A quick note about Unity, plus a surprise
Thursday, September 14, 2023
Comments: 9 (latest 2 days later)
Tagged: unity, steam, enshittification, meanwhile, leviathan, the beyond, jason shiga
You may have heard that Unity, the game engine company, announced new terms this week which amount to shooting itself in the foot with a hand grenade. A handfootgrenade, if you will. "Fusshandgranate" in the original German.
I have nothing to add to the discourse beyond that questionable neologism, but I want to be transparent about what this means for me as a developer. Short answer: No direct impact, but it may affect my future plans.
I have released two games using Unity: Jason Shiga's Meanwhile and Leviathan. The Win/Mac/Linux releases of both these apps are currently on the 2021 release of the Unity engine, using the Unity Personal (free) plan. (The iPhone/iPad/AppleTV versions do not use Unity.)
These apps are way, way below Unity's stated threshold for the install fee. Meanwhile (the Win/Mac/Linux release) has about 600 installs and $3200 revenue over its five-year history. Leviathan, which shipped last year, has 90 installs and $500 revenue. These apps will never ever reach either 200,000 downloads or $200,000 in revenue. They're also not involved in any big bundles, streaming deals, or promo giveaways -- which are the models that Unity has burned the worst.
(This, by the way, is why I'm not trying to make it as a solo indie developer! I love these apps -- and Jason's work -- and I'm happy to keep supporting them. But they're a hobby.)
However... if Unity was willing to retroactively change their licensing terms once, they're willing to do it again. The next price change could hurt me. Or they could go out of business entirely! (This week's news isn't the sort of announcement you make when you have a sustainable business.)
So I am keeping in mind the possibility of reimplementing both games using a different engine. Preferably an open-source engine. Godot is the leading candidate right now, but I'll decide when the time comes.
(In case you're wondering, the Win/Mac/Linux release of Hadean Lands uses Lectrote and Electron, which are open-source tools. All my iOS apps are native ObjC code built in Xcode using only Apple's frameworks.)
What about future games? Well, there's no way in hell I'm using Unity for any brand-new project. That would just be stupid.
But what about future Jason Shiga games? I mean, I have this engine all written, and... hang on, the doorbell just rang.
I'm (almost) not kidding: my copy of The Beyond arrived in the mail yesterday. (Thanks Jason!) It was released just a few weeks ago.
I can confirm that it's another interactive graphic novel full of secrets and tricks! But you knew that.
Of course, I am now evaluating how a game version would work. The secrets and tricks are little different than in the previous books; it will take some thought to figure this out. But I definitely want to continue the series.
For the moment, it makes sense to continue using my Unity-based framework for this. It won't hurt me financially. But again, I am keeping an eye on the future. If I need to change tracks, I can do that.
Watch this space! And, you know, stay away from Unity from now on. It's not going to get any better.