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You might recognize Unity as the game engine software that some of your favorite games are run on. Popular games like Among Us, Fall Guys, Beat Saber, Pokemon Go, Untitled Goose Game, and Cuphead are brought to us by Unity.
However, what you might want to know about is a new decision Unity has made regarding its relationship with game developers that use their system. Starting in January of 2024, Unity Games has decided that they will be charging developers whenever someone installs their game.
So what does this mean for game developers? And what does it mean for animation and game arts students here at UMassD?
Without context, this sounds really bad for game developers; but there is more to it than just people downloading games from Unity. Once a certain game on Unity Personal or a Unity Plus license has 200,000 installs and has made a $200,000 revenue within one year, the fee starts to take place.
This update to the contract is called the Unity Runtime Fee. Subscribers with Unity Personal and Plus will have to pay $.20 on a monthly basis. However, once a game reaches $1 million in revenue and 1 million installments, the fee goes down to $.15.
Now, you might be asking: why is this bad, and how much does this affect the gaming industry given that $.20 doesn’t sound like a lot of money, especially for a game that would be making so much anyway?
But the implications of this fee are more harmful than you’d think.
First, kick-starting a game isn’t easy. Creating a game that you hope people will like and will want to download is hard, especially because there are so many different games with so many different aspects. After all, everyone likes something different when it comes to video games.
But what happens to game developers when they’re trying to fund their game and this fee is in place?
It immediately makes it harder for people to validate funding a game, as they won’t know if the game will do well and pay back their investment.
Then there are the games already developed and on Unity. “Freemium” games are games that cost nothing to install, so most of their profit comes from in-game purchases. Because of this, some game developers could owe Unity more money than their in-game purchase profit brings in.
Some developers on Twitter (X) have even resorted to asking people not to install their games and demos in fear that it will cause them to lose money.
This even affects students at UMass Dartmouth. In the animation game arts major, Unity Game Engine and Unreal Game Engine are used to practice developing games. However, due to this recent fee, students are now limited to only learning how to develop games in Unreal.
Although it’s good that this change happened now, at the beginning of the semester when the curriculum can still change, it doesn’t change the fact that previous animation game art majors who learned Unity instead of Unreal only know and understand Unity.
Unreal is an entirely different game engine that some people will have to learn. This doesn’t just exclude UMass Dartmouth either, as other colleges with game development majors may also decide to shift from using Unity.
To a lot of game developers, this felt like a stab in the back, especially to those who have used Unity for multiple games and have been with the company for a long time. Many developers now will have to backtrack on their games and reconsider if they want to go through Unity to finish their projects or to switch over to a new game engine completely.
This will also lead many game developers who are new to the career to stray away from Unity.
But in the words of angry game developers, “a bad decision is still a bad decision. So, dear Unity… Backpedal on the decision of burn in purgatory.”