Unity caused a firestorm of backlash from game developers on social media yesterday following its announcement that it would begin charging developers a small fee every time someone downloads a game built on Unity’s game engine.
Even though Unity has already walked back some aspects of the Unity Runtime Fee, the controversial policy is still scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2024. This is causing many developers to contemplate the future of their games — including both titles built on Unity that are already released and games currently in development with Unity’s game engine.
So, what does this all mean for you, the player? Right now, it’s all up in the air. Some developers are seriously considering de-listing their games from online shops when the Unity Runtime Fee kicks off at the start of next year, meaning some titles built on Unity could end up being temporarily — or permanently — unavailable. Here’s what developers are saying about the Unity Runtime Fee on social media, and what games could be impacted.
I bet Steam, Epic, Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft will love having waves of developers pulling their games.
Innersloth has always paid Unity appropriately for licenses and services we use. I’m not a discourse guy, but this is undue and *will* force my hand. https://t.co/zLC9a8lBED
— Forest (@forte_bass) September 12, 2023
Among Us developer Innersloth has been very outspoken about the Unity fee. Speaking to IGN, Innersloth programmer Forest Willard confirmed that “pulling Among Us for a while” is on the table while the developer figures out what’s next.
“We’re lucky to have the resources that we could swap engines and I see no reason to pay Unity for nothing while we do it,” Willard said. “I’m really hoping they’ll just walk it back, but they should honestly be afraid of how much trust they’re burning with whatever this maneuver is.”
Cult of the Lamb
Buy Cult of the Lamb now, cause we’re deleting it on Jan 1st. 😘 https://t.co/nSWg9DP0sh
— Cult of the Lamb 💅 🌈 (@cultofthelamb) September 12, 2023
“Buy Cult of the Lamb now, cause we’re deleting it on Jan 1st,” reads a post from the Cult of the Lamb X (formerly Twitter) account.
Developer Massive Monster followed with a post of its own, asking Unity to “Stop the Stink”.
— Massive Monster 🙏🐑 (@MassiveMonster) September 13, 2023
Devolver Digital Titles
Definitely include what engine you’re using in game pitches.
It’s important information!
— Devolver Digital (@devolverdigital) September 12, 2023
Beloved publisher Devolver Digital called out Unity in a post of its own, writing, “Definitely include what engine you’re using in game pitches. It’s important information!”
Devolver Digital has published games like Hotline Miami, The Talos Principal, Loop Hero, and Fall Guys (before it was acquired by Epic), and its upcoming slate includes The Plucky Squire, Pepper Grinder, and more.
Citizen Sleeper 1 + 2
I’m midway through making a game that will be hitting game pass day one that cannot be made in any other engine so I’ve got to give it to unity I am well set up for some holding-me-hostage type shenanigans
— Gareth Damian Martin | Jump Over the Age (@JumpOvertheAge) September 12, 2023
Citizen Sleeper 2: Starward Vector is the follow-up to last year’s indie hit, and game designer Gareth Damian Martin spoke about the Unity fee, writing, “What unity are proposing is going to actively erode the vibrancy, range and sustainability of indie games. Less interesting games, less risk, less sustainable studios. If anyone cares about this ecosystem you should be dead set against this absurd cash-grab.”
Human Fall Flat 1 + 2
— No Brakes Games (@NoBrakesGames) September 13, 2023
Human Fall Flat developer No Brakes Games posted a statement about the Unity announcement, saying, “We seriously question whether we can trust Unity moving forward, and whether we can continue to use this game engine.”
Another Crab’s Treasure
— AGGRO CRAB (@AggroCrabGames) September 12, 2023
“Guess who has a somewhat highly anticipated game coming to Xbox Game Pass in 2024? That’s right, it’s us and a lot of other developers,” writes Aggro Crab, developer of Another Crab’s Treasure. “That means Another Crab’s Treasure will be free to install for the 25 million Game Pass subscribers… This decision puts us and countless other studios in a position where we might not be able to justify using Unity for our future titles.”
At the time of Aggro Crab’s post, Unity hadn’t yet said that the cost for Game Pass downloads would be passed on to Microsoft. Still, it’s unclear how platform holders will react to the additional cost, or how it could impact deals with games built in Unity moving forward. IGN understands multiple publishers and developers of unannounced Unity games are scrambling to prevent their deals from collapsing following the news, with first-parties concerned about absorbing increased costs.
Mega Crit’s Unannounced Slay the Spire Follow-up
— Mega Crit (@MegaCrit) September 13, 2023
Mega Crit, the studio behind the immensely popular Slay the Spire, is working on a new game. The studio’s unannounced project is currently being developed using Unity, but Mega Crit is now seriously considering moving to a new engine, calling the new runtime fees “harmful in a myriad of ways to developers.”
“Despite the immense amount of time and effort our team has already poured into development on our new title, we will be migrating to a new engine unless the changes are completely reverted and [terms of service] protections are put in place,” Mega Crit wrote in a statement on X.
The studio added, “We have never made a public statement before. That is how badly you f*cked up.”
More Indie Developers Speak Out
More solo developers making games in Unity are speaking out about the fee as well, with some devs even saying, “Anyway please wishlist it. but never install”.
This is Hauntii, my game about ghosts. And yes, it’s made in Unity.
I’m upset about their sh*t decisions because it’s a great engine and I’ve spent 10+ years developing this skillset.
— Leo⚡🦁 – making Hauntii (@realZigzagLeo) September 13, 2023
Other developers are weighing the finances of delaying a game and porting it to an entirely different engine rather than shipping it on Unity.
At this point, it might be cheaper for me to delay the game, port it completely to another engine than it would be for me to ship on Unity……
— @matttwood 😸 (@matttwood) September 12, 2023
And, one indie dev said their game will only ship with 199,999 copies available to avoid crossing into Unity Runtime Fee territory.
My game will only be released as a Limited Edition where it’s only 199.999 copies available.
Thanks Unity. pic.twitter.com/dTlWgaXfRG
— Kevin Andersson (@AnderssonKev) September 13, 2023
Indie studio Colorgrave said “we apologize for any delays this might cause in our development as we try to figure out what the heck we’re going to do,” while Landfall Games said “to say that this announcement is concerning is an understatement and we are questioning our continued use of the engine.”
— COLORGRAVE (@ColorgraveGames) September 13, 2023
Our thoughts on the Unity Runtime Fee pic.twitter.com/Z0zrXsiHAc
— Landfall (@LandfallGames) September 13, 2023
Other Major Unity Games that Could Be Affected
While those are most of the developers that are publicly speaking out on social media about this issue, there are plenty more games developed using Unity’s game engine that could be impacted.
Here are some notable games developed in Unity:
- Genshin Impact
- Honkai Star Rail
- Hollow Knight: Silksong
- Marvel Snap
- Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl
- Pokémon GO
- Fall Guys
- Outer Wilds
There are clearly a lot of heavy hitters in there, like the Hoyoverse money-makers, huge mobile games like Pokémon Go and Marvel Snap, and beloved indies like Cuphead. And these are just a few games developed using Unity. (Niantic declined to comment on the new fee).
One title in that list that probably turned a lot of heads is Hollow Knight: Silksong, which some fans are worried could get delayed even longer to remake the game on an engine that’s not Unity. There’s no official word on how Silksong will be impacted, but it is something to think about.
We need to let the Silksong team know we are 100% ok with a few more years delay for them to port the game away from Unity.
— Lance McDonald (@manfightdragon) September 13, 2023
For more, check out our original story on the backlash to Unity’s announcement.
Logan Plant is a freelance writer for IGN covering video game and entertainment news. He has over seven years of experience in the gaming industry with bylines at IGN, Nintendo Wire, Switch Player Magazine, and Lifewire. Find him on Twitter @LoganJPlant.