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Unity announces changes to its game engine pricing that may affect Xbox Game Pass titles

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Unity, the company behind the Unity game engine and development tool, announced this week a new pricing plan for using its products. The reaction from many indie game developers was extremely negative, and since then Unity has backed off their plans a bit.

B Blog post earlier this weekUnity has announced a change in pricing for its Unity Runtime code, which is included in every game created with the Unity engine:

We introduce a Unity Runtime fee that is based on each time an end user downloads an eligible game. We chose this because every time a game is downloaded, the Unity Runtime is also installed. We also believe that an initial install-based fee allows creators to retain the ongoing financial gains from player engagement, as opposed to revenue sharing.

The commissions will start after a certain amount of revenue and game installations, according to the company:

  • Unity Personal and Unity Plus: Those who have earned $200,000 or more in the last 12 months and have at least 200,000 lifetime game installs.
  • Unity Pro and Unity Enterprise: Those who have earned $1,000,000 or more in the past 12 months and have at least 1,000,000 lifetime game installs.

The new fees will begin on January 1, 2024. However, this decision has come under heavy fire from many game developers. Eurogamer Contacted a number of developers who used the Unity engine. One of them, Dan Marshall, has stated that he intends to stop using Unity for games like his Lair of the Clock God and use Epic’s Unreal Engine instead. He stated:

How this is followed is super vague and feels half thought out. It seems open to exploiting review bombing, but in a way that actually costs developers. If someone buys a game on Steam and installs on three machines, are Devs responsible for three payments? If so, that sucks. Gamepass is suddenly a huge headache… the list goes on.

Brandon Sheffield, head of Necrosoft Games, posted a blog entry called The death of unityThere he offered an example of how a game is mostly made by a one-man team, Vampire survivorsand released at a cheap price, will be reduced by these installation fees:

The advantage of Vampire Survivor was their price, now to do something like that is completely impossible. Imagine releasing a game for 99 cents under the personal plan, where Steam takes 30% off the top for their platform fee, then Unity takes 20 cents to install, and now you’re maxing out at 46 cents on the dollar. As a developer who starts a game within the personal program, because you are not sure how successful it will be, you are incredibly penalized for the success of the hack.

Unity has since tried to do some damage control. In a post on her official X account (formerly Twitter).He determined that the per-installation pricing change would only affect a small percentage of developers using Unity:

Currently, a large majority of Unity Editor users do not currently pay anything and will not be affected by this change. The Unity Runtime fee will not affect most of our developers. The developers who will be affected are usually the ones who have successful games and generate revenue well above the thresholds we have mentioned in our blog.

The post added that the installation fees would not be retroactive and would only affect games installed starting January 1, 2024. Axios has Also received some additional clarificationsIncluding that a game will only be charged for its first installation on the device, instead of charging multiple times if a game is deleted and reinstalled.

Games released for charity will not be included in the new install fee, according to Unity. But what about games that are released through Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass? Unity claims that in this case “fees are collected from the distributors, which in the example of Game Pass would be Microsoft”.

So far, Microsoft has yet to comment on this move by Unity to push additional fees to the company if an Xbox Game Pass indie title is downloaded millions of times.

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