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Unity Runtime Fee: "Isn't it hard enough already?" The industry speaks out

The introduction of upfront fees per install for any game made with Unity's tools has left many contemplating their future with the platform. Here are some of the comments so far…
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Last night the Unity Runtime Fee bombshell dropped and it hasn't taken long for many of the industry's biggest players to express their views on Unity's new pricing structure, kicking in from the first of January 2024.

Here's some of the choicest comments so far:

Social mobile developer Huuuge Games, behind titles such as Traffic Puzzle and Billionaire Casino, and listed in our Top 50 Game Makers, has weighed in this morning. Its new general manager Antti Kananen who now leads the studio and its products, working across strategy, market research, product management and more, posted to LinkedIn:

"Pray for #mobilegames, pray for #Unity. Despite living in post-IDFA world and investors avoiding mobile games landscape, isn't it hard enough already?"

Helsinki, Finland-based mobile games studio Lightneer is the developer behind Good Slice and Hammer Jump. With more than 40 million downloads between the two, Unity’s charge per install could hit hard, especially if retroactively applied, as some fear.

The chairman and CEO of Lightneer, Henri Lindgren, posted a local Finnish saying and a helpful translation:

"In Finland we have this saying; ‘Ahneella on paskanen loppu’ Roughly translates ‘Being greedy will end up you in a shitty place’."

CEO and co-founder of Oh BiBi, Stanislas Dewavrin, has posted his concerns around the precedent Unity is trying to set, beyond just the cost per install problem.

"What's really troublesome with #Unity price changes is not even the cost per installs in January 2024, it's a declaration they can impose you whatever rates they want, whenever they want, retroactively and without consultations. So what are they cooking for 2025/2026/2027 ?

"A slow ramp up of fees per install again ? Of course they are. Feeling a bit concerned with Frag and our around 200 millions installs. Please kindly back down from this model #Unity or the whole #GameDev community is going to be dedicated at creating converter toward other #Game engines. It's a very dangerous playbook you're running, dangerous for the game dev ecosystem and even for your stock holders. You are turning your long time and faithfull supporters against you. #DontDoItUnity"

Oh, and Oh BiBi’s Frag Pro Shooter has been downloaded more than 150 million times. That's quite the Unity bill…

Responding to Dewavrin’s post, Micro RPG developer Jolipirate’s co-founder and CEO Frederic Smyczynski made things plain and simple:

"Unity talks about fees. But what fees? Whether a game is distributed in just 1 or millions of copies, it creates NO fees for Unity."

Paul Bowen, chief revenue officer at StreamElements comments:

"I’m interested to see the outrage from game developers caused by recent Unity pricing changes."

"There wasn’t the same unified uproar when Apple announced ATT and completely kneecapped mobile gaming growth. I’m curious why that might be?"

"While it MAY only affect a small % in its full force the model itself is terrible. Per download in a majority F2P game economy is terrible."

Tim Millard, CEO & Co-Founder at Road Burn Games says:

"Has Unity declared war on Free to Play (F2P) games? This model also deters anyone / everyone from using or starting out with unity as their platform of choice. Even an indie on a lower tier would be watching this and wondering what will happen if their game(s) take off."

"Combing this with unity now charging for analytics tools that were previously free and still maintaining a seat licence I really struggle to see how it's a fair model. But alas, the industry will shift. Maybe this is Unitys Kodak moment."

And of course fellow tool-maker Epic Games had something to say via Ari Arnbjörnsson, the Unreal Engine Evangelist at Epic Games:

"We only succeed when you succeed. Our 5% royalty model only kicks in after your first $1M in gross revenue, meaning that if you make $1,000,001 you owe us 5 cents. And this is per title! Also, revenue generated from the Epic Games Store will be excluded from that 5% royalty."

"You don't need to worry about the long tail either. Even if you've passed the $1M mark for a single title, if that title grosses less than $10,000 for a calendar quarter then you don't owe us any royalty payments that quarter."

Henrique Olifiers, the co-founder and gamer-in-chief at Bossa Studios noted the risky knock-on effects of using Unity now:

"Nevermind the morals of changing a business model unilaterally, retroactively -- this alone should give anyone pause when considering Unity.

"Practices such as Steam Free Weekends are now a no-go; corner cases such as multiple installs or pirated copies of games generating bills to pay to Unity; that Unity itself is the arbitrer of how many installs of your game take place, thus how much you owe them; that they will charge subscriber platforms (Apple Arcade, Game Pass, PSPlus etc.) on the developers' behalf, making it so that games made with Unity are now less attractive to be signed by these platforms... The list goes on.

"There are *so many* corner cases and issues with this approach one has to wonder what they were thinking, and how diligently they planned this."

Tiny Rebel Games has spoken up too, with CEO Susan Cummings adding:

"So troubling to see a middleware company kicking the game industry while it's already feeling intense pain where it comes to costs to acquire users. Curious to see how Epic Games responds to this chess move from Unity."

Vlad Munteal, meanwhile, works at Unity and has asked that devs' anger not be pointed at the company's employees. He posted:

"I will ask not to have any personal feelings directed at the employees of the company. This is just unacceptable.

"There is a lot of misinformation, speculations and misguidance being spread by people who are not representatives of Unity around social media. I will ask any developer that wants to understand better the effects of this business model change on their company to reach out to your Unity Account Manager and Client Partners. We are here to help guide all the affected developers, and are open to constructive feedback."

Manny Hachey responded directly:

"The Tinanic sinking was also an edge case. But it happened. It's not beneficial to tell people not to worry because the chances of something terrible happening are "edge". That's just not how modern humans work. We live in a time of worst case scenario fears."

And Zaair Hussain business development manager at Miniclip summed up what many are thinking with his post:

"If you know, you know #mobilegaming"

More comments on the way…