Unity Price Increase Would Be a Gut Punch to Many Metaverse Platforms — Especially Those Now in Development

In case you don't know any 3D graphics developers, roughly the entire community has been roiling over an unexpected price increase for using the graphics engine:

With Unity's new plan, developers who use Unity's free tier of development services would owe Unity $0.20 per installation once their game hit thresholds of 200,000 downloads and earn $200,000 in revenue.

Developers paying over $2,000 a year for a Unity Pro plan would have to hit higher thresholds and would be charged with lower fees.

The new fee system will begin at the start of 2024.

That's quite a bit when it comes to popular Unity-based games/virtual worlds, most of which are free, and end up downloaded many millions or tens of millions of times, hitting developers with fees in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. (There's also a fee when the same user installs multiple copies to different devices.)

More key for New World Notes, here's some of the leading metaverse platforms that run on Unity:

Yes, this price change might impact development and release of the long-awaited Second Life mobile app! 

However, after chatting with some developer colleagues, my take is the impact may ultimately end up a gut punch, rather than a crippling blow — but the blow will be felt for years:

  • For one thing, it's very likely Unity will walk back the price increase in the next few days, bowing to incandescent levels of developer outrage.
  • I would not even be surprised if Unity CEO John Riccitiello, who pushed for the price increase — after basically promising not to do it a few years ago — is forced to step down.
  • Second Life and other leading players are likely on Unity Pro plans — where it's about 12 cents per install — so the price increase will be annoying, but relatively bearable. (Though I can see this becoming a reason Linden Lab makes it a premium app costing $2.99 or whatever to download.)

The biggest burden here is on indie developers and small startups creating the next generation of metaverse platforms on Unity, and now have to debate whether they should find another 3D engine, or stick with Unity and figure out how to absorb the extra costs.

But again, the smart money is Unity doing a 180 after some corporate defenestrations. The longer term question is whether the Metaverse will need to be developed on an open source 3D engine which comes with its own problems.

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