from the the-book-of-exodus dept
The fallout from game engine Unity’s decision to try to cram a completely new and different pricing structure down the throats of game developers continues. Originally announced in mid-September, Unity took a bunch of its tiered structures of its offerings and suddenly instituted per-install fees, along with a bunch of other fee structures and requirements for its lower-level tiers that never had these pricing models. The backlash from developers and the public at large was so overwhelmingly one-sided and swift that the company then backtracked, making a bunch of noise about how it will listen better and learn from this fiasco. The backtracking did make a bunch of changes to address the anger from its initial announcement, including:
- The newly amended pricing structure no longer applies to games already made using the engine, ending questions as to how any of this could be legal
- The Personal tier of Unity will once again be free of any fees until a game reaches $200k in annual revenue and will no longer be required to show a “Made With Unity” screen on boot
- Per-use fees will only kick in for the other tiers once a game reaches $1 million in revenue over a calendar year and 1 million in initial purchases/installations of a game. Those per-use fees are also capped at 2.5% of gross revenue for a game once it meets those requirements
- Those per-use fees also are somewhat lower than the initial plan
You can see the table below provided by Unity for the details mentioned above:
Is this better? Yes! And some developers have even come back with positive comments on the new plan. Others, not so much.
“Unity fixed all the major issues (except trust), so it’s a possibility to use again in the future,” indie developer Radiangames wrote. “Uninstalling Godot and Unreal and getting back to work on Instruments.”
Others were less forgiving. “Unity’s updated policy can be classified as the textbook definition of, ‘We didn’t actually hear you, and we don’t care what you wanted,'” Cerulean and Drunk Robot Games engineer RedVonix wrote on social media. “We’ll never ship a Unity game of our own again…” they added.
That “except trust” parenthetical is doing a lot of work, because that’s the entire damned problem. If Unity came out with this plan initially, and had actually worked constructively with its customers, the blow up about this almost certainly would have been far more muffled. But trust is one of those things that takes forever to build and only a moment to destroy.
Along those lines, we’ve learned subsequently both that some community groups that have sprung up around Unity are disbanding out of disgust for the company’s actions and that plenty of developers aren’t coming back to try this second bite at the pricing model apple that Unity wants to offer them.
As to the first, the oldest Unity dev group that exists, Boston Unity Group (BUG) has decided to call it quits, putting its reasons why in no uncertain terms.
“Over the past few years, Unity has unfortunately shifted its focus away from the games industry and away from supporting developer communities,” the group leadership wrote in a departure note. “Following the IPO, the company has seemingly put profit over all else, with several acquisitions and layoffs of core personnel. Many key systems that developers need are still left in a confusing and often incomplete state, with the messaging that advertising and revenue matter more to Unity than the functionality game developers care about.”
BUG says the install-fee terms Unity first announced earlier this month were “unthinkably hostile” to users and that even the “new concessions” in an updated pricing model offered late last week “disproportionately affect the success of indie studios in our community.” But it’s the fact that such “resounding, unequivocal condemnation from the games industry” was necessary to get those changes in the first place that has really shaken the community to its core.
“We’ve seen how easily and flippantly an executive-led business decision can risk bankrupting the studios we’ve worked so hard to build, threaten our livelihoods as professionals, and challenge the longevity of our industry,” BUG wrote. “The Unity of today isn’t the same company that it was when the group was founded, and the trust we used to have in the company has been completely eroded.”
Ouch. That’s about as complete a shellacking as you’re going to get from what, and I cannot stress this enough, is a dedicated group of Unity’s fans and customers. And while these organically created dev groups quitting on Unity certainly is bad enough, there are plenty of developers out there chiming in on these changes, essentially stating that the trust has been broken and there isn’t a chance in hell that they’re coming back on board the Unity train.
Vampire Survivors developer Poncle, for instance, gave a succinct “lol no thank you” when asked during a Reddit AMA over the weekend if their next game/sequel would again use the Unity Engine. “Even if Unity were to walk back entirely on their decisions, I don’t think it would be wise to trust them while they are under the current leadership,” Poncle added later in the AMA.
“Basically, nothing has changed to stop Unity from doing this again in the future,” InnerSloth (Among Us) developer Tony Coculuzzi wrote on social media Friday afternoon. “The ghouls are still in charge, and they’re thinking up ways to make up for this hit on projected revenue as we speak… Unity leadership still can’t be trusted to not fuck us harder in the future.”
Other developers chimed in that they did have discussions with Unity about the new pricing structure… and were summarily ignored. In those cases, those developers appeared to be solidly in the camp of “Fool me once shame on you…”.
There are certain things that are just really difficult to walk back. And breaking the trust of your own fans and customers, where loyalty is so key to the business, is one of them. The picture Unity painted for its customers is one where it simply does not care and is now pretending to, only because it landed itself in hot water.