NPR Explores: What Lies Ahead for Unity Engine Following Game Developer Outrage?


At the Game Developers Conference 2023 in San Francisco, a Unity sign is prominently displayed at the company’s booth. The Unity Engine, a software framework that powers well-known video games such as Among Us and Pokémon Go, is undergoing changes to its pricing model. This decision has sparked outrage among game developers, who argue that it could have severe consequences for the entire video game industry.

Unity Engine, developed by Unity software company, offers a suite of tools for video game development. It is widely used across platforms to create popular games like Among Us, Cult of the Lamb, Pokémon GO, Genshin Impact, and many others. Currently, Unity charges a flat yearly rate for developers to use the engine. However, the company recently announced a new pricing model that would require developers to pay a fee for each game download. Initially, this change was set to take effect on January 1, 2024.

The announcement from Unity provoked anger among game developers, leading to numerous companies denouncing the decision. Innersloth, the creators of Among Us, expressed their frustration in a statement, saying, “Stop it. Wtf?” Another company, Massive Monster, criticized Unity, saying, “Quit being stinky, Unity.” Using a game engine is a standard practice in the industry, where companies either develop their own engines or pay to use existing ones. Unity Engine is popular among smaller studios that lack resources to build their own engines because it offers affordability and the ability to create high-quality games.

After facing backlash from the developer community for the cost and concerns about tracking game downloads, Unity issued an apology and provided clarifications on the new policy. According to Unity’s website, developers will not be charged an installation fee until their game generates at least $200,000 in revenue and surpasses 200,000 installations. The company also addressed how the policy would apply to game demos, subscription services like Microsoft’s Game Pass, pirated installations, and other exceptional cases.

Unity’s apology and subsequent statements have partially alleviated developers’ fears about the financial burden of the new fee. However, some, like developer Nick Kaman from Aggro Crab Games, are still concerned and believe that Unity’s reputation has been irreversibly damaged. Kaman worries that he may have to switch to a different game engine, abandoning 10 years of experience with Unity.

Unity had planned to implement the new fee structure in January, but in response to the backlash, the company announced that it will be making changes to the policy in the coming days. Kaman sees this situation as part of a troubling trend in the video game industry, where independent developers are facing increasing challenges. He believes that a struggling indie scene will have negative consequences for the entire industry, as indie games often drive innovation and player enjoyment.

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