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Nine mobile game companies with a total of at least two billion downloads wrote a letter to Unity saying its download-based price increase will destabilize the mobile game ecosystem.
Azur Games, Voodoo, Homa, Century Games, Say Games, Original Games, Ducky, Burny Games and Inspired Square signed the “collective letter” saying they would turn off Unity Ads — both Unity ads and IronSource ads — unless Unity rolls back the price increase that will impact a portion of its user base. That amounts to cutting off monetization for Unity’s game services that is a big part of the game engine maker’s revenue. They also asked others to join.
The letter from the nine game companies is a sign of an unprecedented backlash again Unity’s move, which is meant to balance the “value exchange” between Unity and its customers, a Unity executive said earlier this week in an interview with GamesBeat.
The companies in question are hypercasual game makers, which means they make games where the gameplay is simple but addictive and a round of the game can be played in less than a minute. These games have been extremely popular, producing billions of downloads. Many of them are free, and they monetize through ads.
What Unity did
A year after Unity raised prices for enterprise and professional versions of its game engine, Unity on Tuesday added a new charge for smaller developers who meet thresholds for revenue and installs.
Starting on January 1, 2024, Unity will charge a Unity Runtime Fee for any game that surpasses a revenue and lifetime install in the preceding 12 months. Normally, Unity Personal usage is free, and subscribers for Unity Pro pay $399 per seat.
But under the changes announced today, Unity Personal and Unity Pro users will pay fees if they hit $200,000 in revenue in a year and 200,000 lifetime installs. For anywhere from one to a million installs, those users will pay 20 cents per install.
“It’s a price increase. It’s a business model change,” acknowledged Marc Whitten, Unity Create president, in an interview with GamesBeat. “From our perspective, we’re working on ensuring that there’s an accurate exchange of value between Unity and its customers. But with that said, this price increase doesn’t impact the significant majority of our customers.”
Unity left some doors open, saying that devs could forego the fees if they chose to monetize using Unity’s ad services.
As you might expect, this did not go over well with developers, judging by social media responses. Brandon Sheffield, an indie game developer at Necrosoft and contributor to Game Developer, wrote an article about the fees and other problems with Unity entitled, “The Death of Unity.” Sheffield suggested that developers consider switching game engines to something else.
As that story and many other posts on social media reflect, skepticism is running high about Unity’s intentions and whether the impact is as small as the company says it will be when it comes to affecting small game developers.
In a message on social media, TinyBuild CEO Alex Nichiporchik said, “There’s not a single dev out there that would look at the announcement and think it was a good idea. We often factor in engine fees when making decisions on projects, and at face value the math goes towards Unreal Engine if we factor in free installs of demos, free to try versions on iOS, and playtests on Steam. I find it hard to believe this will actually go through.”
Faced with such criticism, Unity rushed to address concerns and posted an update in a tweet on X.
The Collective Letter
Developers weren’t satisfied with the update. I asked the Collective for details on what they might lose, and they will likely come up with some analysis on that later.
In the letter, the mobile game developers said, “We are the collective voice of the game development industry—developers, game designers, artists, and business minds. Passionate about our craft, we’ve invested years in shaping an industry that touches the lives of millions worldwide. As stakeholders, we cannot remain silent when a decision threatens to destabilize this ecosystem.”
They acknowledged that Unity has been an instrumental force in this industry.
“In many ways, it has inspired us to create new immersive worlds and empowered a plethora of dynamic and independent developers to bring their visions to life. We’ve played our part in this journey, moving the industry forward and creating specialists that use Unity as the primary game engine for their projects,” the letter said. “We’ve hosted Unity-centered events, shared our knowledge, and crafted educational content that’s inspired an international community. Thanks to this symbiosis, Unity has evolved into a cornerstone of game development and is now established as an indispensable asset in game creation.”
They said that was why the September 12 announcement hits them hard. They said the that the installation-dependent fees is a decision that jeopardizes small and large game developers alike, made without any industry consultation.
“To claim, as Unity has, that this new ‘Runtime Fee’ will impact only 10% of the industry is not just misleading, it’s patently false,” the letter said. “We strongly oppose this move, which disregards the unique challenges and complexities of our industry. While we’ve always viewed our work as a collaborative effort, this decision blindsided us. With one stroke of the pen, you’ve put hundreds of studios at risk, all without consultation or dialogue.”
They added, “To put it in relatable terms — what if automakers suddenly decided to charge us for every mile driven on the car that you bought a year ago? The impact on consumers and the industry at large would be seismic.”
They noted that this change comes at a time when the industry is already grappling with tightening profit margins, heightened competition, and escalating costs in both development and marketing.
“This isn’t just about developers. This impacts artists, designers, marketers, and producers. It’s a cascade that could lead to the shuttering of companies that have given their all to this industry,” the letter said. “Unity, we’ve stood by and celebrated your every innovation. Why, then, were we left out of the conversation on a decision so monumental?”
As a course of immediate action, the collective said they will turn off all IronSource and Unity Ads monetization across their projects until these changes are reconsidered.
“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,” they said. “We entered this industry for the love of game development, but what makes it truly special is the community—a community built on openness, shared expertise, and collective progress.”
The authors of the letter asked the industry to join with them in the boycott.
“If you share our sentiment, we call on you to join us. Turn off Unity monetization until a fair and equitable resolution is found,” they said. “You can also back the movement by signing our open letter. Check out the link to add your voice to the cause.”
Azur Games, Voodoo, Homa, Century Games, SayGames, Original Games, Ducky, Burny Games, Inspired Square and all who sign this letter, engage in other forms of protest, or simply stand in solidarity with the gaming industry.
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