Everyone and their mum already know just how badly the team behind the Unity game engine has misread the proverbial room. Following the initial bout of critique directed at Unity, as well as a round of death threats, the company has tried to mitigate the ongoing PR disaster in a variety of ways, but indie devs aren’t having any of it. Tom Francis, in particular, the person responsible for Gunpoint, Heat Signature, and the upcoming Tactical Breach Wizards, has also decided to chime in on the problem.
A former gaming industry writer himself, Francis has decided not to mince any words in his recent blog post: “I just wanna spell out exactly what my issue is,” he said. Five years into the production of Tactical Breach Wizards, his first Unity project, Francis and his team have had to invest both time and money into learning the engine. The decision to work with Unity, said Francis, was based on the understanding that it wouldn’t take any share of the game’s post-release income. An understanding that is, as it turns out, no longer valid.
Is the damage to Unity’s brand now irreparable?
The gist of Francis’ argument rests on Unity’s own (out-of-date) Terms of Service: “When you obtain a version of Unity, and don’t upgrade your project, we think you should be able to stick to that version of the TOS.”
Indeed, Francis’ team uses Unity 2019.3: “In the last 4 years, the only additional value Unity have provided us is bug fixes to that version. But that’s OK! I’m happy to pay a large fee up front to avoid having our income skimmed forever,” Francis wrote. “It wasn’t on my radar that the most reputable indie engine might be silently laying the groundwork for a moustache-twirling betrayal.”
As access to Unity is a subscription, rather than a single-purchase product, Francis himself admits that he’s bound to have accepted an updated TOS with the previously outlined addendum removed from the mix. Dropping Unity isn’t an option: “By this point,” said Francis, “we’re trapped in [Unity’s] platform to the tune of 5 years’ work.”
“This is why I am not remotely mollified by reassurances that the current profit-skimming terms won’t sting me in particular too badly. That’s not the f*ckin’ headline! The headline is that you (surprisingly) can and (staggeringly) will change how much of our revenue you wish to take at any time after we’ve already committed,” explained Francis.
“My thing is, if you offer me Unity 2019 at $150 a month, it’s a scumbag move to wait til I’m too far invested to switch, then change it to a per-install deal even if I keep using the old version,” Francis concluded. As per Unity’s latest statement to Axios, there are several caveats to the engine’s intended monetization scheme, but it’s not hard to see that the Unity brand may have been permanently marred for years to come. Francis, from the looks of it, doesn’t intend to leverage Unity after Tactical Breach Wizards launches, and it’s likely that he’s not alone in this line of thinking.