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Developer protests force Unity to backtrack on greedy policy change

More than 500 game developers signed a collective letter threatening to turn off Unity ad monetisation in response to greedy and blindsiding policy changes announced earlier this month. Unity is already backtracking.

Game developers are refusing to be taken for a ride, and we’re here for it.

Earlier this month, Unity Technologies – the company behind the cross-platform game engine Unity – blindsided hundreds of game developers with a slew of changes to its pricing model.

Without prior warning or indication, it announced that it would be charging developers per install of its ‘Unity Runtime Code’ which is used to run games across multiple platforms.

Further details in the way of how installs would be counted, or how certain developers could avoid having to pay Unity more than the profits made from selling their game weren’t forthcoming. It was all very confusing and thoughtless.

Many burgeoning developers relying on gaining traction through subscription services like Game Pass rightly questioned how they were expected to survive if millions of gamers download their game for free while incurring hefty threshold charges.

A couple of tumultuous weeks later, however, Unity’s power play has seemingly failed and the gaming companies it pressed for a revenue bump now hold all the cards.

Shortly after the initial bombshell, an open letter which quickly rose to 500 plus game developers demanded that Unity reverse course with its pricing model or face a significant ousting of ad revenue monetisation.

Huge gaming mainstays like, Azur Games, and SayGames, which represent hundreds of titles each were at the forefront, shrewdly targeting Unity in the pocket in the same way they had been.

Further piling on the pressure, several developers who weren’t directly impacted threatened never to use Unity in the future to show solidarity, while other so-called partners weighed up porting their existing projects to competitor game engines such as Unreal.

With its hand largely forced, Unity has now reconsidered its position and claimed that only companies planning to use its upcoming versions of Unity toolkits will have to deal with fees in 2024 and beyond.

Of those who wish to use the upcoming engine, any title which makes under $1 million in annual revenue will also not be charged. That is what you call a complete U-turn.

Some are now satisfied with Unity’s reconciliation and are willing to forgive, but others believe the damage is already done and will be shunning the engine entirely.

‘You can’t promise away the notion that you won’t quietly remove important clauses from the ToS after you’ve already tried it,’ posted Glomwood developer Dillon Rogers on X.

As someone who takes a keen interest in gaming both recreationally and in the wider business sense, it’s staggering to see PR disasters like this continuing to crop up in 2023.

Within the bracket of entertainment, gaming has far and away the lowest tolerance for cash grab manoeuvres, though it is typically consumers who have their fingers burnt.

In this instance, however, it’s encouraging to see a similarly steadfast attitude being displayed by game makers. These people work under tight deadlines and high pressure to deliver the experiences we know and love.

The least they deserve is a little transparency – and not to be sucker-punched by obtuse, potentially business shattering changes.