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Unity Planning Per-Install Fees To Developers And Platform Holders Despite Massive Backlash

by Donald Theriault - September 13, 2023, 12:04 pm EDT
Total comments: 2 Source: GamesIndustry.biz

Would it surprise you to know that their current CEO used to hold a similar position at EA?

Unity - the engine behind many popular productions in spaces from AAA to the shovelware peddlers of the Switch - is under fire today following a new fee structure that would be charged to developers and potentially platform holders.

As announced yesterday by Unity CEO John Riccitello, the new structure would involve games that reach a certain number of installs (200,000) being charged $0.20 / installation of the game with lower charges ($0.05 and $0.01) depending on sales volume. This would apply beginning January 1, 2024 and would affect both titles already released and released in the future.

Originally, it was believed that the fee would literally be per-install, resulting in a potential situation where a game could be repeatedly reinstalled running up a new fee each time. Unity has confirmed that the proposed fee would only be on the first install per device, but would still apply if it was installed on a standard Switch and a Switch Lite or a PC and a Steam Deck. Demos and games included in charity bundles (such as the Humble Bundle) were also confirmed to be exempt from the charges.

The backlash has been swift, with Devolver Digital threatening to pull their popular Unity-developed game Cult of the Lamb from digital storefronts on January 1, 2024 if the fee is not dropped. As well, a controversial provision would result in platform holders who make the games available via subscription services (such as a Switch Online game trial or more prominently Microsoft's Game Pass) bear the costs; the platform holders have not commented on such an obvious swipe at their subscription revenue.


Ian SaneSeptember 13, 2023

I'm trying to think of how they can get money for games already released.  Like the game is completed and out the door so how does Unity even know how many installs occur to send you a bill?  And for Microsoft's Game Pass, why can't MS just tell them to go f themselves?  "Hi, giant company with more resources than me.  I've decided to retroactively change my pricing structure so that you owe me a bigger cut on something neither of us agreed to ahead of time.  I'm sure you'll immediately comply and not sick your high priced lawyers on me!"

I would assume that the end result here is that no one uses Unity anymore and Unity's attempts to get money for software developed in the past gets soundly defeated in court.  Maybe if they just targeted small indies they could get away with it but it is stupid to try to squeeze Nintendo or MS.  Big companies have the resources to sue and will do so.  I just don't see how this doesn't outright kill Unity.

Luigi DudeSeptember 13, 2023

I'm pretty sure this has to be illegal asking for money for games that are already released.  That's like a landlord raising your rent and then saying you owe them for previous months as well now, even though you paid those previous months at what the price at that time was.

Almost makes you wonder if John Riccitello is secretly working for some vulture capital firm that wants him to intentionally tank the company so they can swoop in and buy up all of Unity's assets for cheap.

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