9/22/2023 Update: Unity reversed their decision which makes us cautiously optimistic. Upgrading Unity will still be a significant cost for us, but at least this change is not retroactive. Thanks to other game developers for also voicing their concerns about Unity, and our players for supporting us!
Unity, the game engine we use for Adventure Escape, announced a pricing change that seems designed to punish Haiku Games and other indie game developers.
The bottom line is Unity is adding a new fee where they will charge game developers $0.15 to $0.02 per new install. This is on top of the $2,040 per year subscription fee per developer for Unity pro, or other Unity services like Unity’s content delivery fee.
Why does this target some developers?
We ran the numbers for 4 small game companies and calculated the impact of the Unity Runtime Fee for each of them. We assumed each company has 4 Unity developers. Each company also has revenue of $5 million a year, but the way they reach it is very different.
Here is a table of how the Unity price change will affect these developers. (Our model is here, modified from this model)
Some developers will be completely crushed by this change. If you make a $20 game, then $0.15 per install is not that bad. But if you make a free-to-play game, this fee is a huge percentage of your revenue. On mobile, 95%+ of games are free. For Developer 4 who makes the kids app, Unity will take $1.8 MM from the developer, over two hundred times more than the developer is paying Unity now. (If you think the kids app example is extreme, look at this post from a kids app developer whose real numbers are even worse.)
It seems arbitrary that Unity decided some developers can survive but others cannot. This change from Unity will specifically target game developers who have high-download, low-revenue per user games. Based on our knowledge of the market, we believe many free to play game developers will go bankrupt due to this change. It seems impossible that this is an accident because many other pricing models (for example, raising the price of the Unity Pro subscription) would affect all developers equally.
What do we think about the change?
There’s a lot that is frustrating about this situation.
We get that development tools cost money. At Haiku, we’ve paid Unity hundreds of thousands of dollars in subscriptions and fees over the years. Outside of Unity, many companies have raised prices over the years and we understand that costs go up. But raising prices up to 400 times current rates is unprecedented.
Perhaps most frustrating about this situation is that it harms all parties: developers, players, and yes, even Unity. How will this work out for Unity in the long term? It is hard to imagine recommending Unity to new developers in the future. And every existing Unity developer is going to evaluate the cost of continuing to use Unity versus switching to another engine.
What does this mean for Haiku?
The good news is that Haiku will survive and keep making games. Don’t get us wrong, this is a major issue and we might have to adjust some plans, but we are one of the fortunate developers who will keep going. All the credit goes to the Haiku Games team and our players for supporting us throughout our journey. But make no mistake, a lot of our fellow game developers will go bankrupt if Unity proceeds with this change.