received extremely negatively by developers, who accused the company of breaking their trust and were angered by the incoming changes that didn’t seem thoroughly thought out or explained. 

Unity took steps to clarify and revise some aspects of the runtime fee in response to the initial backlash. Additionally, CEO John Riccitiello resigned from the company.

Interim CEO Jim Whitehurst - who is now set to become Unity's chair of the board as  Matthew Bromberg steps in as CEO - stated in a recent earnings call that customers who had been “ruffled” by the runtime fee were now “feeling much more confident with us.” 

With so much water under the bridge since September 2023's initial backlash to the runtime fee, we reached out to our industry experts to see if the worst is truly behind Unity or if there is still much to be done to restore confidence.

Here’s what they had to say:

Martine Spaans

Martine Spaans

Owner at Tamalaki

In the past six months Unity clearly put a lot of effort into repairing what was damaged. The question is, however, how representative the quote about confident developers really is. Perhaps this is a sentiment Unity is getting through their developer community channels, but what about those developers who chose to no longer use Unity and made the leap to engines like Godot or Unreal? 

The developers I work with mostly still use Unity but do not feel more confident. In fact, one of them tried to contact support about a license billing error and the automated response he got told him that response time may be up to two months.

How is that supposed to inspire confidence?

Will Luton

Will Luton

Founder/CPO Village Studio Games

I suspect people aren’t as vocally upset, but what happened was that the entire industry collectively remembered that they don’t own or control the core technology their businesses are built on. There used to be a discussion at the beginning of a project about what engine or tech to use, but over the last decade, that has slipped away, and Unity has become the assumption.

Now which engines are firmly back on the table. At the grassroots, we’re seeing a shift away from Unity to Godot, which is evidenced by the hugely influential Brackeys returning as Godot-specific.

A transition away from Unity will take time to manifest, as developers are so closely tied up to the software. But in part, it will happen as the question gets reopened, people retrain, and open source alternatives get better supported.

Christian Lövstedt

Christian Lövstedt

General Manager at Midjiwan

“We are forced to look at other options - In our case, we are looking at a 500% price increase!”
Christian Lövstedt

We still like Unity as an engine. We ported The Battle of Polytopia to Unity a few years ago since it was considered a very good engine for our kind of game that exists on multiple platforms.

Another reason was that the fees fit our budget. Now, due to the massive price increase, we are forced to look at other options - in our case, we are looking at a 500% price increase! We are currently testing other engines, such as Godot, and are not planning to start a new project in Unity as we have no way of knowing what the fees will be in the future.

We would not be able to build a credible budget with that type of uncertainty. We like Unity, but it doesn’t feel like they want to keep us as a customer.

Nikita Guk

Nikita Guk

CEO of GIMZ and Hoopsly

Not everyone has accepted Unity's new terms and is still considering alternative engines for their projects. In some cases, the communication from Unity representatives doesn't instil confidence that the company has come to a consensus even inside.

On the other hand, Unity has already started to streamline its staff and focus on its core business. There is hope that Unity can and will find common ground with developers again.

So, I wouldn't say that all developers have become more comfortable just yet. It takes a lot of effort to show you're serious about making changes.

Jared Steffes

Jared Steffes

Co-founder at Muxy

“I have a feeling Unity is going to become a strong choice for game devs again as the AI development tools become too enticing to ignore.”
Jared Steffes

I have met with other developers who are not confident at all about Unity. The entire publicly traded games industry has been at the chopping block in terms of spending and staffing cuts with pursuits of profit to increase shareholders value.

Developers are concerned that this mindset will pop up new business model issues as they get farther along in a game dev cycle and are too deep in to make a change to another engine. 

Unreal and Godot received a large influx of developers looking to make their new titles. I believe we will see a lot of new studios popping up because of all the layoffs. An engine's ability to provide increased quality and quicker speed to market are going to become a critical decision for game developers as artificial intelligence becomes deeply involved in the game development process.

I have a feeling Unity is going to become a strong choice for game devs again as the AI development tools become too enticing to ignore.