Friday, June 17th, 2016 Posted by Jim Thacker

Unity revamps subscriptions in reply to user complaints

Originally posted on 31 May 2016. Scroll down for news of changes to the licence conditions.

Unity Technologies has unveiled new subscription options for its Unity game engine, superseding its existing perpetual software licences. The new packages, which cost from $35/month to $125/month, will roll out in June.

iOS and Android add-ons now included as part of a Pro subscription
For larger studios, the main incentive for switching to the new subscription packages is that you no longer need to purchase the add-ons for deploying games to iOS and Android separately.

Previously, iOS Pro and Android Pro each cost the same as the Pro edition of Unity itself: $75/month if you were renting the software, or $1,500 if you were buying outright.

That model has now been replaced with a single Pro subscription costing $125/month – or really, $1,500/year, since you have to sign up for a full year.

According to the blog post announcing the new subscription models, “a core product with add-ons for a larger upfront price and upgrade fees every two or so years didn’t seem to be cutting it”.

Unity also promises that both core engine and the former add-ons will now be updated “more regularly”.

No change to the free Personal edition
For anyone using the Personal edition of Unity – that is, solo artists and small studios earning under $100,000/year – there is little change: it’s still free to use, and still has all the key toolsets from the Pro edition.

For anyone under $100,000/year, there is also a new $35/month Plus edition, which gives you better analytics, more concurrent users in multiplayer games, and free assets from the Unity Asset Store each quarter.

However, it doesn’t remove the ‘Made with Unity’ splash screen from projects created with the engine – for many indie devs, a key reason for choosing the Pro edition.

No more perpetual licences – although there is ‘pay to own’
The new subscription policy also removes the option to buy a perpetual licence of Unity – at least directly.

Exisiting owners of perpetual licences will get the option to buy either a 24-month or 36-month Pro subscription that “allows them to keep the software as a perpetual version at the end of their commitment period”.

Pricing for this pay-to-own model hasn’t been announced yet, but Unity has said that you’ll pre-pay the full cost of the subscription, so it’s effectively still a perpetual licence plus maintenance by another name.

New customers will also have access to the 36-month pay-to-own scheme.

If you don’t want to switch to the new model, existing Unity 3.x, 4.x and 5.x licences will remain valid indefinitely, but updates, fixes and support will cease on March 3, 2017.

Good news for mobile developers, less so for anyone else
Whether Unity’s new pricing benefits you largely depends on whether you’re a mobile developer. If you develop titles for iOS, Android, or both, it’s a cost saving; otherwise – added extras notwithstanding – it’s a cost hike.

The fact that the only way to remove the ‘Made with Unity’ splash screen – which many gamers now take as shorthand for ‘This is a low-budget indie title’ – is still to take out a Pro subscription has also drawn flak.

As one typical comment on the Unity blog put it: “The idea that I pay [for the new Plus edition] and still have to show your splash screen without the ability to customize it … with my own logo beside it is a joke.”

(Actually, the original version is rather more strongly phrased, but being a family-friendly site, we’ve omitted the offending word.)

Either way, the new licensing policy begins its rollout in June, with existing subscribers going first: you can see the rather complicated roadmap for the switchover here.

Updated 17 June 2016: Unity has updated the new subscription options in response to user feedback.

The main changes affect Unity Plus, where users now get the chance to turn off the splash screen in the same way as those on Pro subscriptions. The revenue cap for Plus users has also been raised to $200,000/year.

Unity Plus now requires a minimum one-year subscription, and is no longer eligible for the pay-to-own plan, but the changes go a long way to addressing indie developers’ key concerns with the new subscriptions.

As one fairly typical comment on Unity’s blog post put it: “I love Unity, but with the recent pricing changes, I was unsure if I had to switch to Unreal. But now, I’m cool.”

Customised splash screens for Unity Personal users
In addition, users of any edition of Unity – including the free Personal edition – will get the option to customise the loading screen with their own logo and a blurred background image.

There are also new transition options for existing perpetual licence holders of Unity Pro, which you can read about via the link below.

Read more about the updated Unity licensing policy on Unity Technologies’ blog