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"There's no royalties, no f***ing around" - Riccitiello

Unity CEO touts the new full-featured and free version of Unity 5, likens Unreal Engine approach to free-to-play whale hunting

Unity today rolled out its release plans for Unity 5, revealing a tweak to the development platform's business model in the process. Like its predecessors, Unity 5 will be available as a Personal version for free, or in a Professional version available for a $75 monthly subscription plan or as a $1,500 perpetual license.

The big difference is in the nature of the features locked behind a paywall. In Unity 4, developers had to pay for 3D texture support or optimized visual effects like depth of field or motion blur. In Unity 5, all the features of the engine and editor will be available to Personal and Professional users alike. However, those who spring for the Professional version will get access to a number of other features, like cloud-powered features from Unity Cloud Build, a team license tool for managing dozens of people working on the same project, Unity's own analytics utility (currently in beta), and game performance crash reporting (currently in preview).

"we're not nickel-and-diming people and we're not charging a royalty...which I think is akin to looking for whales"

"If you're a seven-figure developer, you can afford $75 a month," Unity CEO John Riccitiello told GamesIndustry.biz. "But if you're not, if you're just getting started or just choose for artistic reasons to give your games away for free, or if you're a hobbyist screwing around or a student, this is free. You get the full power of Unity 5 for free. There's no royalties, no fucking around. It's simple. That's really what we're announcing."

The mention of royalties is a thinly veiled reference to Epic's announcement yesterday that Unreal Engine 4 has dropped its subscription fee entirely, and is now free for developers as long as they consent to a 5 percent royalty on all revenues. When asked if the trend of development platforms growing massive user bases with free versions and relying on a relatively small number of developers for revenue had parallels to the free-to-play trend, Riccitiello balked at the comparison.

"That's actually what our tiny competitor is doing, but not us," Riccitiello said. "Personally, I like free-to-play games, and I've occasionally been a whale on different things. I readily admit to having spent well north of $3,000 on Clash [of Clans] for example, which is a point of pride or embarrassment depending on who I'm talking to, but damn it's a good game."

The point, Riccitiello said, is that the underpinning nature of free-to-play games like Clash of Clans is that they rely on whales who may spend $5,000 or $10,000 a month to pay for all those who don't spend a dime.

"With Unity, it's capped," Riccitiello said. "It's $75 a month or $1,500 for a perpetual license; we're not nickel-and-diming people and we're not charging them a royalty. When we say it's free, it's free. When we say $75 a month, it's $75 a month. Yeah, you can buy other stuff from us. [Unity 5 still offers supplemental subscriptions like Android Pro and iOS Pro.] We're not a one-trick pony, but we're not charging a royalty, which I think is akin to looking for whales. For example, if Candy Crush had a 5 percent royalty, the licensing fee for that would be billions over time, maybe $50 million in a given year. You have to pay $75 a month a lot of times to get to $50 million.

"it's an increasing challenge for developers because with all of these platforms out there, if they don't build content for as many as their games are appropriate on, they leave money on the table"

"I do think you could argue that royalties are quite a bit like free-to-play," he continued. "They sort of hook you and then try to exploit that relationship. That's not what we're trying to do. If you were to walk around Unity, you'll find this point about transparency, clarity... democracy is like every other paragraph of every other conversation. It's a deeply embedded value. We thought for a while about things like royalties, [but] we just didn't think it was right. We thought about the nickel-and-dime model of free-to-play, not to implement it, just to see whether it had any implications for us, but we didn't think so."

Another big selling point of Unity 5 is its support for 21 different platforms. While some developers have bemoaned platform fragmentation as a problem in the industry, Riccitiello sees it a little differently.

"I think you could call it a benefit or a problem or a feature or an irritation, depending on who you are," Riccitiello said. "If you're Windows Phone, you don't think of the third mobile ecosystem as a problem; it's a growing ecosystem they're trying to build... I think it's a challenge for developers to develop code for all of those specs, and it's an increasing challenge for developers because with all of these platforms out there, if they don't build content for as many as their games are appropriate on, they leave money on the table."

As a consumer, Riccitiello enjoys having a multitude of devices on which to game. He doesn't see platform fragmentation as a problem for the players so much, but he does acknowledge it as a challenge for the developer, and one Unity can help solve.

"It's something it took me a while as a boardmember to get, and now as a CEO it's something I do and embody on my own," Riccitiello said. "The underpinning philosophy of Unity is democracy, this idea that we solve hard problems so developers don't have to, married to the idea of wanting to put the most powerful developer tools in the hands of the indie developer even if they can't afford them."

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Latest comments (13)

James Brightman Editor in Chief, GamesIndustry.bizA year ago
He's quite feisty, the toolset wars are really heating up!
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Antony Cain Lecturer in Computer Games Design, Sunderland CollegeA year ago
Indeedy! Any word on Unity dropping the educational license costs? I can't find any direct mention of it.
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Jan Almqvist Senior Artist, Electronic ArtsA year ago
I might be wrong but wasn't the previous Unreal deal $20/month and 5% royalty on gross revenue above $100k a year? Removing the $20/months and decreasing the threshold to $3000/quarter is actually much worse than before. They got great media spin-doctors to make it look like they are sweetening the deal :). I definitely get the free-to-play reference...
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Edwin Lyons CEO & Co-founder, Firebolt GamesA year ago
Unity do charge royalties for use of the Unity Web Player client-side cache (for being able to cache more than 50 MB of content - something that costs Unity nothing). The web player may not be very relevant to the the future of Unity, but they aren't against royalties in principle.
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Andrew Jakobs Lead Programmer A year ago
Well, it's $1500 a seat, and most likely you'll want to export to iOS and Android, which is $1500 each per seat, and if you have more than one developer you'll also would like to have the teamlicense, which is $500 per seat...
Oh en the $75 subscription of Unity, yes it's per month, with a MINIMUM! of 12 months, so it's at least 12*$75 per seat (and again if you want iOS/Android it'll be twice that)..

But then again, they cannot give their engine away for free, they have to make money... But a lot of free platforms but 2 of the more popular platforms are excluded is a bit of a Hmmmmmm to me..
Also yes it can export to PS3, xbox360, PS-Vita, PS4, xbox one, but you'll need a license from Microsoft/Sony for that..

But all in all Unity5 is still an interesting engine to use for 'indie' developers..
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Andy Cowe Mobile developer, MoonjumpA year ago
@Antony, I have seen no mention of any change to any licence costs. I work a few hours a week as a lecturer, and was surprised at the Unity costs and restrictions for the university. I can see that benefitting competitors over time.

@Jan, I believe the UE4 royalty terms are exactly the same as before.
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David Canela Game & Audio Designer A year ago
I wonder if they will offer refunds to people who pre-ordered unity 5 for the engine features, not the cloud stuff. I'm sure those services are wonderful for many people, but at first glance, I don't see anything for me.

Of course you can't just pick and choose only the exact feature-set you use when you purchase an engine, but this looks like a bit of a fundamental change of business model since they announced it.
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Anthony Gowland Consulting F2P Game Designer, Ant WorkshopA year ago
wonder if they will offer refunds to people who pre-ordered unity 5 for the engine features,
Yes, if you pre-ordered you can get a refund http://unity3d.com/unity/faq
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Burton Posey Game Developer A year ago
@Andrew Jakobs, I think you may have missed the same thing I didn't see when I first saw the news. Their new free license is basically every pro feature that was in the previous Unity and all of the new features. It doesn't cost you $1500 a seat unless you qualify for or want any of the following a) make $100k or more in revenue per year, b) you don't want splash screens, c) you want a dark editor skin, d)you want Cloud build (that's not perpetually free for pro users), d) you want Team License, which for the first time costs no extra for Pro users.

All of the things available only to Pro users appear to be in the box for the Free users: lightmapping, dynamic batching, NavMesh, Render textures, build optimizations, etc. are all available for Free users.

So pretty much all platforms are free (maybe not all, but the usual suspects certainly appear to be). As someone else mentioned, they are so close that Unity is offering upgrade/new license refunds for some people who don't need the few aspects that differentiate the two licenses.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Burton Posey on 3rd March 2015 10:25pm

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Unity needs "special" license for gambling, embedded and streaming apps, so that's not really being 100% upfront.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Robin Tan on 4th March 2015 3:48am

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Dewald Bodenstein Founder & Developer, Quasistellar Game DevelopmentA year ago
Nice to see that Riccitiello isn't making things worse.
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Last time I checked, businesses were allowed to use different strategies, right?. I dont get his issue with it. Unity's business model is designed to generate wealth in exchange for its services like any other for profit service business. I wouldn't call it democratic personally. I can only assume he sees other models as a threat to any IPO or acquisition valuation.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Sandy Lobban on 4th March 2015 10:57am

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Adam Campbell Producer, HopsterA year ago
I don't think I'd have any problems with Unreal's pricing model.
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