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I want to start this column today with a thank you. Last week, I posted about the challenge facing game journalism and GamesBeat/VentureBeat, and how we recently had to lay off some awesome staff members. I made a plea for more support for what we do.
It’s been gratifying to receive support in response to that cry for help. I and other folks wondered if I had been too candid about our situation. But my obligation to help our former staffers and to do something to save our publication and our community made me take the risk of being more open. There were a lot of people who were surprised that we weren’t doing well, and they were willing to help — all it took was asking for that help.
Amir Satvat used his megaphone on LinkedIn (where he has 40,000 followers) to write a touching post about why GamesBeat’s journalism is important. That post and many others like it helped us spread the word that we need help, particularly with our upcoming GamesBeat Next event that takes place in San Francisco on October 24 and October 25.
This means a lot because we are not a nonprofit and we are not a public institution and we are not an educational entity. But we are a small independent media and events company, and people said they would miss us if we are not around. We’re as much an underdog as so many others out there struggling in a tough economy.
This heartwarming response feels like a validation of the 27 years I have spent writing about the games and the industry that I love. I’ve told a lot of stories in that time — more than 23,000 of them if my WordPress counter is to be believed. The rewards of that work are not always so obvious. It felt weird watching the celebrations going on with Arm and its historic IPO that raised $4.7 billion — the biggest such event in two years on Wall Street.
Yet I am always delighted to be writing a new story about people or companies I have known for decades. I don’t feel like I’m done. I don’t desire Silicon Valley riches or game company profits just because I live here. But I do hope to continue to have the privilege of witnessing and writing about all of these events that shake the world, or at least shake the world of games.
When I asked for help and people responded with kindness, it made me feel like Jimmy Stewart at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life. I hope that we have that kind of ending. Or, rather, I hope we get to continue doing what we do — writing about the things that happen in gaming every day, and throwing events that gather the community that is hungry for contact with each other. I don’t think of this as a job. It’s more like a service and a cause unto itself.
I think that one of the outcomes is we will soon have a new venue to announce for GamesBeat Next. It will reflect the crossover between Silicon Valley and games, and I hope to tell you about it soon.
We are not out of the woods yet and we have a nail-biting five weeks ahead.
I am certain that we’re going to have some awesome speakers, like the Tetris leaders Henk Rogers, Alexey Pajitnov and Maya Rogers. I hope we can fill the seats in the audience and put on a show that we can all be proud of. Whatever the outcome, I feel like I’ve tried to convey the importance of standing together and supporting each other. In the meantime, thank you.
Unity’s price increase
And I’m pretty sure we’ll have to talk about Unity at our next event. It’s a bit tragic to see it unravel and — in the minds of many customers — stray from its pledge to democratize game development by moving further in the direction of monetizing game development.
The story of the week was about a game engine company that set itself on fire. Unity announced a price increase based on charging relatively small developers for each download they got, once their game crossed thresholds in revenues and downloads.
This ignited fury across the ecosystem, not because it was going to affect everyone. Unity argued that 90% of its customers would not be affected. But developers didn’t buy that, and this morning 18 major mobile game companies that make hypercasual games — simple but addictive games you can play in less than a minute — announced a boycott of Unity.
“As a course of immediate action, our collective of game development companies is forced to turn off all IronSource and Unity Ads monetization across our projects until these changes are reconsidered,” the collective of developers wrote. “We urge others who share this stance to do the same. The rules have changed, and the stakes are simply too high. The Runtime Fee is an unacceptable shift in our partnership with Unity that needs to be immediately canceled.”
Those developers have a collective of at least three-billion downloads, and despite their large numbers, they believe Unity’s new policy could “destabilize this ecosystem” of mobile games. We’ll see what Unity has to say about this. Earlier, it addressed edge cases in an update, saying that Xbox Game Pass downloads, or game demos, or web games would not trigger the download count.
No one believes that Unity has to provide its services for free. After all, like us, Unity needs help. It has had multiple layoffs and a price increase from a year ago hasn’t completely fixed the situation. The developers have raised issues of trust, poor communication.
If you’d like to talk about this more, I’ll be on a Twitter Spaces event organized by Susan Cummings, CEO of Tiny Rebel Games on Twitter. I mean X. We’ll see how developers are feeling and if Unity can find a way back from this abyss. This is a game community in crisis, and I’d like to be there to listen. I hope to get at the right facts and the feelings and figure out if Unity should walk this back or not. Based on the emotion I see out there, I believe they will have to walk it back. All of the fire and passion that are pouring out right now show me how much people care about the games industry.
Unity issued this statement today: Today, we have been made aware of a potential threat to some of our offices. We have taken immediate and proactive measures to ensure the safety of our employees, which is our top priority. We are closing our offices today and tomorrow that could be potential targets for this threat, and are fully cooperating with law enforcement on the investigation.
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