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A happier outcome: Unity offers olive branch by fixing controversial Runtime Fee

It’s going to take time for Unity to earn trust back, but this is a good start.

Image: Unity
Image: Unity

After a pretty grueling week or so of waiting for some sort of response, Unity put out a big blog post over the weekend that talks about their folly and what they should have done in the first place. It offers an extensive apology and details about their new policies that should be a good compromise for game developers going forward.

Marc Whitten, head of Unity Create which handles the engine, started the entire blog post with a simple “I am sorry”. The next couple of paragraphs can be summed up as “Unity screwed up. We get it and want to try to fix this as soon as possible.”

After looking at the new policy, devs are in agreement that it is leaps and bounds better than the original lay of the land.

Starting with the Unity Personal plan, they’re keeping it entirely free. They increased that dreaded $100,000 cap that was mentioned in the original Runtime Fee plan to $200,000.

Additionally, anyone making less than $1 million for the prior 12 months will be hit with the Runtime Fee, meaning that a dev gets to be entirely on their feet before they start working with them on payment. This lines up a little closer to Unreal’s $1 million policy.

Another big deal is that Personal plans will no longer be required to use the Made With Unity splash screen before a game starts. While it seems simple, that’s a huge deal for many devs and speaks volumes to this olive branch that Unity is proposing.

Unity Pro and Unity Enterprise users also got some great news. The new Runtime Fee policy only applies starting with the next LTS (Long Term Support) version that ships next year. If you remain on the current version, your terms will not change.

This gives devs time to finish their current games without issues, at the least. It also gives them the option to remain with Unity going forward instead of a forced ultimatum.

But, they went a step further for the Pro and Enterprise members. They introduced a real choice for those worried about going bankrupt over using Unity.

The choice sits as either a 2.5% revenue share or “the calculated amount based on the number of new people engaging with your game each month”. You get billed the lesser amount between the two.

Members get to self-report now, instead of the horrible black box reporting that they had originally proposed. “Black Box”, like in airplanes, would have meant that only Unity knew the answers and you just had to trust them.

As we mentioned in a previous piece about this situation, this entire scenario resembles what happened to Dungeons and Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast. WotC, late last year, proposed changing the terms of their famed OGL 1.0a which let creators work with their systems and IP at no cost to them.

It became a similar situation to Unity in the here and now. And just like Unity did, they came back with a new proposal that made big changes while still offering benefits to both sides and compromising with the users.

The positives are that a lot of smaller game engines are getting more spotlight from this fiasco. Godot, an open-source engine, got a lot of support from devs, including a huge donation from Terraria developer Re-Logic.

If the WotC situation did nothing else, it shined lights on a ton of lesser-known tabletop games as well. So, this is having very similar outcomes.

While it’s going to take a lot of time for game developers to fully earn back Unity’s trust, this is a real start on that journey. It’s nice to see a happy ending like this once in a while.

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