What’s wrong (and mostly right) with Unity’s new pricing

Unity, the premier video game engine company, just published an updated version of their pricing. The key takeaways are a fee for each installation of the Unity runtime (functionally a flat tax assessed to the publisher each time a player downloads a game created with Unity), the bundling of the Unity Asset Manager with the base plans, and the release of Unity Sentis, which promises to be an easy way to deploy AI models within the runtime. 

As we know, price updates usually mean price increases. Unity is doing a good job of messaging to avoid upsetting customers. It’s almost a perfect case study in the correct approach to a pricing rollout!

Unity’s pricing to date has been seat-based. That’s a reasonable choice because it correlates to the value they’re providing their customers (since each seat license corresponds to someone who is using the software to make money for the company) and it’s predictable (since the number of seats in an organization doesn’t fluctuate based on uncertain factors). It’s also easy for buyers to understand. 

With the addition of the installation fee, Unity’s pricing continues to correlate with the revenue  they’re helping to drive for their customers. Each download of a microtransaction-supported mobile game with a lifetime value of a few dollars now costs publishers a substantial amount. $0.20 is negligible against the cost of a $70 AAA console game, but it’s a material component of cheaper offerings. Furthermore, while the fee correlates predictably with revenue, the correlation to the value they provide is weaker. Unity is great for the productivity of an organization dedicated to building games, and that productivity saves time for each user of the developer tools. It doesn’t continue to provide value on each incremental install. 

Unity is also offering a grace period for customers who have signed up for one of the legacy tiers (Unity Plus), but rolling out the new install fee to existing customers immediately. I’d like to see them grant a grace period on the install fee to games which are already published, and roll the fee out to new software. 

Reading the comment section on the hacker news post about this rollout, we discover another hiccup. The pricing table in Unity’s post includes a mention of “monthly rate,” leading some readers to conclude that the pricing accrues per install per month - the FAQ makes it abundantly clear that this isn’t the case, and that the fee is assessed only once. Good pricing is unambiguous and easy to understand. 

That said, there’s still a lot to like here. Bundling Sentis with the runtime makes a great deal of sense. Since the models run locally on the player’s hardware, there’s no ongoing cost to Unity (or the game publisher) to use the new AI features. It’s a nice carrot to announce at the same time as the runtime installation fee, especially since it’s a feature they intended to release anyway. 

Including the asset manager with the base plans by default also makes sense. Bundling the free tier of the asset manager into the personal tier seems unlikely to change anything (since the customer is now getting for free something that was already free), but bundling the higher tiers of the asset manager with the higher tiers of the base offering will both soften the blow of the install fee and drive further adoption of the asset manager as teams continue to succeed and require more storage than the included thresholds provide. 

Overall, Unity seems to have done a great job here. Since they’re publicly traded, we’ll be able to see the impact of the new pricing soon!

Stage is not sponsored by or affiliated with Unity Technologies or its affiliates. “Unity” is a trademark or registered trademark of Unity Technologies or its affiliates in the U.S. and elsewhere.

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