In Unity We Trust

In 2015, I finally decided it was time to learn a new engine. It had been 5 years since Halfquake Sunrise, and even more years since Flash died. I had a dream that I could start selling games on Steam. My options back then were Unreal and Unity.

I chose Unity because it felt more like home. It felt a bit like working in Flash, since every object could have its own little script. And I didn't want to use C++.

So, for 8 years, I built up knowledge in Unity. I released two commercial games, one even made it to consoles and had a physical release.

Now, Unity has dropped the info that on January 1st 2024 they'll start charging per install if you meet certain thresholds.

Per install.

How do they track that? We don't know, and according to people inside Unity, they don't know either. Spyware, probably. Or, just a guesstimate based on, uh, a roll of the dice.

In any case, if you reach $200k in sales and 200k installs, you pay 20 cents per install. OR - you could upgrade to Unity Pro, then those thresholds increase to 1 million in sales and installs.

Cool, but that doesn't even hurt me as a small developer, right? These thresholds are way out of reach. So what's the big deal?

This is a huge breach of trust. Not only do they change their pricing terms completely out of left field with four months until they are active, they also apply these new terms retroactively for already released games.

This hurts developers who currently have been working on games for several years. This hurts devs who have games already released, and are now expected to pay a completely random amount of money to Unity. Remember, tracking installs is complete horseshit. You don't know which install is from a charity bundle, from a pirated copy, or from a legit copy, unless you throw privacy out the door and spy on all users.

And who's to say that this is the last thing they will try? In two years, they'll say, oh damn, we're sorry, but those fees we added recently? Yeah, we're gonna need to "adjust" them. Whoops, now it's 30 cents per install.

And you know what? If Unity can get away with it, other big companies might even take note. Oh heck, subscriptions are great, but hohoho, we can also charge when the media created with our product is consumed? Ooohohoho!

It is absolutely disgusting.

Unity's CEO is probably to blame, who's famous for suggesting that reloading should cost $1 if you've played 6 hours of Call of Duty. We don't know for sure, but what we do know is that a LOT of people internally warned against ever publishing these new terms.

Apparently, prolific Unity users were in a call or in Slack channels with Unity prior to the announcement, where they also warned Unity not to go ahead. And they did it anyway.

Because ultimately - they don't care.

They planned for people to jump ship. They knew that there would be outrage, they expected it. Small fish would probably jump ship. But you know what? Big fish like Genshin Impact, Microsoft (Gamepass), Nintendo (Pokemon), Disney (Marvel Snap) - surely they'll just pay up, right?

Just imagine Unity knocking on Microsoft's door, saying, hey, uh, all those Gamepass titles with millions of downloads? Yeah, you owe us now, sorry!

Apparently, there already is a class-action lawsuit in the making. In the meantime, Unity is doing absolutely nothing in response. They're silent. People who worked for Unity have quit, and more will follow.

And you know who else will quit Unity? Game developers. En masse.

Developers such as Mega Crit (Slay the Spire), Innersloth (Among Us), David Szymanski (DUSK, Iron Lung) - they're all moving away from Unity. And if your developer community leaves, there is no more engine left.

Existing projects? Will probably be finished. Afterwards? Goodbye Unity.

And that counts for me as well. I will finish Faith in Despair in Unity because it is built on several years of existing code from other projects. But I've already looked at Godot. And it's refreshingly fun to work with. And totally free forever.

If you want even more info about this whole disaster, watch this video which is probably the best summary I've seen so far.