The makers of Unity, one of the most popular video game engines, announced a new “Unity Runtime Fee” that is set to take effect next year. Game developers aren’t taking kindly to the announcement as the new fee is financially punishing, especially for smaller developers using the Unity Personal and Unity Plus plans.
Unity went into more detail about this in a blog post on Tuesday morning. It explains that starting on January 1, 2024, games that pass certain revenue and install thresholds will have to pay the Unity Runtime Fee. For developers using Unity Pro or Unity Enterprise, games “that have made $1,000,000 USD or more in the last 12 months and have at least 1,000,000 lifetime game installs” will have to pay the fee. For smaller developers using the free Unity Personal plan, this threshold is for titles that “have made $200,000 USD or more in the last 12 months and have at least 200,000 lifetime game installs.” It doesn’t matter whether or not your game was released before January 1 or this announcement, the fee will still apply starting next year if your game boots up with Unity Runtime.
According to a chart produced by Unity, Personal and Plus plan holders will end up paying the big fee proportionally, with it being $0.20 per install. For indie titles that have cheaper price tags and don’t make that much more than $200,000 but are installed a lot, the financial risk is clear. While Unity said it “set high revenue and game install thresholds to avoid impacting those who have yet to find scale, meaning they don’t need to pay the fee until they have reached significant success,” this announcement is not going over well with indie developers, many of whom used Unity Personal because of its cheaper and more accessible nature.
A tweet from game developer Rami Ismail explains that this fee being tied to the number of times the game is installed makes using Unity a risk for developers accounting for subscription service downloads, charity bundles, a free-to-play model, giveaways, and even piracy. Tomas Sala, the developer behind the Falconeer franchise, tweeted about how he’s worried about paying exorbitant fees in the future because he’s given away so many keys to charity. “This is ball-and-chaining me for an engine I already pay every year,” Sala says.
Ultimately, the Unity Runtime Fee will punish developers that release receive don’t receive much in the way of revenue but do see high install counts, which is not uncommon in the indie space bolstered by Xbox Game Pass and Humble Bundle. For now, Unity seems to be sticking with its decision, but this is definitely something developers using one of the most popular game engines out there will need to keep in mind when releasing games in the future.