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Just an incredible communications disaster? Unity Runtime Fee the end of Unity Plus and what it can mean for you.


Image: Alex E. Proimos - Caïn venant de tuer son frère Abel, by Henri Vidal in Tuileries Garden in Paris, France CC BY 2.0

(UPDATED September 14) Two significant changes were made to Unity's pricing yesterday. 

The really good thing first: You can now use Unity Personal completely independent of your revenue, because the rule that individuals or companies making more than $100K in revenue have to use Unity Plus or Pro has been removed! 

The downside to this is, Unity Plus is not available anymore, so if you want to publish your game without Unity splash screen, you have to subscribe to the much more expensive Unity Pro now. While that's a shame, it's almost lost in comparison to the rest of the announcement.

A total PR disaster

Unity has not only provoked an unprecedented shitstorm through poor communication, which is also noticed in the press, but also did the competition a favor, a better advertising campaign Unreal, Godot, etc. could hardly have come up with. Of course, there is also a petition calling on Unity to reverse these changes, which I would like to draw attention to here.

The announcement of Unity was a disaster and looked like it was made by bloody beginners. Never before have there been so many unanswered questions and such questionable decisions by Unity. The crowning glory of this PR disaster was that the Unity employee who was responsible for the announcement in the forum thread left shortly after answering the first user questions because he had to catch his plane. But not only that, most of the questions were answered in a vague way. Unity partly contradicted itself in the different communication channels. The announcement and the FAQ were updated several times. The whole thing is so unprofessional and partly still unresolved that I would like to share my concerns and some thoughts about it here.

Calm down first

But to reassure most of you right at the start, if you're a small developer still dreaming of big success, this doesn't affect you. At least not until your dream of success eventually comes true. It's just too bad that this dream is the reason why you use Unity. As you could see in the forum, many users misunderstood a few basic things because they were so poorly communicated by Unity in the beginning. So here are the basic new rules of the newly introduced Unity Runtime Fee:

For Unity Personal users, the Unity Runtime Fee will not be applied to any of your games until you meet BOTH of the following conditions with that game:

The game must have generated a minimum revenue of $200,000 in the last 12 months (months, not the calendrical previous year!) IN ADDITION, this game must have been installed at least 200,000 times since its initial release. Again, both conditions must be met for a game: revenue and number of installs of the game. This is per game, not per developer or per company! Revenue of the game, not your profit! And installations, not downloads or sales! 

If your game meets these two conditions, then you will have to pay the Unity Runtime Fee for every FURTHER installation of your game. So you never have to pay anything to Unity for the first 200,000 installs of your game. Only after that, and only after your sales have also exceeded $200,000, are 20 cents Unity Runtime Fee due, billed to you monthly. Each installation is billed only once. For installations in so-called emerging markets only 2 cents are due.

A lot of money

Seriously $200,000 revenue in 12 months is a lot of money. At least for single developers and very small teams. I would call that a success in most cases, at least as long as the profit is similar and the development time was not too long. 

Also keep in mind, as soon as you fall below the $200,000 revenue again, which could happen to you after one month, your game is also no longer due the Unity Runtime Fee. 

But even if your success continues, there is a comparatively cheap way to avoid the Unity Runtime Fee: Unity Pro

Different rules for Unity Pro

For Unity Pro users, the following differences apply: both revenue and installs may be 5x higher. The Unity Runtime Fee does not apply to Unity Pro users until the game has 1 million installs and has generated $1 million in revenue. This means that if you are using Unity Personal and are close to having your game qualify for the Unity Runtime Fee, you should consider whether it makes economic sense to switch to Unity Pro. Because then you'll have another $800,000 in revenue as a buffer and as many installs until you must pay for installations of your game!

This all applies with a cut-off date of January 1, 2024, with lifetime installs counting even if your game was released before the cut-off date. Even if it came out years ago.

No need to panic

I don't see any reason to panic for individual developers and small teams whose titles will most likely not reach both thresholds. Unless your Lamborghini was already planned, but then you'll have to invest in Unity Pro, and that should still be enough. With really successful titles, Unity Pro pays for itself with the new fee. OK, so I'm talking myself into it, because before I didn't needed it at all. This brings us to the thoughts and concerns, and quite quickly to a feeling that reminds me of panic:

But let's get back to the end of Unity Plus first:

An Online Compulsion - What if Unity goes out of business?

If you can now use Unity Personal regardless of revenue, why the hell is there this new online requirement for the Unity Editor? You have to be online at least every three days. Using Unity (solar-powered) in a remote forest cabin or on a sailboat in the open sea? No way! And what really scares me: How am I supposed to open my projects if Unity suddenly goes bankrupt and their servers go offline. Under such uncertain circumstances, it's impossible to invest a lot of time and money in Unity projects and assets that could turn into worthless data junk at any time.

Now on to the Unity runtime fee. 

Unity really understands every legal installation as an installation. So also multiple installations of a user, in the Q&A they write about it:

Q: If a user reinstalls/redownloads a game / changes their hardware, will that count as multiple installs?

A: Yes. The creator will need to pay for all future installs. The reason is that Unity doesn’t receive end-player information, just aggregate data.

What kind of reason is that, please? Unity comes up with a new business model, but has the problem that they can't legally get end-player information and takes this as a justification to be able to cash you out pretty much at will in the future? This is not only absurd, but may destroy currently existing business models that meet said revenue and installation requirements! It becomes impossible to make a proper calculation of the expected costs.

60 percent of users change their smartphone every 3 years. Correspondingly, 20 percent of active users of a game reinstall at least once in 12 months. You don't even want to think about tablets, family members, etc., so scary is this thought of what could happen.

Are Apple and Microsoft involved?

According to the German magazine Heise, a Unity employee is said to have said in an interview that for game subscriptions such as Apple Arcade or Xbox Game Pass, the obligation to pay should not lie with the creator, but with the provider of the game subscription. Do Microsoft, Apple, etc. know about this yet? I can hardly imagine that they will then continue to include Unity games in such subscriptions. But I like to be convinced otherwise and then be amazed. But why does it say in the FAQ that if the distributor doesn't pay, the creator has to pay after all?

Can Unity disable games in the future?

What happens if I don't pay the Unity runtime fee? Can Unity disable my games from paying users? If so, is that legal for older titles released before the changes? Probably not.

What if the commercial success of the game only lasts for a very few months and then immediately drops off quickly, but users continue to provide a lot of installs? This is especially important for low-cost games that are not funded by ads and in-app purchases, but are available for a dollar.

What if I die and the heirs take the titles off the market but there are still people installing the game?

How is revenue defined? 

How is revenue defined?  App stores keep a share of the final price. But they don't charge the creators for that share in any invoices. Legally, you have nothing at all to do with Apple's or Google's share. Can Unity take this platform share into account, or is revenue defined as the revenue you actually generate with the game. The same that the tax office is interested in?

Kickstarter and Patreon

What about developers who are supported by their fans? That's often not limited to a direct game. And even if it's directly for a game, but the donors don't get a download for their donation, does that donation increase the revenue relevant to Unity for a game?

Emerging market fees 

Did Unity roll the dice on the list of countries, or did the intern who was supposed to create the list of countries for which the standard fee applies had no idea about the world? How can it be that the richest nations in the world Monaco, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg and the eighth largest economy in the world Italy are included in the emerging markets by Unity? You guys had all the time in the world to prepare this stuff.

The rules for WebGL are an impertinence

"initialization of the runtime on a client device - are counted on all platforms the same way (WebGL and streaming included)." - So it seems that almost every call to WebGL should be counted as an installation, at least by all the users who fall under the GDPR, have tracking protection enabled and frequently change their IP. That's never going to work fairly, is it? What you guys are trying to do simply can't work and therefore can't be legal.

What does Unity think the developers who build WebGL titles on behalf of clients are supposed to do? What are they supposed to say to their customers in the future? "I don't know, what it will cost you, I can't predict it, depends if the user blocks something or not - But hey, if you buy Pro, it will be cheaper!"


Unity wants us to know that they have solved the piracy problem. That's what it says in their Q&A, as they claim that they will make sure you don't have to pay for installs by software pirates, who are known to be responsible for up to 95% of all installs. The industry hasn't been able to stop piracy for decades. Unity also doesn't provide us developers with a feature to safely detect illegal copies. Now that Unity wants to charge us per install, they just claim it's not a problem and we should trust their ability to detect it? This can only be made up by someone who has no idea about the subject. There is no telling what the costs may be!

And if we have concerns about some installations being abusive, then we can contact a specific place at Unity. Do you think your users are idiots? Apart from the fact that it will probably take weeks for the ticket to be answered, you will probably have to prove it yourself, which is pretty hard to do.

In general, since we can't possibly know how often our players install a game, this gives Unity the ability to theoretically charge us for installs that never happened and we have no control over it. Why should we trust a company that radically changes its business model towards users every few years, has a huge need for money, and has probably only made losses in recent years?

What about gamers who want to harm developers?

Then there are the players or the competition, who could want to harm us economically. We know that such criminal things are done, at the appearance of companies from the third world, which give fake ratings on a grand scale. The fight against such fraudsters has not yet been won, but we are supposed to rely on the fact that Unity has this under control, although we are the ones who have to pay the fee for imaginary installs. No, that's not how it works, it's unacceptable.

Change license conditions afterwards?

All installs before 1/1/2024 will be counted, so some games will already have to pay for new installs from that date. How can this be legal if other license terms were in effect with Unity when these games were released?

Ways to get around Unity's rules

Some developers will tend to pull their titles from the market eventually if either condition is reached, simply because you can't estimate the cost at all. Developers will naturally look for creative ways to make their games not have to pay the Unity Runtime Fee. This is guaranteed to lead to a change in game offerings, whether this was a good idea by Unity in the end I dare to doubt. I fear there will be significantly more games that will be released in multiple sequels in the future. If the threshold is reached, then the game is taken off the market and a successor is released that is different but still very similar to the first game. Especially with ad-supported free to play titles this is very easy and you don't scare off the players.

Why not just a normal revenue share?

With these rules you can't really use Unity professionally. My suggestion would be: Take a revenue share starting at a revenue of $1,000,000 for each title, make Unity Pro mandatory starting at $100,000 revenue of a company and offer Unity Personal users to remove the Unity splash screen per title for $100 each. This is simple and anyone can work with these clear rules.

Is there really anything to worry about?

My titles haven't made $200,000 yet, I would cheer if they did and joyfully order Unity Pro right away, then hope to break the $1 million sales barrier as well. After that I would be "worried". So for me, no real problem.

But for a large team, where everything is more tightly calculated, it looks really starkly different. That's why it's impossible for Unity to introduce this. The Unity Runtime Fee is suicide for Unity.


Coincidence? Humble is currently offering a HUMBLE SOFTWARE BUNDLE FOR THE GODOT ENGINE. If you feel compelled by Unity's pricing policy to switch, this is a great offer to try out the free Godot.


There have been various changes to the texts and future rules on the part of Unity in the meantime:

Q: If a user reinstalls/redownloads a game, will that count as multiple installs?

A: We are not going to charge a fee for reinstalls. The spirit of this program is and has always been to charge for the first install and we have no desire to charge for the same person doing ongoing installs.

(Updated, Sep 14)

But that is exactly what was communicated differently before. How they will technically manage to read out the device ID is a mystery to me. Because users sometimes simply reset their devices completely and reinstall everything. However, the following statement is much more important:

Q: Do installs of the same game by the same user across multiple devices count as different installs?

A: Yes - we treat different devices as different installs.

(Updated, Sep 14)

Why? With wich justification? The creator only gets paid once for the game, and if it is ad-supported, the user also only uses it once at a time. Here Unity wants a higher share, although the creator does not earn more.

If the user changes their phone, which as previously mentioned is to be expected with 20% of players annually, then Unity wants to enrich itself at the Creator's expense, that's not OK.

Q: Do Charity bundles qualify for the Runtime fee?

A: Any installs driven by charities or installs driven by charity bundles are excluded from the Runtime Fee.

(Updated, Sep 13)

How exactly is this supposed to work? This would require using special builds that are marked as charity versions. How will this work for later updates and reinstalls? Usually players get a normal Steam key, so that could be handled somehow with Steam. But what if you want to launch a charity campaign yourself? No, that won't work and restricts the economic freedom of the developers!

Q: Does the Unity Runtime Fee apply to gaming subscription services?

A: For creators using gaming subscription services, the game dev isn't responsible for the runtime fee in this case.

(Updated, Sep 14)

So the providers of the gaming subscription services will pay Unity per installation? Or will these payments be waived completely? If the subscription providers have to pay, then they will probably pass these costs on to the creators. So we'll probably end up paying anyway.

Q: Is the revenue calculated before or after the platform fees? 

A: Revenue calculations applied to the threshold for the Runtime Fee are gross - before any platform or other fees.

So also including VAT? As already mentioned, Apple, for example, pays a fixed amount to the game developers without directly issuing any invoices for platform fees. You can choose the final price and it's clear that Apple takes a cut, but it's beyond the power of the game providers. They have nothing to do with these fees directly. In my accounting and to the tax office, these platform fees simply do not exist. This makes the own calculation of whether you have exceeded the revenue threshhold for the runtime fee extremely time consuming. How dare Unity look at the sales differently than the tax office? I reject these conditions.

Q: How will we approach fraudulent or abusive behavior that impacts the install count (bombing, piracy)?

A: We won’t count fraudulent installs or “install bombing” either. As part of our model, we are creating solutions to address the problem of double-counting reinstallations.

(Updated, Sep 14)

And how to prove it if Unity's system fails? It's all far too uncertain. And Unity is passing on the financial risk of its own potential failure to its customers. Unacceptable!

Q: Does this affect WebGL and streamed games?

A: No, the Unity Runtime fee does not apply to WebGL games.

(Updated, Sep 13)

But that's exactly what Unity had brazenly intended to do before. Quote from the original FAQ:

The installation and initialization of a game or app on an end user's device as well as distribution via streaming or web browser is considered an "install." 

So you have to wonder if this was just rolled back because of the shitstorm. It's not like no one at Unity noticed this before, because it was clearly mentioned in the text. 


My trust in the Unity company has been severely damaged in the last few days, because I have to fear that I can expect arbitrary changes in the conditions and price increases at any time.

I've been using Unity since 2007, I bought Unity Indie, later Unity iPhone, kept buying updates for it. But then both suddenly became free. Later I subscribed to Unity Pro, but even then almost all features, except for the splash screen were free and added to Unity Personal. These were all deals I was okay with. It seemed to me like Unity didn't want my money at all and frankly I found it frustrating that my previous spending on Unity was repeatedly rendered worthless by this company policy. Now they also come up with a business model that you just have to reject because in your case of success it leads to any reasonable calculation of operating costs becoming impossible, and in the process you have to trust Unity that their installation numbers are correct. No, that is simply not acceptable.

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