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What Does Unity’s New Runtime Fee Mean For My Project

Update Sept 22 @ 3:15 PM: Unity has significantly revamped their policy. This article has been updated to reflect the changes which have been announced here and documented here.

Update Sept 13 @ 10:30 AM: Unity has publicly announced that every access of the game on the website will count as an install. Since this seems incredible we are still following up with our contacts at Unity to clarify this further. Unity is providing additional details on this forum post.

On September 12, 2023, Unity Technologies announced that they will be assessing a new usage fee for organizations that distribute games based on the Unity game engine. We felt it was important to provide tailored guidance to our clients, many of whom, like us, were caught off guard and are eager to understand how they will be impacted.

Who is affected?

As of now of Filament’s clients that are currently distributing or have plans to distribute a Unity game we built for them will be responsible for at least tracking the liability of this fee, even if most of our clients will not now or ever owe anything. We have asked for clarification about organizations distributing to schools or business to business and will update this article when we hear back.

When will this take effect?

This fee will be effective when you upgrade to Unity 2023 LTS, which will likely be released in Q2, 2024. For legacy titles, you may be able to avoid or defer upgrading until Q2, 2025 without significant impact. However in the long run, there could be compatibility issues with new operating systems and hardware. For new game projects, we would not recommend using an outdated engine version just to avoid the Runtime Fee.

I never signed an agreement with Unity. How can they charge me a fee?

If you contracted with a Unity developer like Filament to develop a game for you, the restrictions of the license to the Unity Runtime – the part that is in the distributed build – passes on to you. Until now that license has been very permissive and royalty-free so it’s never really been something that has been a major talking point. It certainly never occurred to us that Unity could or would retroactively change the terms for existing released games.

Unity may have recourse to impose these fees through a court order or enjoin you to stop distribution of the game if you fail to comply with these terms. At the very least they could send you legal correspondence to this effect.

Our game is built in unity3d-pixi. Do I have any liability?

The new fee is linked to distribution of the Unity Runtime. In our opinion, no components of the Unity Runtime are distributed with unity3d-pixi games. That said, we plan to do additional diligence to understand the exposure here and watch how Unity responds to other runtimes that have Unity export options, now that developers could be looking at ways to legally avoid the Unity Runtime Fee.

How do I estimate if I’ll owe anything?

There is a 1 million lifetime “initial user engagement” threshold and a $1MM trailing 12 month product revenue threshold that both need to be reached before any fee is due to Unity. An “initial user engagement” is when a unique user uses the game. For our education customers, this can be interpreted as the number of new students that access the game.

This means that our clients that distribute games for free in perpetuity will not be assessed any fees.

The initial user engagement threshold is based on the product’s lifetime and therefore should be interpreted as retroactive to the date the product was originally released. However, you will only owe a fee for new initial user engagements after releasing the game with Unity 2023 LTS. You won’t owe anything for usage prior to that.

To scenario plan, use Unity’s new Runtime Fee Estimator. If you are planning around a game Filament built with you, choose the “Unity Pro” selection.

The Runtime Fee is capped at 2.5% of the revenue attributable to your game, and you will have the option of paying 2.5% of revenue instead of itemizing your initial user engagement numbers.

I give the game(s) away for free, but I sell services or support related to the game(s). Will I owe anything?

As of now, we do not believe these types of revenue generating activities will count towards the product revenue threshold. However, in-app purchases like virtual goods and currency most likely will count. We are waiting for more details from Unity about this.

I sell Unity game(s) in bundles with non-Unity content or I sell via Purchase Order. How do I allocate revenue for the purposes of calculating the revenue threshold?

This situation does not appear to be addressed by Unity’s announcements regarding these policy changes. We have asked Unity for details about this. 

Who do I pay?

You will pay Unity Technologies directly via a reporting tool that will be made available in the future.

That concludes our Q&A about the new Unity Runtime Fee. We recommend reading Unity’s own faq for additional general information on this subject. You may want to bookmark this page and check back in a month as we will post any changes as Unity responds to developer concerns.

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