The indie rebellion against Unity has begun. Many of the biggest indie video game developers have already spoken out and given their opinions, but let’s start at the beginning.
The controversy broke out in the gamer community because the company Unity, creator of the most used graphics engine in the video game development industry, announced the decision to change its business model.
Beginning January 1st, 2024, Unity will charge developers a fee after they reach a certain revenue or specific number of downloads. The decision undoubtedly provoked unprecedented reactions in the industry against the company.
Many studios spoke out strongly declaring the impact that developers, editors, and publishers of video games created with Unity will have.
Table of Contents
- 1 The New Model
- 2 Disagreements and Protests
- 3 Aggro Crab – Another Crab’s Treasure
- 4 Innersloth – Among Us
- 5 Landfall – Totally Accurate Battle Simulator
- 6 Mega Crit – Slay the Spire
- 7 Massive Monster – Cult of the Lamb
- 8 Software Developed in Unity
- 9 DenchiSoft – VTube Studio
- 10 The Big Games – Marvel Snap, Magic Arena, Genshin Impact, Honkai: Star Rail, etc.
- 11 Who came up with such a brilliant idea?
- 12 Will Unity Turn Back?
- 13 Closing Words
The New Model
Unity Intended to charge a fee of .20 USD cents for games that reached $200,000 in revenue over the last 12 months and 200,000 lifetime installs.
This is if you used the Unity Personal or Unity Plus. There are certainly other plans such as Unity Pro, Unity Industry, and Unity Enterprise, with different limits and charges, but the cost of these plans is quite high upfront (starting at $2,040 USD per year).
From what Unity says, they have a system to track the downloads and installations of a game that is made with their engine. Let’s put ourselves in perspective. You are an independent developer, and you use Unity Personal. You release a game and decide to sell it for 1 USD. The platform where you decide to publish it (Steam or Epic, for example) takes about 30%, then we have to reduce taxes.
Let’s say you are successful and the game is downloaded 200,000 times, for each installation after that you must pay .20 cents. Now let’s add to the equation sales on Steam or countries where some games are cheaper (making you get less money). With all this in mind, it would seem that succeeding and having your game become popular would end up leaving you with a minuscule profit margin, or even losses if you decide to release a free game.
Disagreements and Protests
The problem spread rapidly and many major developers stated that they could remove their games from any platform before this model came into effect and/or move them to another engine unless the company decided to rectify (which apparently will happen. We’ll get to that).
Aggro Crab – Another Crab’s Treasure
Aggro Crab, creators of “Going Under” and “Subway Midnight” made things pretty clear. This is to the point where Innersloth, the studio behind Among Us retweeted this post.
Here comes something very important. This tweet mentions the Xbox Game Pass. Aggro Crab is going to have “Another Crab’s Treasure” on Xbox Game Pass.
You can have your game on Xbox Game Pass, and make a contract with Xbox to have it on this service, and each person who installs it to try it even briefly and then uninstalls it already represents a cost for you.
Another important point that the people at Aggro Crab point out is that we have not stopped to think about what happens with all the sales on other platforms (as I already talked a little in previous paragraphs), the pirate installations, or even multiple installations of the same user.
Innersloth – Among Us
Innersloth is still an indie studio, however, the success of Among Us was great enough that they could port their game to another engine if this Unity idea continued (as many other big indie studios are also considering). However, as they make clear, not all developers have the time or means to do the same.
Landfall – Totally Accurate Battle Simulator
Landfall, the creators of Totally Accurate Battle Simulator, a game that has been installed tens of millions of times over the years, make something else clear.
Although the president of Unity has said that this charge will not be retroactive (as many thought it would be), referring to the fact that it will only be effective for installations after January 1, 2024. This does not mean that it does not take into account games previously developed with this engine.
By this, I mean that although there will be no charge for previous installations, there is a charge for installations of games that have been developed before this policy could come into force. In the end, Landfall mentions has caused a huge breach in their trust in Unity.
Mega Crit – Slay the Spire
Let’s talk a little about card games. Slay the Spire is one of the most famous indie games with card-based mechanics in the industry. Its creators, Mega Crit leave another super important point on the table.
What happens to these companies that have dedicated years of work to the creation of new titles that have not yet been released? They were working on Unity under the premise of a business model prior to the one Unity now proposes.
As Mega Crit makes clear, and following the opinion of the people at Landfall, this is a very hard strike to the trust that developers could have in Unity. Furthermore, they believe that Unity was 100% aware of this, going so far as to remove its TOS (Terms of Service) from GitHub.
And once again; “…we will be migrating to a new engine unless the changes are completely reverted and TOS protections are put in place.”
Massive Monster – Cult of the Lamb
Although this first tweet has already been deleted, the people at Massive [card name=”Monster”] set a precedent about the seriousness of the matter. The possible actions that developers could cause many of our favorite games to become unavailable.
If for some reason the studio doesn’t decide to port the game, the solution for many of them could well be to remove these games from any platform, which would be a huge shame.
In a subsequent tweet that is still available, the study points out another relevant implication. Many games in progress could well continue on their way and the studio could port to another engine.
However, this means that your workers, who are specialized in Unity, now have to learn a new skill set. This translates into becoming experts in other engines such as Unreal or Godot, which would imply a delay in all projects.
Software Developed in Unity
The issue goes beyond the games. There is software created with Unity that is used on a large scale. Let me give you an example.
DenchiSoft – VTube Studio
This free program is the most used to create vtuber models. DenchiSoft would have few alternatives. Make this free program paid, or redo the entire program in another engine.
Due to the number of plugins and options in the program, making a port would undoubtedly be practically starting from scratch.
There are methods for making ports from one engine to another in terms of video games. They are time-consuming and complicated, nevertheless, doing so with software with so much work behind as VTube Studio is not only complicated but could also become unfeasible.
The Big Games – Marvel Snap, Magic Arena, Genshin Impact, Honkai: Star Rail, etc.
Second Dinner, Wizards of the Coast, and miHoYo develop their games in Unity. This translates into a huge amount of money that these companies would have to pay to Unity.
All of these are free games. You can install them on your phone, something that brings up a new problem. A single person can generate multiple charges per game.
Certainly, these companies and studios larger than the indies have not expressed themselves openly. However, it’s clear that the large developers have taken the same position; silence and stoicism. This is more worrying than reassuring. I think that these bigger companies are not going to stay with arms crossed.
They will undoubtedly take action depending on the outcome of the matter (since Unity seems to give clarifications or is going to make some changes to their new business model). However, when they do it, I think it will have of great impact on the industry and without a doubt also on us, the players.
Just a few days before the announcement of Unity’s new business model, this same company dedicated an important space to Marvel Snap on its website. A “Case Study” were they applauded and praised all the work the Second Dinner team had accomplished in Unity.
Could there have been a particular reason to do this just 1-2 weeks before the announcement of the Unity’s new model?
Who came up with such a brilliant idea?
Well, none other than the CEO of Unity, John Riccitiello. But you may wonder, dear readers, who is this man?
It may not sound very familiar to you, but this information will certainly be helpful. He was the former boss at EA (Electronic Arts) from 2007 to 2013 and was fired after proposing many questionable policies.
Let me give you an example. This man suggests the idea of charging for reloading your weapons in Battlefield. Yes, reloading your weapons in a shooting game!
That would end up being “the same” as charging a monthly subscription. And yes, there are games with this system that give special benefits. The best example would be “World of Tanks” which has a “Battle Pass” that gives you some advantages against f2p players, but that’s another story. One thing is very far from the other.
It’s said that Riccitiello said it “jokingly”, but the most popular theory about his dismissal is that John wanted to monetize too much with the games and that this significantly damaged the company’s image.
And well, it’s a theory, but that this happens at EA says a lot about Riccitiello. Especially since EA was practically the pioneer in micro-transactions.
Will Unity Turn Back?
Here comes the interesting thing. The latest information comes from a tweet posted by the official Unity account a little over 24 hours ago.
They say they have heard, that they apologize. They have spoken with people from their team, developers, and community, and they will make changes.
I think the problem goes much deeper. While the changes may be in some way “beneficial” for developers who choose to continue using Unity, I highly doubt it’s the solution.
Larger companies like the aforementioned Second Dinner (they are still small in comparison), Wizards of the Coast, or miHoYo could perhaps remain in Unity. However, many other developers like the ones I mentioned previously have already stated that “Either they completely reverse the new model and apologize or the simple will never use Unity again”.
Simply because from my perspective, regardless of the changes, the first announcement has fractured the trust. A vital link in any relationship in this world has been broken, and many developers no matter what happens will not return to Unity.
It’s said that since Riccitiello joined Unity things have been getting worse. There are certainly mentions of some positive changes but there are other bad comments about the company. The micro-transactions mechanics inbound the engine become more and more present.
Over the years, a fairly united community of Unity developers has been built and it’s certainly sad to see how some will have to stop using this tool that, yes, has given us wonderful games. But at the same time, it’s quite inspiring to see how this same united community has manifested itself in only one direction, demonstrating strength and forcing Unity to reconsider at least a little the tremendous bombshell they dropped a few days ago.
What worries me the most in many ways are the Unity employees. Yes, those who work directly on the engine, and thanks to them the games are created. The people in the office, and every employee in the company who is not blame for this decision and who if things get worse, Unity will probably have strong financial repercussions forcing staff to be cut.
You just need to Google the price of Unity shares on the stock market and see the drop they have had in the last 5 days. Investors will undoubtedly push hard for the company to do something, or things could get very ugly.
Thank you for accompanying me to this part of the article, dear readers. It’s a pleasure to be back after some personal trips. You already know that you can join our communities through Discord, or Twitter (yes, that place is not called “X”) and that I will always be aware of your opinions on my personal Twitter.
See you soon with new content, and you know what I’m saying; Smile, it certainly makes a difference.