Game developers affected by Unity’s new pricing model are fighting back. A developer collective from 19 companies, mostly based in Europe and primarily developing mobile games, has publish an open letter urging Unity to reverse course on recently announced pricing model changes. The letter contains some of the same sentiments expressed by other developers this week, but with a big twist.
“As an immediate course of action, our collective of game development companies are forced to disable all IronSource and Unity Ads monetization across all of our projects until these changes are reconsidered,” the letter said.
Basically, these companies, representing thousands of games with billions of downloads, have prevented Unity from making more money from their games. Some of the companies represented in the letter include Voodoo.io, Azure Gamesand Word gamesand each claims more than 100 games.
There have been numerous messages from developers urging the company to change course. Others have threatened to never use Unity again or port their existing projects to other game engines. This collective action by developers represents the next escalation in the fight between Unity and its users.
At the heart of the matter is the news that Unity will update its pricing structure charge developers for each installation of a Unity game after specific download and revenue thresholds are met. Although Unity claims that only 10 percent of its users will be affected, it is still unclear how Unity intends to track installations and how it intends to differentiate a “valid” installation from an “invalid” one.
Beyond monetary concerns, developers are also angry that the new price represents a violation of the transparency established by Unity regarding its terms of service.
It is common for companies to frequently change their terms of service and terminate agreements based on violations of the TOS. In 2019, Unity did just that: it terminated the license of software company Improbable citing violations of the TOS. The action caused outrage in the communityand in response, Unity reinstated Improbable’s license and promised to keep users informed of future changes to the terms of service.
In a 2019 blog post, Unity wrote: “When you get a version of Unity and don’t update your project, we think you should be able to maintain that version of the TOS.”
That statement is reflected in a version of Unity TOS March 2022. “Unity may update these Unity Software Additional Terms at any time, for any reason and without prior notice (the “Updated Terms”) (…) if the updated Terms adversely affect your rights, you may choose to continue using any terms of the current year. versions of the Unity software (…) in accordance with the terms that applied just prior to the Updated Terms.”
Additionally, in that 2019 blog, Unity stated that it would track terms of service changes on GitHub “to give developers full transparency about what changes are happening and when.”
However, Unity has since removed that repository from GitHub. And, back in April 2023, introduced a new terms of service agreement That removed the clause allowing developers to use older TOS while introducing a new clause that seemed to suggest the now-controversial runtime fees were on the way.
2.2 Unity runtime
Subject to payment of applicable fees(emphasis The edge) if applicable, you may distribute Unity Runtime as an integrated part of your Projects, only as integrated or incorporated into your Projects, and only to third parties to whom you license or sell your Projects or who provide services to you, in each case. pursuant to an agreement that is no less protective of Unity, its licensors and its service providers than this Agreement.
In video game development, it is common to “lock down” specific versions of a game engine. In theory, developers unhappy with the new fees could have simply “locked” an older version of the Unity engine to avoid them, and Unity’s own terms of service would have supported this. But with this change, apparently made in contravention of Unity’s own stated transparency goals, anyone using a current version of Unity apparently accepted these Runtime fees before they were even announced.
The edge has asked Unity for comment on the removal of its GitHub terms of service and on this recent action by mobile developers. Although Unity has not yet responded, it has responded to the boycotting developers.
According to an email reviewed by The edge, a Unity representative acknowledged that the company’s ad monetization programs had been paused for one app and commented that it was likely due to the new fees. The representative went on to say that in response, Unity would suspend its user acquisition programs for that app, essentially limiting the app’s ability to attract new users.
Although this action will hurt these companies financially, for them it is not just about money.
“Unity’s new regulations will affect all projects that do not generate enough revenue per user,” said Nikita Guk, CEO of public relations firm GIMZ, who organized the letter. “Driving developers to migrate to alternative game engines or put even more emphasis on monetization, at the expense of creating an immersive gaming experience.”
So far, 19 companies have signed the letter and more are urged to follow suit.
“If you share our sentiment, we ask you to join us. Please disable Unity monetization until a fair and equitable solution is found.”