Mobile Menu

The Great Unity Meltdown

Game engines aren’t supposed to cause major problems for their users. Usually when they do, it’s accidental. This week Unity bucked that trend.


And while there is no shortage of column space around this very issue, it’s worth another look. It could very easily impact on the way we all play our games old and new.

So as a quick recap: Unity decided to change their deal with developers. They would charge a set fee of $0.20 for every download of a game made in Unity. That was so long as it hit the cap of £200,000 each year and if it had been downloaded 200,000 times.

The changes come into effect from January 1 and will impact on both future games and games previously made in unity. In other words, if you’ve had a successful game made with that engine you’re suddenly going to get a big old bill.

Developers have no control over this. They don’t know how much their bill is going to come to until they get it. Unity won’t even share how they’re tracking these things. That means there’s no accountability. You can’t argue it if you don’t know how the maths was done.

And while the engine creator claims otherwise, developers are worried about things like piracy counting towards their bill. Or organised downloads by groups looking to make a point. For instance, far right groups downloading LGBT+ games en masse. As far as we know – because Unity won’t tell us – there’s no protection over this.

This has resulted – and rightly so – in a grand exodus of developers. Many are converting their in-development game to other engines. There is genuine concern about this. If you own Ori, Disco Elysium, Cuphead, Fall Guys or many others, you’ll cost the developer money when you download.

Unity Need to Back Down

There’s no ifs and buts here. Unity need to back down and change their plans. It’s just the right thing to do. Not only for the developers who are worried things could go wrong, but for the future of the business and for stockholders too.

It’s obvious what has happened here. Unity want a chunk of those Game Pass/PlayStation Plus deals. They’re trying to update their contracts to better reflect today’s gaming landscape. But they’ve gone about it in the most damaging way possible. If you were to tell me this was a concerted effort to tank the company, I might believe you.

Because let’s face it, Unity are going to lose. A couple of those Unity games above are owned by a major first party, and a major tech company to boot. Add in Wasteland 2 for good measure. Microsoft are in the process of buying Activision for nearly $70b. They’re not going to accept a bill from Unity without a decent fight. The same goes for Apple, Sony and Netflix.

And it’s a fight Unity will lose. You can’t change the terms of a contract after – sometimes years after – a deal has been long complete. It completely destroys the fabric of what these deals are made of. It would cause mayhem.

Even a change of heart wouldn’t really fix the issues here. Developers have lost trust in Unity. If not this, what will they come up with next? If they’re happy to cause this chaos, what other lengths will they go to?

But at the very least, stopping all this negativity and giving developers a lifeline will go some way to changing the conversation.


Article By

blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

Follow on:
Twitter: @matgrowcott