Update: On Friday, Unity announced major changes to its new fee.
Original story: The irony has been pointed out many times: When game engine Unity revealed its new per-install fee last week, game developers were possibly the most united they've ever been—in disgust. Even developers who don't use Unity expressed anger or criticized the unprecedented change of terms.
Perhaps the best example of this game dev rallying occurred this week when Terraria developer Re-Logic announced that it's giving away $200,000 to open-source game engines as a Unity counteroffensive, despite barely using Unity itself.
pic.twitter.com/ZqzGMTui0fSeptember 19, 2023
"The loss of a formerly-leading and user-friendly game engine to the darker forces that negatively impact so much of the gaming industry has left us dismayed to put it mildly," wrote the studio. "While we do not personally use Unity (outside of a few elements on our console/mobile platforms), we feel like we cannot sit idly by as these predatory moves are made against studios everywhere."
Re-Logic goes on to say that, beyond just expressing condemnation, it feels a responsibility to "get behind some other up-and-coming open source game engines," and to that end it has promised to make $100,000 donations to Godot and FNA, two free, publicly-licenced engines, the former of which has particularly gained attention as a Unity alternative in the wake of its new terms. Re-Logic has also committed to donating $1,000 a month to each project, with the only stipulation being that they stay their developer-friendly course.
"All we ask in return is that [the open source engine developers] remain good people and keep doing all that they can to make these engines powerful and approachable for developers everywhere," the developer said.
Unity apologized this week for the "confusion and angst" caused by its new install fee, and says it will be "making changes to the policy." The statement has not remotely pacified the game development community. The issue has not been "confusion," responded League of Geeks studio director Trent Kusters in a post on X, but the opposite: that game developers clearly "understood the devastating impact and anti-developer sentiment" of the new fee model.
We explained Unity's proposal, which is supposed to take effect January 1, in more detail in our overview of the announcement and backlash from last week. The gist is that, after certain thresholds are met, Unity wants to start charging game developers each time their Unity-based game is installed—tracked via its own "proprietary data model"—even if their game was published before this policy was introduced. Unity has since walked back aspects of the policy, saying last week for instance that developers won't be charged for reinstalls of their games, after initially saying they would be. The latest information on the plan can be found in the Unity Runtime Fee FAQ, though as noted, the company will be announcing more changes soon.
Re-Logic says that even a full reversal from Unity won't change its disappointment in the company or pledge to support open-source engines. "Even if Unity were to recant their policies and statements, the destruction of trust is not so easily repaired," the studio said.