Unity has reversed certain aspects of its recent Runtime Fee policy, which initially proposed charging game developers for each game installation. Now, users of Unity Personal or Plus will not incur any charges, while those using Pro or Enterprise can choose a 2.5% revenue share instead. Furthermore, the fee will only be applicable to upcoming versions of Unity.
In a publicly released letter, Marc Whitten, the lead of Unity Create, outlined the modifications. The Runtime Fee policy will only be implemented with the next Long Term Support (LTS) version of Unity, scheduled for release in 2024. Games created with previous versions of Unity, including the current 2022 LTS, will not be subject to charges. Only games developed with Unity Pro or Enterprise levels will be eligible for the fee exemption, and games generating less than $1 million in revenue over the past 12 months will not be charged any additional fees.
Developers who would have been subject to the runtime fee can instead choose a 2.5% revenue share. The lower of the two potential fees will always be billed. Unity has also altered the terminology from “installs” to “initial engagements.” According to Unity, this refers to “the moment when a distinct end user successfully and legitimately acquires, downloads, or engages with a game powered by the Unity Runtime for the first time through a distribution channel.” Additionally, the basis for determining the Runtime Fee will rely on self-reported data rather than data collected by Unity.
The exact process of self-reporting remains unclear, but Unity has assured in a Q&A session that, “We will collaborate with customers and partners to develop tools and procedures to simplify this process for customers.” If developers do not self-report, Unity will gather its own data from the services utilized by the developer.
As part of the open letter, Whitten expressed apologies for the confusion and controversy. He stated, “I want to begin by saying this: I am sorry. We should have engaged with more of you and incorporated more of your feedback before announcing our new Runtime Fee policy. Our objective with this policy is to ensure that we can continue to support you today and in the future, and to make substantial investments in our game engine. You are what makes Unity exceptional, and we recognize the need to listen and work diligently to earn your trust.”
Reactions from game developers have varied from relief to ongoing frustration. Developer and consultant Rami Ismail shared on Twitter, “You know what, at first glance, I think this is acceptable? It essentially amounts to a 2.5% revenue share for earners making $1 million or more per year? No retroactive measures, LTS stability, no undisclosed data, right? I believe this works for every scenario.”
However, not all developers are optimistic, and many continue to express concerns. Some developers, like Dillion Rogers, the developer of Gloomwood, stated that the changes have not restored trust. Rogers further explained on Twitter, “You cannot simply promise that you won’t silently remove crucial clauses from the Terms of Service after attempting to do so. The damage is irreversible.”
In the aftermath of this controversy, numerous developers have announced their intentions to switch to competing game engines. For instance, Brian Bucklew, the developer of Caves of Qud, documented his endeavor to transition the roguelike game to Godot. Others have shown interest in Epic’s Unreal Engine.