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Leading VR Engine Unity Will Start Charging Developers Per Install

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Unity plans to introduce a new 'Runtime Fee' next year and charging developers based on how many installs they reach.

Effective from January 1, 2024, Unity confirms any games running the Unity Engine - comprised of Unity Editor and Unity Runtime - will incur this new charge based on revenue in the last 12 months and lifetime installs. Studios on Personal or Plus plans must hit $200,000 revenue and 200k installs, with subsequent installs costing $0.20 each.

Pro or Enterprise plans have considerably higher thresholds, starting at $1 million revenue and 1 million installs. For Pro users, install charges ranges from $0.15 - $0.02 depending on how far over the threshold the game is, while Enterprise users go from $0.125 - $0.01. Here's the full table:

Unity Runtime Fees table, showing different pricing between four different Unity plans.

Detailed in an FAQ, Unity confirmed the fee applies to currently available games that distribute the Unity Runtime, though developers will not be retroactively charged for installs. The standard rate will apply to installs across 18 countries, including the United States, Australia, UK and Japan. However, emerging gaming markets like India will receive a discounted rate.

Unity states that "qualifying customers" may be eligible for credits towards the Runtime Fee, based on adopting other Unity services. Editor excluded, that includes using Unity Gaming Services or Unity LevelPlay, a mediation service for mobile ad-supported games. Film, gambling, or education subscription plans are unaffected.

Developer Response

The announcement of the Runtime Fee has been received negatively by a large number of developers who have work they've made in Unity. Some expressed interest in alternative game engines like Godot or Unreal, while others questioned the wider implications for current releases. Initial criticism was fairly unanimous.

In VR game development specifically, it's believed the majority of studios use Unity Engine. Numerous VR developers like Anton Hand (Hot Dogs, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades), Zach Tsiakalis-Brown (Vertigo 2), Dirk Van Welden (Space Pirate Trainer) and Ryan Engle (GOLF+), Akin Bilgic (Brink Traveler), Jason Warburg (VZfit) and Bastien Gorissen (Silhouette) have also criticized the decision.

Responding to requests for comments, Liam Cary (Arcade Legend VR) believes Unity will retract this change due to the backlash. He believes "some developers might actually benefit by reducing license costs" but states this could harm free-to-play games like Rec Room and VRChat, also killing marketing features like Steam Next Fest demos or soft launches on SideQuest/App Lab. Post-publication, First Time Games (Inter Solar 83) stated they couldn't see how this could be enforced.

In an email to UploadVR, Holden Link from Turbo Button (Floor Plan 2) called Unity's announcement "nonsensical" and confirmed the team's been recently evaluating Unreal. "With this latest change and the violation of trust it represents, though, it's hard to imagine getting excited about starting a new project in Unity," Link advises.

In another email, Yacine Salmi of Salmi Games (Eye of the Temple) states the team previously held off switching to the Unreal or Godot engines because of the high costs, but now considers sticking with Unity a "massive strategic risk."

Today Unity has broken our trust and confidence in their engine and business model. Even if they walk this back, it would be a massive strategic risk for us to ever build another one of our games using their engine. This is absolutely shocking and disappointing behavior from their executive team.

We'll keep an eye out for updates or details on the policy as developers continue to respond to the new Unity fee.

Article updated Sept. 12, 2023 with further responses from VR developers.

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