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The backlash of Unity’s runtime fee

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The backlash of Unity’s runtime fee

Created on 8 July 2005 and 18 years in the making, Unity has become popular because it’s free and allows games to be ported easily to both mobile devices and consoles.

But it’s a sign of the times. The company, which has one of the best and most used game engines in the world, just announced earlier this week that from January it will start charging 20 cents for each new game installation with the Unity Engine, including titles that were developed before the new fees were set.

It was announced by Unity that these new policies will come into effect on 1 January 2024. Among them is the decision to charge users based on the number of times a game made with Unity is installed, which the producers considered a breach of trust, especially given that the measure has retroactive effects.

Naturally, this decision by the company provoked a big reaction among unhappy producers and game developers. The backlash of Unity’s runtime fee is here, and it is hitting hard inside the company walls.

The changes in Unity’s business model

Personnel cuts

Unity has powered hundreds of independent projects for years, but now its current CEO wants to change the business model that gave it its position in the market. Earlier this year, Unity reportedly cut 600 jobs as part of a round of redundancies, with plans to reduce offices around the world from 58 to less than 30.

Runtime fee

Unity plans to add a ‘Runtime Fee’, meaning each time a game is downloaded, the developer of that game is charged. The new runtime fee policies last week, which would require developers to pay the company for game installations. In 12 months after seeing 200,000 downloads, Unity has earned over US$200,000.

While those on the Personal and Plus plans would pay 20 cents per installation, those on the Pro plan would start by paying 15 cents, a rate that could drop to 0.02 cents depending on the popularity of a project. Those on the Enterprise plan would start by paying 12.5 cents, which could drop to 0.01 cents per installation.

Other major changes

In addition to these major changes, and in the same announcement, the company’s CEO stated that the following models (Plus, Pro and Enterprise) would require a fee under a subscription model that will be mandatory for developers who consider themselves professionals, and the currently free Personal version will no longer be usable without an Internet connection.

The Backlash

The backlash of Unity’s runtime fee was notable and reached global coverage, indie companies, game developers, publishers, and other critics of the new model came out from all around the world and guaranteed an effective response to these changes.

The consequences already go beyond game development. Jason Schreier, a reporter for the renowned Bloomberg, said that Unity canceled a town hall meeting and closed two of its US offices on Wednesday 14 September following its announcement.

Massive Monster’s reaction

One of the developers that has responded strongly to Unity’s announcement is Massive Monster, creator of the renowned indie game Cult of The Lamb. The company commented and explained that the new business model would result in the postponement of future projects and that from 1 January 2024, it would withdraw the well-known game from all shops. Should the threat come true, no-one would be able to buy the game after that date.

Agroo Crab’s reaction

The installation of Another Crab’s Treasure will be free for the 25 million Game Pass subscribers. If a fraction of those users download our game, Unity could charge a fee that would greatly jeopardize our revenue and threaten the sustainability of our business. […] This decision puts us and countless other studios in a position where we may not be able to justify using Unity for future titles.”

Innersloth’s reaction

The developers of the world-renowned game Among Us also had something to say about this subject.

That would hurt not only us, but other studios of all budgets and sizes. If that happened, we would delay content and features that our players really want in order to port our game to another graphics engine (as others are also considering). But many developers won’t have the time or means to do the same.”

Dan Marshall’s reaction

Another developer who expressed his discontent in an interview with Eurogamer was Dan Marshall, from Size Five Games, responsible for titles such as Lair of the Clockwork God and The Swindle.

“It’s an absolute catastrophe and I’m going to replace Unity with Unreal as soon as I can. Most indies simply don’t have the resources to deal with these kinds of daft logistics. Publishers will be less likely to accept Unity games because there’s now a cost and an overhead.”

Unity’s response to the critics

After the backlash of Unity’s runtime fee news, the company seems to be backtracking on its recently announced policy. The company has apologized for the “confusion and distress over the runtime fee policy” it announced last week, revealing that it will introduce changes in the “coming days.”

They shared the news via Twitter, claiming to have spoken to several people inside and outside the company. Unity says it has plans to change the course of this controversial policy, but has not provided any further details, leaving the promise of more details to come soon.


In conclusion, Unity’s new runtime fee policies have ignited a firestorm of outrage among game developers, highlighting the major role that pricing models play in shaping the relationship between a company and its user base. The passionate response from the developer community underscores the profound impact such decisions can have on the industry’s landscape. Many developers feel that the introduction of runtime fees for successful games, after they have invested considerable time and effort into their projects, is an unexpected and unwelcome change.

Ultimately, the linkage between Unity and its community of developers is a critical factor in the success of the platform. Striking the right balance in pricing policies is not only a business decision but also a testament to Unity’s commitment to the flourishing ecosystem of game creators. The ongoing dialogue between Unity and its users will be pivotal in shaping the future of game development, ensuring that it remains an inclusive and innovative field for all.