Unity finally addresses developers’ biggest questions about its new pricing model

After Unity announced, then amended, then announced again, its new runtime fee program, the video game development community wanted to know how and why this disastrous roll-out happened. In addition to the letter published Friday by Unity Create President Mark Whitten, he also held a live fireside chat on YouTube in which he addressed some of the community’s biggest questions and concerns.

The first thing Whitton did in his letter and during the chat was to offer an apology.

“I just want to say I’m sorry,” Whitten said in his Q&A with Jason Weiman, a YouTube creator known for his Unity tutorials. “It is very clear that we did not take adequate feedback before launching the program.”

One of the first and most important questions asked since Unity’s initial announcement was circulating across social media: “Why?” Why add to Unity’s current pricing plan – which was a tiered, subscription-based service – something that quickly became universally condemned and just as quickly rolled back.

“It is very clear that we did not take adequate feedback before launching the program.”

“The most basic thing we’re trying to do is [build] A sustainable business for Unity,” Whitten replied. He said the runtime fee was meant to be a “balanced exchange” between Unity and its users that would involve a kind of “shared success”.

Additionally, the new scheme now offers an option to developers. They can pay a fee based on either “an amount calculated based on the number of new people joining your game each month” or 2.5 percent of total revenue, whichever is lower.

(Neither the letter nor the questionnaire stated what exactly this “calculated amount” included.) the verge Have reached out to Unity for clarification.)

Whitten’s answer was based on another big “why” question from developers: why Unity didn’t introduce a revenue share plan in the first place.

“We’re trying to create a model that we think is fair and a good value exchange that works for the game once it gets that level of success,” Whitten said.

He explained that the “pay-per-install” scheme was a way for Unity to tie the value of the software to the high-performance games that use it and, in most cases, pay a “calculated amount” to the developers. It would be better for. Unity has gained only 2.5 percent from the top.

“We think that happens in a fairly reasonable number of cases [the calculated amount is] A really small number, and we think that’s good,” Whitten said.

However, Whitten acknowledged that the company had received feedback that implementing such a program would make it difficult for developers to plan their budgets, such as in the case of a game achieving viral success. Whitten said introducing the revenue share program was a way to offer developers more flexibility, giving them always an idea of ​​how much they would be owed, as well as giving them the option to pay.

Essentially, runtime fees were a means for Unity to gain additional revenue from high-performance games – a sort of “we don’t get paid until you do it” model. However, the company cast a very wide net in terms of how much it required developers to pay before payments could begin, while unilaterally deciding how they would pay affected developers.

The new plan simultaneously cuts the number of developers subject to the fee, while also introducing new options for how developers pay that fee.

Genshin Impact was built with Unity and the game has been suspected as one of the real targets of Unity’s new pricing scheme.
Photo by Amelia Holovaty Cralls/The Verge

Now, the only games affected by this plan are those that have grossed $1 million or more and had 1 million or more “engagements with new users” in the last 12 months.

Engagement as a metric was introduced in the paper written by Whitten, but was not clearly defined. In the Q&A, Whitten explained in a little more detail what “engagement” means, defining it as “a legitimate user of your software on a particular distribution channel.” These activities will also be self-reported by developers.

He clarified that a legitimate user is one who has not pirated or refunded a game obtained through any distribution channel, whether through store purchase or use from a subscription service. He also clarified that the engagement was a first-time use and therefore does not involve downloading previously purchased games on a new device.

“Our intention is very simple,” Whitten said. “This is the first time that your game using our runtime connects with a very legitimate user on the distribution channel – use this as the count.”

Unity’s terms of service – or TOS – were another big topic that dominated the question-and-answer session. Back in 2019, Unity created a Github page dedicated to tracking changes made to its terms of service. However, that page was quietly removed shortly before the new runtime fee was implemented. Developers were upset by this, seeing it as a retreat by Unity from its previous commitment to transparency.

On social media, the official Unity account offered an interesting, though extremely unsatisfactory, explanation as to why the company removed its TOS GitHub page:

Unity posted on “We removed it before the price change was announced because views were too low, not because we didn’t want people to see it.”

During the Q&A, Whitten admitted that he didn’t actually know about GitHub Pages until recently. However, he said that the page has been restored and that Unity will also continue to update the TOS on its website. Additionally, as part of this new plan, Unity said it will once again establish the ability for developers to lock any ToS that conforms to their version of Unity into its own terms.

“People need to know that when they start using a version of Unity they can rely on a set of conditions,” Whitten said. “So we’re going to make sure that’s the case.”

There was also a question as to what, if anything, prevented Unity from changing its terms of service again. The company has not yet updated its terms to again include the ability to “lock in” a particular version of the terms of service. And while this is a welcome addition to the pricing update, the reality is that there’s nothing stopping Unity from changing its terms again to remove it.

Basically a developer just has to have trust that Unity won’t have.

“I wrote that letter and I won’t put it in [that] The letter didn’t even contemplate if the company would stand for it,” Whitten said.

Even with all these changes and walk-backs, it will be difficult for Unity to win back the trust of users and many reports are saying the same.

“I am committed to ensuring that we continue to work as hard as we can to earn your trust,” Whitten said. He also said that this could only be done through “actions not words”.

Whitten explained that Unity introduced a flexible payment model, updated its terms of service, and republished the GitHub page were actions taken to earn back trust. But ultimately Whitton acknowledged it will be up to the community to decide whether those actions are enough.

“I can’t tell you that you should trust me,” Whitten said. “You have to decide that yourself.”

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