Having read the room, Unity goes back to drawing board on runtime fee policy

But the damage has already been done

Hell hath no fury like a developer scorned, and Unity is finding out the hard way after poorly received adjustments to its runtime policy last week.

Sister publication DevClass reported on the fees the game engine company said it would be charging developers from January 1 if they exceed certain thresholds for revenue and installs. The argument was that every game built on the engine also installs the Unity runtime to make the product work on a user's device.

But because the company had never monetized its operations this way previously, instead charging a flat fee per seat for different licenses rather than taking royalties on game installs, many devs were incensed.

Unity is a popular tool among solo games developers and small teams precisely because of this model, yet the company's announcement has only served to destroy the trust its customers once had.

Garry Newman, creator of Garry's Mod for Half-Life 2 and the popular Unity survival game Rust, explained in a blog post titled "Unity can get fucked":

Let me be clear.. the cost isn't a big issue to us. If everything worked out, the tracking was flawless and it was 10p per sale, no biggy really. If that's what it costs, then that's what it costs. But that's not why we're furious. It hurts because we didn't agree to this. We used the engine because you pay up front and then ship your product. We weren't told this was going to happen. We weren't warned. We weren't consulted. We have spent 10 years making Rust on Unity's engine. We've paid them every year. And now they changed the rules.

The news was apparently so badly received that Unity had to close two offices last week and cancel a town hall meeting where CEO John Riccitiello was due to address staff because of threats made against the company.

With its reputation in tatters, it now looks like Unity has finally read the room. In a statement released last night, the company said: "We have heard you. We apologize for the confusion and angst the runtime fee policy we announced on Tuesday caused. We are listening, talking to our team members, community, customers, and partners, and will be making changes to the policy. We will share an update in a couple of days. Thank you for your honest and critical feedback."

Whether these "changes" will be a full or partial rowback on the controversial policy is not yet answered, and The Register will report back when something more concrete emerges, though we suspect only a total withdrawal will satisfy the community.

However, the damage has been done. As Newman said: "Unity has shown its power. We can see what they can and are willing to do. You can't un-ring that bell." ®

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