Unity Technologies, a San Francisco-based company that provides tools and technology for video games, announced on Tuesday that it will introduce a new fee for game developers who use its software, called the Unity Engine. Starting from Jan. 1, 2024, game developers will have to pay 20 cents for every user who downloads their games, after reaching a certain threshold of annual revenue and users. Unity said the new fee would only affect less than 10% of its customers, who have achieved a substantial scale in downloads and revenue.
The announcement sparked a backlash from some game developers and users, who accused Unity of violating its own terms of service and threatening the livelihoods of independent and small-scale game makers. Many game studios issued statements urging Unity to reconsider its decision and expressed their concerns about the impact of the new fee on the gaming industry.
Unity receives death threat and cancels town hall
On Thursday, Unity said it received a credible death threat and decided to close its offices in San Francisco and Austin, Texas, as a precautionary measure. The company also canceled a planned town hall meeting with its CEO John Riccitiello, who was supposed to address the staff and explain the rationale behind the new fee. Unity said it was cooperating with law enforcement and taking steps to ensure the safety of its employees.
It is unclear whether the death threat was related to the pricing change or who was behind it. A San Francisco police spokesperson said the threat was allegedly made by a Unity employee who was out-of-state, and that the company was unable to reach the outside jurisdiction to make a report.
Unity faces competition from rival game engines
Unity is one of the most popular game engines in the world, used by tens of thousands of game developers to create games for various platforms, such as mobile devices, consoles, and computers. Some of the well-known games made with Unity include Pokemon Go, Genshin Impact, and Cuphead. Unity offers a free version of its software for beginners and hobbyists, as well as paid plans for professionals and enterprises.
However, Unity faces competition from other game engines, such as Unreal Engine, developed by Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite. Unreal Engine also offers a free version of its software, but only charges a royalty fee for games that make more than $1 million in total revenue. Some game developers have said they may switch to Unreal Engine or other alternatives in the future, if Unity does not roll back its new fee.