Unity talks of price cap and fees for only largest games developers

Unity is backtracking on commercial Ts&Cs for developers using its games engine, claiming that as part of a new tiering system under consideration fees will be capped and will apply only to top tier customers.

In what could be a business school case study on how not to introduce drastic changes to a pricing plan, Unity last week shot itself in the foot by telling software engineers it was, from January 1, to charge a fee per game after they'd reached a specified annual turnover and runtimes.

It set minimum thresholds for developers for the past 12 months: $200,0000 in revenue and 200,000 installs for Unity Personal and Unity Plus, or $1 million in sales and 1 million installs of Unity Pro and Unity Enterprise. The news went down as well as could be expected.

Management were forced to about turn and yesterday said: "We have heard you. We apologize for the confusion and angst the runtime fee policy... caused." Top brass vowed to report on updates in due course.

At a town hall later in the day - a recording of which was accessed by Bloomberg - Unity said it will limit fees to 4 percent of a game's revenue for developers generating $1 million in sales, and install counters won't be retroactive.

CEO John Riccitiello is quoted as saying the updated policy will be designed to produce more revenue from Unity's biggest customers, and more than 90 percent of users won't feel the impact.

Garry Newman, who created Garry's Mod for Half-Life 2, had said at the weekend that if the tracking had worked out, and it was 10 pence ($0.12) a sale, he'd be fine with that because "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."

Unity exec Mark Whitten said at the town hall meeting the company is still talking to customers and partners to prevent a re-run of last week's showdown.

Asked by employees if the company can emerge from this low point in its existence as a stronger entity, Riccitiello said Unity could have handled the communication better but that any price rise is a bitter pill to swallow.

"I don't think there's any version of this that would have gone down a whole lot differently than what happened.... It is a massively transformational change to our business model." ®

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