Unity CEO Jim Whitehurst tackles the Runtime Fee farrago one last time

Taking the stage at their Unity Unite event in Amsterdam, he didn’t have to go there… But he did

Unity CEO Jim Whitehurst tackles the Runtime Fee farrago one last time

Unity’s Unite event is over and with it came new features for Unity, new powers for developers and one more apology for the company’s recent Runtime Fee farrago.

Unite 2023 was Unity’s first in-person roll-out event for four years with the revels of Unity 6, the AI skills of Sentis and Muse and the collaboration tools of Unity Cloud being the key highlights.

Also being unveiled was new Unity CEO Jim Whitehurst who opened the keynote and manfully stepped into the fray to tackle the elephant in the room.

Pay to play

For those who may have missed the kerfuffle, weeks earlier Unity had attempted to introduce a new fee structure for its users requiring a ‘per install’ fee - the Unity Runtime Fee - aimed at earning Unity an income from the highly lucrative titles it's helped produce beyond the licensing fees for the Unity platform they already charge.

While aimed at big players who could easily afford such a thing, smaller users with less deep pockets could prohibitively get stung and mixed messages and countless use cases that Unity seemingly hadn’t considered stirred up an uproar that lasted for weeks.

Apologies and retractions followed and while the Runtime Fee is still in place (in altered, clearer, delayed form) the company’s long-term CEO John Riccitiello is not.

Thus the Unity Unite event gave the Unity development community their first opportunity to meet Whitehurst, the man who has stepped into the role to start a new squeaky clean slate for Unity while Ricccitiello leaves with the dirty laundry.

“Most of you don’t know me. I didn’t come from gaming,” he admitted in his keynote before acknowledging the similarities between the community he cultivated at his previous company - Linux developers Red Hat - and that built by Unity.

“I’ve been amazed by the passion around Unity both inside and outside the company. I know I still have a lot to learn and I’m in extreme listening mode right now. I do want to address one question that I’ve gotten, over and over again. And that’s around the Runtime Fee,” he said to audible gasps from the audience.

“My simple answer is that we have an obligation to engage with our community when we make decisions that affect you. We should never ever surprise you with a decision that has a material impact on you that you don’t know about. That is something I will commit to you going forwards,” he continued.

“I know trust is something that’s earned. It’s not what we say, it's what we do. So going forwards we will demonstrate that behavior to you and with you as we make decisions about Unity and our community going forwards.

“We’ll also show you our commitment to delivering the best possible game engine ever.”

The promise is there. The lesson is learnt. As to whether the wounds have healed and how the community will feel when the revised and delayed fee kicks in with Unity 6 next year, only time will tell. But, it seems for Unity at least, it’s time to move on.

Editor -

Daniel Griffiths is a veteran journalist who has worked on some of the biggest entertainment media brands in the world. He's interviewed countless big names, and covered countless new releases in the fields of videogames, music, movies, tech, gadgets, home improvement, self build, interiors and garden design. Yup, he said garden design… He’s the ex-Editor of PSM2, PSM3, GamesMaster and Future Music, ex-Deputy Editor of The Official PlayStation Magazine and ex-Group Editor-in-Chief of Electronic Musician, Guitarist, Guitar World, Rhythm, Computer Music and more. He hates talking about himself.