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What next for Unity Engine after the fury of game developers? : NPR

A Unity sign is displayed at the company’s booth at the Game Developers Conference 2023 in San Francisco.

Jeff Chiu/AP

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Jeff Chiu/AP

What next for Unity Engine after the fury of game developers? : NPR

A Unity sign is displayed at the company’s booth at the Game Developers Conference 2023 in San Francisco.

Jeff Chiu/AP

The software framework that powers popular video games like Among Us and Pokémon Go is getting an overhaul to its pricing model. Game developers are furious and say this change could have a devastating impact on the entire video game industry.

What is this? It’s called Unity Engine.

  • Unity is a software company that creates Unity Engine, a suite of video game development tools. Extremely popular games across all platforms are created with Unity Engine – games like Among Us, Cult of the Lamb, Pokémon GO, Genshin Impact and many others.
  • Unity currently charges game developers a flat annual fee to use the engine. But last week, the company announced a new pricing model that would charge developers a fee every time someone downloads their game. The change was originally announced to roll out on January 1, 2024.

What is the problem ?

  • Unity’s announcement infuriated game developers, and many companies posted comments denouncing the change. “Stop it. Wtf?” wrote Innersloth, the creators of Among Us, in a statement. Another company, Massive Monster, said: “Stop stinking, Unity. »

  • Using an engine is common practice in the video game industry. Gaming companies either use their own engine that they built from scratch, or pay to use someone else’s. Unity Engine is popular among small studios that do not have the resources to create their own engines because it is relatively inexpensive, but it is powerful enough to produce high-quality games.
  • After a week of uproar from the developer community, angry about the cost and skeptical about how Unity could track how many people downloaded a game, Unity issued an apology and some clarifications on the policy.
  • The Unity website states that developers using Unity will not be charged an install fee until their game generates at least $200,000 in revenue and exceeds 200,000 installs.
  • The company’s statements since the initial announcement have also addressed how the new policy will account for game demos, subscription gaming services like Microsoft’s Game Pass, pirated installations and other exceptions.

What are people saying?

  • In a September 17 statement, Unity apologized and promised policy changes: “We heard you. We apologize for the confusion and distress caused by the fulfillment fee policy we announced on Tuesday. We listen and talk to our team. “Members, community, customers and partners, and will make changes to the policy. We will share an update in a few days. Thank you for your honest and critical feedback.”
  • “I don’t think there’s a version of this that would have played out much differently than what happened,” Unity CEO John Riccitiello said in a meeting recording obtained by Bloomberg. “This is a radical change in our economic model.”
  • Unity’s statements have allayed some developers’ fears about the burden of the new fees, but for developer Nick Kaman, the damage to Unity’s reputation is done.
  • Kaman is the studio head and art director of Aggro Crab Games, which uses Unity Engine for its upcoming title, Another Crab’s Treasure. He fears having to adopt a new game engine and losing 10 years of experience in Unity. “A lot of us have kind of risked our lives on these platforms,” ​​he told NPR, adding:

“Every time we start a new game, right, we have to make this decision about which engine to use, and it’s a three-year commitment, at least for us… Over the next three years, they might make a handful of other crazy decisions that totally throw us off track or hurt our sustainability as a business. So seeing the attitude and ability to communicate and their decision making over the last week has just lost all their trust, not just with us, but with most people in the industry. And it’s quite sad to see.

And now ?

  • Unity planned to implement the new pricing structure in January, but in a statement, Unity said it would announce changes to the policy in the coming days.
  • Kaman believes Unity’s actions are indicative of a more worrying trend in the video game industry: “It’s getting harder and harder for independent developers.”
  • Kaman says that since COVID and Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, it’s been difficult to build a community in the indie gaming world. Kaman worries that a struggling indie scene will be bad news for everyone: “I would say that indie games are where a lot of the innovation in the industry happens, and that has created a lot of games that people actually like. It’s just bad for everyone, whether you play indie games or not.

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