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Unity, the tech company behind one of the most popular engines for creating video games, is scrambling to clarify how a price increase for its services will work, after its announcement Tuesday morning broadly infuriated the game development community.

Why it matters: The fees, which Unity said are essential for funding development of its tech, left many game makers wondering if having a hit game through Unity would cost them more money than they could make.

  • Developers spoke throughout the day of delaying their games to switch to rival Epic Games’ Unreal Engine or other services on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
  • But by the evening, Unity exec Marc Whitten was updating Axios on the policies, potentially defusing some concerns raised by game creators.

Details: The new “Runtime Fee” announced Tuesday morning is tied to a player’s installations of a game, an action that previously didn’t cost developers anything.

  • With Unity’s new plan, developers who use Unity’s free tier of development services would owe Unity $0.20 per installation once their game hit thresholds of 200,000 downloads and earn $200,000 in revenue.
  • Developers paying over $2,000 a year for a Unity Pro plan would have to hit higher thresholds and would be charged with lower fees.
  • The newfee system will begin at the start of 2024.

Yes, but: Game developers, rallying on X, began fuming immediately that any game enjoying a spike in installations due to a big sale, inclusion in a charity bundle or even just by being included in a popular subscription service like Microsoft’s Game Pass, would trigger back-breaking Unity fees.

  • “Stop it,” development studio Innersloth, makers of the hit Among Us, tweeted Tuesday evening. “This would harm not only us, but fellow game studios of all budgets and sizes…”
  • Another studio, Aggro Crab, called on Unity to reverse its plans, saying that it feared that its next game, set for release to the 25 million subscribers on Game Pass, could incur fees that “threaten the stability of our business.”

The intrigue: Unity has scrambled to clarify and in one key case alter what it has said about its policies around the fees.

Zoom in: After initially telling Axios earlier Tuesday that a player installing a game, deleting it and installing it again would result in multiple fees, Unity’sWhitten told Axios that the company would actually only charge for an initial installation. (A spokesperson told Axios that Unity had “regrouped” to discuss the issue.)

  • He hoped this would allay fears of “install-bombing,” where an angry user could keep deleting and re-installing a game to rack up fees to punish a developer.
  • But an extra fee will be charged if a user installs a game on a second device, say a Steam Deck after installing a game on a PC.

Between the lines: Runtime fees will also not be charged for installations of game demos, Whitten said, unless the demo is part of a download that includes the full game (early access games would be charged for an installation, he noted).

  • Games offered for charity or included in charities will be exempt from the fees. Unity will provide a way for developers to inform Unity that their games are being offered that way, Whitten said.
  • As for Game Pass and other subscription services, Whitten said that developers like Aggro Crab would not be on the hook, as the fees are charged to distributors, which in the Game Pass example would be Microsoft.
  • Runtime fees will also not be charged for installations of game demos, Whitten said, unless the demo is part of a download that includes the full game (early access games would be charged for an installation, he noted).

Of note: Whitten estimates that only about 10% of Unity’s developers will wind up having to pay any fees, given the thresholds games need to hit.

What they’re saying: “Our core point with this is simply to make sure that we have the right value exchange so that we can continue to invest in our fundamental mission to make sure that we can deliver the best tools for people to make great games.”

  • "It’s not fun to get a bunch of angry feedback on any particular day. And I think that that is us needing to clarify some of these points.
  • “But we’re we’re listening and we will continue to make sure that we deliver the best that we can.”

Go deeper… Unity CEO: Generative AI will make better games, but won’t steal jobs

In other news, metereologists suspect the tornado near Unity HQ has been caused by furious backpedaling…

Yeah, these “clarifications” plainly contradict what they had told journalists before. They already had clarified that they would charge for all installations, not just the initial ones.

I also wonder what Microsoft thinks of this talk that they will be on the hook for Game Pass rather than the developer studio.

Shhalahr
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Sounds like a “No Unity games on Game Pass” policy may be on the way.

ram
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X/Tweet/thing from Stephen Totilo

NEW - I got a major update from Unity about their new fees

  • Unity “regrouped” and now says ONLY the initial installation of a game triggers a fee
  • Demos mostly won’t trigger fees
  • Devs not on the hook for Game Pass

This is a truly pathetic attempt to save face. Fuck Unity, its now proven definitively that they cannot be trusted for current and future projects. The only thing they’ll learn from this is to not be so loud about these sorts of changes.

What the hell does “mostly” mean? “It’s just a little screwing you over”

Only the initial installation that means the uninstaller is leaving permanent traces on the system. Thank you very much

EvaUnit02
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The machine can be identified via a GUID or hash without leaving anything behind.

wafer
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Once people know where that is they will remove it and continue install-bombing.

This opens Pandora’s box… how do you prove a person installed a game on a device at least once? Fresh windows install, is that a new device? In a Virtual Machine, is that a new device? How do you identify a user as the same person? It goes on and on…

Also on Android theoretically it’s not possible to distinguish new installs from reinstalls unless you’re using some kind of exploit like dummy images with tracking data saved in Pictures like taobao/AliExpress is doing

@ExoMonk@beehaw.org
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Surely they’ll just use your google account id as the identifier.

Edit: I just realized the game may not eve have that data for unity to be able to grab. Nevermind.

Apps and games that force a login with a Google account get an immediate uninstall/refund/1-star rating from me

I really feel their first idea was “devs will pay for installs and reinstalls because our bottom line is most priority” then now they are in damage control and try to deny that. Unless they have an agreement with Google/apple that tell them the real numbers of downloads from the store and not just the generic range “50-100k downloads” tag

No, it likely is sending your UUID to a sever and comparing it to a list to see if it’s a duplicate

Amju Wolf
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Which, I’m sure, would be impossible to fake in order to hurt developers.

@4am@lemm.ee
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The fucked up part is charging devs who used their products under the idea that they would be charged certain fees, and now the company they built their business model around is turning around and saying “now you owe us more of a cut if you continue to offer the thing you built”.

Imagine buying a fleet of delivery vans and suddenly Ford wants 5% of your revenue forever. It’s fucking racketeering.

If they wanted to just give the monopoly to Unreal Engine and be directed on a path to irrelevance, they could just placed a banner on their website “please use Epic Unreal Engine”. Much easier than enraging devs and tracking all the installs via internet (Tracking gamers without consent can be legal in Europe?)

20 cents per install is insane especially for old games bundled with other stuff when they got pennies

Yeah definitely no way install bombing could be bad.

Definitely don’t write a script that cycled your MAC address and installs a game you hate 100 times a day.

shnizmuffin
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Yeah that’s the thing, you don’t have to install anything. You just have to figure out how unity “phones home” and spoof the traffic 100 times a second.

@spacedogroy@feddit.uk
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This is a brain dead decision and nothing short of a complete 180 will perhaps save them, but even then the reputational damage is severe.

Amju Wolf
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Even a full 180 isn’t enough unless they commit to not changing fees for years or something. The trust has already been broken, and they show that changing fees however they see fit isn’t beyond them. That’s terrible for anyone considering Unity as their game engine of choice because it could completely fuck up your business plan half way through.

@Thavron@lemmy.ca
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Even a full 180 isn’t enough

A full 360 then.

We are seeing it now with them pretending to have been misunderstood but still intending to go ahead with it.

ram
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Unity: YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND! YOU DON’T KNOW THE FULL STORY
Devs: You’re charging us based on how many times a game gets installed and reinstalled, or opened in streaming services?
Unity: Oh so you do have the full story. What’s wrong with that?

Plainly, whoever’s at the head of this doesn’t understand developers or the industry, and is likely refusing to listen to their subordinates.

Amju Wolf
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LMAO yeah that’d help

You know what would be hilarious? If pirated copies would be counted as valid installs. If the setup just phones home “hey I got installed, bill 20 cents to the dev” without any additional DRM. It’s in Unity best (short term) interest to count pirated installs as valid

Maximilious
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It’d be a shame for these companies to build some kind of cosmetic DLC priced at 10k or higher that “unlocks the full game” to avoid the charges. I’m sure Unity would just build some legal lingo to get around that loophole however.

@Fifthdread
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It’s these controversies that solidify my choice to use the Godot game engine for my indie dev needs.

I was just wondering - was there not a less ridiculous way available to increase revenue?

Scary le Poo
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What a fucking stupid self own. I have, up to this point, loved unity despite the warts.

But this? Yeah fuck that. What a slimy, sleezeball move.

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