Unity, the most used game engine by a large margin, made an announcement a few days ago. They would be implementing a new install tax that would charge developers every time someone installed their game. Implementing the install tax could negatively impact the current landscape of gaming. However, after much backlash, the company apologized and changed its course of action. Despite that, will developers be able to trust them again after this?
The initial announcement states that developers will need to pay a fee every time an end-user installs their game starting January 1, 2024. This would be applicable to games that have passed a minimum revenue or minimum lifetime install threshold. The install tax varies based on which subscription to Unity the developers have and the region. Developers were not satisfied with these changes. Those like AggroCrab, InnerSloth, and Massive Monster released statements on the situation expressing their dire disappointment towards Unity.
The backlash didn’t stop there. Users pointed out that back in 2019, Unity had released a “commitment to being an open platform” after a licensing controversy. Part of it was that the company created a GitHub repository to store the licenses transparently. This also allowed games to be played under the previous versions, meaning the install tax wouldn’t be able to affect the previous terms. However, they’ve silently deleted this repository and non-transparently removed the clause.
The community pointed at Unity’s CEO John Ricitiello as the main culprit, not only because of his position but because of his past. Ricitiello is known to have insulted developers who don’t prioritize monetization. He is also known to have proposed a per-reload monetization model for FPS games. Not only that, the community was able to unearth more and found that several board members sold their stocks before the announcement of the new install tax.
After the announcement, questions such as “Would pirated copies installed be taxed?” and “Would a bot reinstalling the game over and over be taxed?” were raised. Unity remained vague, saying they have their own data model to detect installs and fraud detection. A day later, the company released a clarification that projects such as charity games, demos, and web games won’t be taxed. While their initial FAQ said reinstalls count, they pulled that back as well and said only the first install per user count.
We want to acknowledge the confusion and frustration we heard after we announced our new runtime fee policy. We’d like to clarify some of your top questions and concerns:
Who is impacted by this price increase: The price increase is very targeted. In fact, more than 90% of our…
— Unity (@unity) September 13, 2023
This didn’t satisfy the developers either. The protests continued which led to Unity apologizing on September 22. They will be returning the clause that was initially removed. While those on a Personal plan won’t ever see this fee (being the free version of the engine), developers with Pro and Enterprise plans will have the choice between the fee and a revenue share of 2.5% once the thresholds are met.
Some expressed they would turn to a truly open platform like the Godot engine regardless of the changes. This clearly shows that, while a compromise was found in the end, Unity will have a harder time gaining back the trust of the developers and the community.
The latest update in this affair is that Unity CEO John Riccitiello is retiring, effective immediately. Even though there are no direct mentions of this being related, the timing seems to be more than mere coincidence.
Photo credit: The feature image is symbolic, as sourced from a different press release of Unity, and is owned by them.
Source: /Data / Aggro Crab / InnerSloth / Massive Monster / Reddit / Ian Walker (Kotaku) / Nasdaq / David Jalbert