Unity Announces New ‘Runtime Fee’ and Developers Find it Absurd



By: Jason Siu


3 min read

Home » News » Unity Announces New ‘Runtime Fee’ and Developers Find it Absurd
Unity has announced a new Runtime Fee that are leaving developers flabbergasted

We prefer to run an ad-free site, so this post may contain affiliate links. If you wish to support us and use these links to buy something, we may earn a commission. Learn more here.

Earlier today, game engine Unity announced its plan pricing and packaging updates that include a new Unity Runtime Fee that has developers up in arms all over social media. The new Unity Runtime Fee is “based upon each time a qualifying game is downloaded by an end user.” If that sounds a bit ridiculous, it is. Essentially, Unity wants to charge developers every single time a user downloads a game. “We chose this because each time a game is downloaded, the Unity Runtime is also installed,” explained Unity. “Also we believe that an initial install-based fee allows creators to keep the ongoing financial gains from player engagement, unlike a revenue share.”

On a separate page detailing the Unity Runtime Fee, the company clarified that the “installation and initialization of a game or app on an end user’s device as well as distribution via streaming is considered an ‘install.’ Games or apps with substantially similar content may be counted as one project, with installs then aggregated to calculate the Unity Runtime Fee.”

However, not all games will be subject to the Unity Runtime Fee. It only goes into effect after two criteria have been met:

  • The game has passed a minimum revenue threshold in the last 12 months
  • The game has passed a minimum lifetime install count

On Unity Personal and Unity Plus, those thresholds are over $200,000 USD in the last 12 months and at least 200,000 lifetime game installs

On Unity Pro and Unity Enterprise, those thresholds are over $1,000,000 USD in the last 12 months and have at least 1,000,000 lifetime game installs.

Unless reversed due to the backlash, the new policy will take effect on January 1, 2024. The cost per installation depends on the subscription and number of installations over the install threshold, ranging from $0.01 per install to $0.20 per install.

We reached out to Brian Bucklew, co-founder of Freehold Games (developers of Caves of Qud) to get his thoughts on the new fees:

From my perspective the new fees only seem to take into account iOS and Android free to play games, whose platforms provide installed units as a stable, available metric. No other platform provides this and in many cases cannot provide it without violating user’s privacy rights. This seems, to me, to follow on the footsteps of their acquisition of ironSource, a F2P (free-to-play) monetization company.

However, Unity doesn’t seem to have considered any other developers in the design of this license structure. In the case of a successful PC game, or even mobile game, the license as stated would allow a user to install and uninstall a game to produce an “install” as many times as they would like. That means the license fee for a user has no upward bound, no matter how much they paid for the game! I could pay $1,000 for a user that maliciously installed the game, or for pirates installing the game (as there is no stated limit for legitimate copies.)

It is not merely a large increase in price, it effectively allows Unity to charge you more than you earn based only on what Unity says the number of installs is, with no recourse.

Brian Bucklew, Co-Founder Freehold Games

There’s been notable confusion surrounding the concept of “install-bombing,” as Unity exec Marc Whitten initially told Axios that a player installing a game, deleting it, and installing it again would result in multiple fees. Later on in the day, a spokesperson told Axios that Unity had “regrouped” to discuss the issue, and Whitten clarified that the company would only charge for an initial installation. At the time of publishing, however, Unity has yet to make this clear on its own website.

Like our content?

Subscribe to our newsletter and get video game news, features, and deals straight to your inbox.

This newsletter may contain advertising, deals, or affiliate links. Subscribing to the newsletter indicates your consent to our Privacy Policy. You may unsubscribe from the newsletter at any time.

With over 20 years of online publishing experience, Jason Siu is currently the Content Director at VerticalScope and used to spend most of his time writing about cars. His work can be seen on websites such as AutoGuide, EV Pulse, FlatSixes, Tire Authority, and more. As the former co-founder of Tunerzine.com and West Coast Editor of Modified Magazine, he has also authored two books for CarTech Books. In his spare time, he founded FullCleared to indulge in his passion for writing about games. Although Jason is a variety gamer, he generally prefers RPGs.

Latest News