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Unity retracts upcoming policy changes following backlash

Unity's controversial decision to charge developers for game installs met with significant backlash, leading to an apology and a promise.

A lot of the best "indie" games that have come out in recent years were made using the Unity Engine.

In a not-so-surprising turn of events, Unity has pivoted (well, more like half-pivoted) on its controversial plans to make changes to its policies charging developers each time their game is installed. This decision had initially been met with an outpouring of criticism and backlash from developers and gamers alike.

The crux of the issue revolved around Unity's proposed plan to begin charging developers once their games exceeded a set threshold of installations. Specifically, Unity Personal and Plus subscribers were to be charged $0.20 per install once they surpassed 200,000 installs and a $200,000 lifetime revenue. Unity Pro and Enterprise subscribers would then face a reduced fee of $0.01 per install if their lifetime installs were more than a million and had revenue exceeding $1 million in the previous year.

With such looming financial implications, developers were up in arms, not only over the proposed fees but more so due to Unity's decision to retroactively apply this to agreements made when they first began using the engine. In the wake of the uproar, Unity tried to provide some clarity, ensuring that most charity games, demos, and reinstallations wouldn't incur these fees and that only about 10% of its customers would be affected. But this clarification did little to quell the rising tides of discontent.

The change wasn't only a financial consideration for developers; it had a deeper implication for the structure of video game distributions, such as bundles, giveaways, and subscription services like Game Pass. Such services may push the cost back onto developers. Unity's decision was seen as a roadblock, particularly as it was to be applied to games already in distribution once the new policy kicked in on January 1, 2024.

The backlash from the developer community was both swift and severe. Not only did developers turn off Unity Ads and the IronSource SDKs, effectively cutting off any related revenue streams for Unity, but others even contemplated taking legal actions. Some prominent voices in the community, such as Rust 2 developer Facepunch Studios, announced they'd abstain from using Unity for future projects. Even more severe was the case of Unity offices in San Francisco and Austin, which had to shut their doors due to a credible threat to their staff.

But the community's ire wasn't just based on the financial constraints of the policy. Many developers, who had poured a lot of years to developing their games using Unity under its original pricing scheme, felt betrayed. Furthermore, Unity's attempted clarification was at best a "corporate non-answer" and at worst insulting.

Rust was made using the Unity Engine but its sequel won't be.

The sentiment is that Unity had irrevocably eroded the trust it had with its community, showcasing how quickly it could destabilize many game studios' foundations.

For many, an apology might be too little, too late. Regardless of the policy's final iteration, a significant portion of the developer community might have already made up their minds to look elsewhere for their next projects.

While Unity's backtracking might bring some relief, especially to smaller developers deep into their projects, it's hard to believe that Unity can recover from this. It serves as a poignant reminder that in an industry driven by innovation and creativity, decisions affecting stakeholders need to be thoroughly vetted to ensure they do more good than harm.

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  1. As a gaming dev myself, I will never work with Unity again. I am looking into BETTER options where they support creators.

  2. It wasn't the backlash, it was the realization that they would get sued. If they didn't have to worry about going neck and neck with the likes of Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft, best believe they would have done it.

Ray Ampoloquio

Ray Ampoloquio // Articles: 5955

Ray is a lifelong gamer with a nose for keeping up with the latest news in and out of the gaming industry. When he's not reading, writing, editing, and playing video games, he builds and repairs computers in his spare time.
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