The Unity Engine, a cornerstone of game development, comprises two pivotal software components: the Unity Editor and the Unity Runtime. These components work in harmony to breathe life into “Made with Unity” games, facilitating their seamless execution on a massive scale, with billions of downloads each month. The runtime fee will be charged to developers each time a game using the engine is downloaded.
Here’s the thing: The Unity runtime fee has been met with anger and incredulity within the game development community. On 13 September, Unity Engine clarified game developers will be charged for using the Unity Engine when sales reach a threshold of $200,000 in revenue over 12 months and (not or) there have been 200,000 total installs. There were several angry retorts, mostly from developers.
Unity can just start charging us a tax per install? They can do this unilaterally? They can charge whatever they want? We have to trust their tracking?!Garry Newman, Garry’s Mod Creator
We pay for our Pro licenses up-front knowing that any revenue then is ours. That after 2 years of dev they can just add this back-end tax if our game happens to be successful? Nah.Tony Gowland, Indie Developer
Understanding the Unity runtime fee and qualification criteria
But what’s the latest buzz in the Unity world? Say hello to the Unity Runtime Fee. This fee has been carefully crafted to synchronize with each download of a qualifying game by an end user. Why this novel approach, you might wonder? Well, it all boils down to the fact that every game download triggers the installation of the Unity Runtime on the user’s device. Moreover, Unity believes that an initial install-based fee offers creators the opportunity to reap the long-term financial benefits of sustained player engagement, rather than resorting to a conventional revenue-sharing model.
Qualifying for the Unity Runtime Fee involves meeting two crucial criteria:
Minimum revenue threshold: The game must have generated a minimum amount of revenue in the last 12 months.
Minimum lifetime install count: The game must have accrued a minimum number of lifetime installs.
To ensure that this fee doesn’t impede the growth of developers who are yet to achieve significant success, Unity has set these revenue and install thresholds at reasonably high levels.
Here’s a detailed breakdown of the qualification criteria for Unity Personal and Unity Plus:
Unity Personal and Unity Plus: Games that have raked in $200,000 USD or more in revenue in the last 12 months and have a minimum of 200,000 lifetime game installs.
For the more extensive operations using Unity Pro and Unity Enterprise, the thresholds are raised to meet their scale:
Unity Pro and Unity Enterprise: Games that have generated $1,000,000 USD or more in revenue in the last 12 months and have a minimum of 1,000,000 lifetime game installs.
And mark your calendars, because starting January 1, 2024, Unity Personal will be accessible to all, regardless of their revenue figures. This change aims to provide creators with greater flexibility in managing their licenses. However, once a game surpasses the revenue and install thresholds, the studio will be required to pay a modest flat fee for each subsequent install.
To cater to the diverse needs of developers and studios, Unity Pro and Unity Enterprise subscribers will enjoy volume discounts, gradually reducing the per-install cost of the Unity Runtime Fee. This means that the cost of these licenses can be offset as a game’s popularity continues to soar.
Unity’s fee structure also considers the variation in game monetization across regions. It distinguishes between well-established gaming markets like North America and Europe and emerging regions like India. Pricing and discount structures have been thoughtfully designed to accommodate these distinctions.
For those who meet the criteria, there’s an exciting opportunity for further cost reduction through credits applied toward the Unity Runtime Fee. These credits can be earned by embracing Unity services beyond the Editor, including Unity Gaming Services or Unity LevelPlay mediation for mobile ad-supported games. This initiative encourages deeper collaboration with Unity throughout the entire game development journey.
Enhanced Unity subscription plans and added value
Looking ahead to November, Unity is gearing up to enhance its subscription plans, adding more value for developers:
- Unity DevOps: Offering improved collaboration tools.
- Unity Asset Manager: Introducing cloud-based asset management.
- Team Administration: Providing enhanced role and access controls.
- Unity Sentis: Empower developers with the ability to integrate AI functionality at runtime.
Crucially, these new tools and services won’t come with an increase in seat prices. Here’s a quick overview of what each plan will offer:
- Unity personal: A Unity Asset Manager free tier with 10GB of storage in total, up to 3 Unity DevOps seats featuring 5GB of storage and 200 Windows build minutes, and Team Administration base roles.
- Unity Pro: Unity Asset Manager, offering 50GB of storage per seat (pooled for a team to share), along with an equivalent number of Unity DevOps seats, each with 5GB of storage and 200 Windows build minutes. Team Administration tools for access management are also included.
- Unity enterprise: Unity Asset Manager, providing 120GB of storage per seat (pooled for a team to share), coupled with an equivalent number of Unity DevOps seats, each featuring 5GB of storage and 200 Windows build minutes. Team Administration tools, including custom roles and single sign-on (SSO), offer a higher degree of control.
A noteworthy change is the retirement of Unity Plus for new subscribers, effective September 12, 2023. Existing subscribers need not take immediate action; they will receive an email in mid-October, offering them a one-year upgrade to Unity Pro at the current Unity Plus price.
These changes and updates reflect Unity’s ongoing commitment to providing flexibility and value to developers and creators. Unity stands ready to support the growth and success of game developers in the ever-evolving realm of game development. Unity provides support for both 3D and 2D graphics – allowing you the freedom to choose the art style you want for your projects. Each graphic type comes with its own specialized set tools (such as sprite sheet cutting for 2D graphics) and even has its own script APIs to call upon for different physics options that are suited for each style.
Will developers be charged each time a player re-installs the game on a new piece of hardware? And how will this affect developers whose game ends up on a subscription service such as Xbox Game Pass or charity games collection such as Humble Bundle, where they will suddenly be liable for many thousands of downloads? Those are questions that need urgent answers if we’re to continue enjoying these games.
Unity’s CEO, John Riccitiello, stated in a letter to employees,
We reassessed our objectives, strategies, goals and priorities in light of the current economic conditions. While we remain focused on the same vision, we decided that we need to be more selective in our investments to come out stronger as a company.John Riccitiello, Unity CEO
In August the company reported a revenue of $533m in the second quarter of 2023, but net losses of $193m.