Unity engine maker apologizes after runtime cost price backlash

The maker of the Unity video game engine has apologized after providing an angry response to a proposed new pricing plan.

The companies behind the development tools say they want to charge studios every time a game made with the tools is installed.

Amid heavy criticism, the studios behind indie hits like Among Us, Slay the Spire, and Cult of the Lamb threatened to scrap the technology in protest.

Unity has now said it will change the policy, but developers say they have to work hard to regain trust.

An engine is a set of tools that handles elements such as animation and audio that provide the foundation or framework for a game.

Creating them from scratch is possible, but complicated, so companies often use ready-made versions to save time.

Unity, along with Epic’s Unreal Engine, is one of the most commonly used examples and is very popular with small studios, but it also powers mega-hits like Pokemon Go and Genshin Impact.

From counterattack to climb
Earlier this week, the company said it wanted to charge its customers every time someone installed a game based on the machine.

It says the fee will only apply once a game reaches a certain number of downloads, but could be as high as $0.20 (£0.16) at the highest level.

This prompted a fast and furious response across the gaming industry, and some studios threatened to switch to different engines even if it meant possible delays to new releases.

Garry Newman, creator of the popular Garry’s Mod and founder of Facepunch Studios, said the move had left people “angry”.

“It’s like Adobe charges all Photoshop users per image view,” he said.

Developers also accused the company of violating their trust, and raised questions about how the penalties would be applied.

In particular, developers were concerned about being charged for installing pirated copies, and the potential impact that promotions might have on subscription services such as Microsoft Game Pass.

This led Unity to issue a statement last Thursday clarifying some of the terms of its new fees in an effort to calm the situation and confirm the “majority of developers” would not be affected.

But this also received a lot of criticism, leading to a further statement apologizing for the “confusion and anxiety” it caused.

Unity said it would make changes to its policies, and share updates in the next few days.

Many people, including Games Awards presenter Geoff Keighley, urged the company to make the details public.

Several prominent independent developers warned that they would stop using Unity if it went along with its plans, which would have a detrimental impact on their current projects.

Innersloth, the maker of Among Us, said it had to “delay content and features that our players actually want” to bring the game to new machines.

In its first public statement, the creators of Slay the Spire Mega Crit said that they have spent the last two years working on the new game in Unity.

Despite having spent “a lot of time and effort” on the title, they said they would switch to a new engine if changes were not ignored.

Aggro Crab, creators of the unique hit Going Under, said that removing Unity would also mean losing the “wealth of expertise” gained from using the platform.

And Massive Monster, creators of Cult of the Lamb, said this change would mean a “significant delay” for future releases.

They signed off on their statement by urging Unity to “stop being so ugly.”

On Thursday, Unity said it was forced to close two of its offices after receiving “credible” death threats, according to Bloomberg reporter and Triple Click podcast host Jason Schreier.

And, according to a report by the site Mobile Gamer, the company is offering fee waivers if developers sign up for its advertising program.

It remains unclear whether Unity’s biggest game makers, such as Genshin Impact and Pokemon Go, will be affected.

Pokemon Go maker Niantic told BBC Newsbeat it could not comment on the current situation.

We’ve also reached out to Microsoft to ask if Game Pass downloads will be affected, and Valve, owner of the Steam games store.