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  • Writer's pictureVeronika Bajnoková

Game Developers Are Losing Trust in a Popular Software After its Pricing Policy Fiasco

After announcing a new pricing policy in mid-September, the most popular game engine had to backtrack some of its changes when it received backlash from game developers. Users’ trust, though, seems to be gone now.

The software is used by game giants such as Among Us or Pokémon Go. Its features allow game designers to create two or three-dimensional characters that can run, jump or shoot within textured environments. Until now, the developers were charged an annual subscription.

However, on September 12, Unity announced a new pricing policy that would have drastically increased the costs for both large and small companies. The developers would not only have been charged every time someone installed their product, but they would also have had to pay for previous downloads on their existing games.

This could have been a financial disaster for indie game developers whose games are relatively cheap and popular.

The Unity Editor enables developers to place different assets in a game’s scheme. Ⓒ Leaves Proux

Apology following the backlash

The new plan outraged designers all around the world, forcing Unity to issue an apology letter and backtrack some of the new changes only ten days later.

“I am sorry,” wrote Marc Whitten, General manager of the company. “We should have spoken with more of you and we should have incorporated more of your feedback before announcing our new Runtime Fee policy.”

The new update on the policy now only requires large developers to pay either the fee per install or 2.5 percent of their company’s monthly revenue.

Erosion of trust

But many game developers say they feel stabbed in the back. “It’s hard to trust a company that seems to put so much time into finding how they can profit most without almost no concern for their users, or how it will influence them,” says Elvina Bulbenkovaitѐ, a game design student at Hanze University in Groningen who is also employed by Indietopia, a launching platform for indie games.

The recent changes also sparked a discussion in university classes where students learn how to work with the Unity engine. “We're not currently making money from games, but we want to, and we want to be able to trust the tools we’re using,” says Leaves Proux, another game design student at Hanze. “If the tools we're using might suddenly start to destroy our livelihoods, we need to be aware of that.”

The screenshot shows the Treehouse troubles project - a university project by Leaves and their classmates. Ⓒ Leaves Proux

“This whole situation is not going to be forgotten,” Leaves says. They feel like the fiasco with Unity’s pricing policy will discourage upcoming game developers from using the engine, and they will instead turn to better alternatives, such as Godot, Unreal or GameMaker.

“I am not touching it anymore,” Leaves told The Groninger. “Considering what they've done, and what they very possibly can do in the future, I don’t trust to have their software on my computer.”

Elvina has used Unity for some of her projects in the past but she has turned to a different alternative and might refrain from using it in the future. “Unity hasn’t been the best when it comes to listening to their users and their needs,” she says.

The greybox project - Greybox shows a playable rough draft of a game, enables experimenting with lighting Ⓒ Leaves Proux

Unity did not respond to attempts by The Groninger to seek comment.

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