Unity caves to community blowback and revises controversial runtime fee

Cal Jeffrey

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TL;DR: As predicted, Unity has changed course on its Unity Runtime Fee after severe backlash from the community and weeks of bad press. It reformulated the maligned monetization plan in a way that many developers find satisfactory. The new revenue-sharing scheme will kick in with the next LTS version of Unity in 2024.

Unity finally backtracked on its proposed runtime fee announced earlier this month. After apologizing last Monday, it promised to rework the monetization scheme, incorporating community feedback. By Friday, the company had another apology for the fiasco, and an alternative pricing solution with significant changes.

"I want to start with simply this: I am sorry," Unity Create head Marc Whitten wrote in an open letter to the community. "We should have spoken with more of you, and we should have incorporated more of your feedback before announcing our new Runtime Fee policy."

Initial reactions to the changes seem generally positive. Not everyone is happy about it, but there were no death threats this time. Many feel the compromises are beneficial, especially for indy developers.

One of the most significant concessions Unity made was an exemption for Unity Personal Plan users. This was one of the primary beefs that the community had. Large companies on the higher tier subscriptions – Unity Pro and Enterprise – could more easily absorb the proposed Unity Runtime Fee, especially on triple-A games. The charge could have caused irreparable hardships for smaller developers working with paper-thin margins.

To stay on the Personal Plan, the developer must make less than $200,000 per year, double the previous limit. These studios will also not be required to display a "Made with Unity" splash screen.

Developers on Pro and Enterprise plans also received some breaks. The primary benefit is that game makers will not be charged retroactively. The new Unity Runtime Fee will only apply to titles made under the next long-term support version of the game engine, which isn't due out until next year. Existing games and current under-development projects using older versions of Unity will avoid the fee.

"We should have spoken with more of you, and we should have incorporated more of your feedback before announcing our new Runtime Fee policy."

"We will make sure that you can stay on the terms applicable for the version of Unity editor you are using – as long as you keep using that version," Whitten said.

Pro and Enterprise developers affected face a revenue-sharing expense of 2.5 percent, but this is only if the studio made over $1 million in the previous 12 months. The terms also clarify that the fee only applies to initial installs, not re-installations.

Technically, this was something that Unity said developers were misunderstanding in the first version of the runtime fee. It tried to clarify that unique users would only count once, but the explanation fell on deaf ears. The community was too riled up about everything else the plan entailed to care whether it had misunderstood how the runtime counted installations. Plus, the explanation was easy to miss since Unity buried it in a lengthy tweet.

Furthermore, developers can choose either a 2.5-percent revenue share based on self-reported numbers or the calculated amount based on the monthly runtime count. Unity will always bill the lesser of the two amounts.

All in all, Unity's effort to correct course should be appreciated by most of those affected. However, the company could have avoided the dispute with better communication and transparency.

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It's a bit late, now. They showed people their true colors and future developers will avoid them. Current developers are stuck supporting games they made with their engine and that's a major problem for a few reasons. Not just for unity, either. Now that someone like unity has come out to try and change their terms of service developers are going to be VERY conscience of things in the license agreement. Everyone knows that there is a part in a ToS or EULA that says "we reserve the right to change the terms in the future" or something like that. I mostly thought that was legal speak for "we're covering our ***." However, Unity has shown that people can and will change the ToS in the future in scum-baggy ways.

Hopefully this will put an end to stuff like "we reserve the right to change the terms in the future crap." Louis Rossman has a video about philps lightbulbs he just put up where they make you log into a philps account that collects data or they brick the lightbulb you paid for. This stuff needs to stop.
Sounds like they wanted to try this, and put it out there to test the waters.
At least the community told them in no uncertain terms, NO!
I really hope this is not a foreshadowing of what will happen when everyone puts all their eggs into one basket called Unreal engine. The last thing the gaming industry is a centralized monopolization of game engines.
Godot seems to have huge raise in popularity and I'm very happy to see that. And more people jumping to ue5, and that is as well good news as unity 3d engine is dramatically slow unless a lot of effort is pushed to performance part which most indie devs never do.
Unity significantly damaged their reputation. Let's hope this lesson will benefit users in future.
The terms are acceptable now, but I haven't heard of any heads that rolled for making such a stupid decision in the first place. That would at least recover a bit of trust (of which there's none), considering this isn't the first braindead move they've done in recent years. As long as whoever it is making such decisions is still there, there won't be any trust.
I'm glad. I forgive them. They did the right thing. Let's see how long the community will hold a grudge and bring this up time and time and time again. I'll bet.... forever
"Technically, this was something that Unity said developers were misunderstanding in the first version of the runtime fee. It tried to clarify that unique users would only count once, but the explanation fell on deaf ears."

Except that it was run on a "trust me bro" system that could be easily broken by anybody as it counted installs on different systems. This was the major issue.
Getting rid of uncapped unpredictable "install fee" is clearly an important step.

Still, I'd never start a new project with Unity as long as the current management team is in place. Any vendor who feels free to change fundamental terms of your business relationship after you've signed the contract and spent your development budget is not a vendor you can afford to trust again.

Just as a snarky aside because I think "per install" pricing is horrible no matter what, but if Unity truly believed in it they should have been the first to implement it as a first-class feature of their toolkit, meaning the developer would have the option to charge its customers by the install, or limit the number of installs, etc. The fact that Unity can not / did not develop these tools to support the functionality all the way to the end user is a pretty damning review of it being viable functionality between Unity and the developer.