Unity apologizes and partially backs down on its new tax

2023-09-22 20:53:00

Unity, which makes one of the most used video game engines in the industry, revealed in a blog post the terms of the company’s new fee policy, the first version of which created a shock wave among independent studios.

I would like to start with this: I’m sorry.

We should have spoken with more of you and incorporated more of your feedback before announcing our new fulfillment fee policy, acknowledges Unity Create director Marc Whitten, while noting that he knows that the company will have to work hard to regain [leur] trust.

Among the new terms, Unity is eliminating fees for members of the Unity Personal service, a formula intended for small players. The company adds that no game with 12-month revenue less than US$1 million [1,4 million $ CA] will not be subject to a fee.

For Pro and Enterprise members, whose income is higher, the policy will only come into effect when the next version of the game engine is available, which is somewhere in 2024 or even beyond, according to the blog post.

Your currently shipped games and projects you are currently working on will not be included – unless you choose to update them to this new version of Unity.

Finally, Unity offers studios whose games are eligible the choice between giving a 2.5% revenue share or an amount calculated based on the number of new people who engage with the game each month.

Both of these numbers are self-reported using data you already have. You will always be billed the lowest amount, specifies Unity, which remains unclear on the nature of the data used to calculate fees.

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The company wanted to impose, starting January 1, 2024, a fee of US$0.20 (CA$0.27) for each installation of a game built from its engine, with several constraints.

This change, announced to the video game industry in a blog post on September 12, was received “unanimously negatively” by independent studios in Quebec, according to Christopher Chancey, president of the Quebec Video Game Guild .

Number of developers – including Innersloth (Among Us) et Massive Monster (Cult of the Lamb) – then criticized Unity’s approach on X (formerly Twitter), while announcing their intention to change the game engine for the rest of their activities.

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Following several clarifications of its policy to address industry fears, Unity apologized for the first time on September 17, announcing that it was going back to the drawing board. The company then indicated that it intended to reveal the new details of its payment policy in a few days.

Sigh of relief in Quebec

The Quebec Video Game Guild is still analyzing the new data from Unity, according to its president Christopher Chancey. However, he was keen to react as president and general manager of the ManaVoid Entertainment studio: We are happy to see that Unity has reversed course on many of the points to be worked on in their business model proposal last week.

If this model had been proposed last week, there would probably have been significantly less discontent.

He particularly welcomes the fact that the changes will not affect projects currently in development, a relief for his studio, which will release later this year Roots of Yggdrasildeveloped with Unity.

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He notes, however, that the administrative burden of collecting the data to be provided monthly to Unity still rests on the shoulders of the developers.

The lack of exceptions for mobile games is also pointed out: free games (free-to-play, F2P) exceed the million downloads mark more quickly.

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Christopher Chancey is also co-founder of Indie Asylum, which brings together several independent studios in Montreal.

Photo : Christopher Chancey

The director of ManaVoid Entertainment also highlights a vagueness that persists as to who will have to pay the fees on revenues or downloads of a game offered with a subscription service.

Unity had previously argued that these fees would be the responsibility of service providers, such as Nintendo, PlayStation or Xbox, but did not address this aspect in its blog post.

Too late for Unity?

Unity is not its first misstep in terms of communication, according to Christopher Chancey, who says he hears around him that the studios no longer have confidence in the company.

There’s nothing that says they can’t change or revise these numbers or policies upwards at any time. It’s stressful for developers who intend to continue using their engine, he says.

Many people I know plan to finish their current games with Unity, but intend to explore new options in the future.

While he is delighted with Unity’s announcement today, he remains no less disappointed that there is no longer a game engine that does not take a stake in the projects, which made it easier for the studios to put together their financial package. , who only had to bank on their own success.

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