The letter to Unity, which has been signed by 553 developers at the time of writing, pledges to switch off all IronSource and Unity Ads monetisation “until new conditions are reviewed”. As such, no revenue from their games will be received by Unity until it is switched back on.
“While we’ve always viewed our work as a collaborative effort, this decision blindsided us. With one stroke of the pen, you’ve put hundreds of studios at risk, all without consultation or dialogue,” read the letter.
The pricing plan, also known as the new runtime fee, was announced on September 12. Unity’s intention was to seek out the “right value exchange” between both the developer and itself as every time a Unity game is installed, it also installs the Unity Runtime code.
Yet, this was seen to be an unnecessary clamp on the possible revenue that smaller studios could generate from their games. Unity countered by claiming that only 10 per cent of their customers would be affected by the new pricing plan.
This is because the runtime fee would only apply to those who had exceeded a specific number of installs and amount of revenue.
However, law firm Wiggin suggested that Unity may have opened a legal can of worms with its announcement, sharing “concern over the enforceability of Unity’s changes”.
While software as a service (or SaaS) companies are within their rights to update their terms, this doesn’t always hold water in the United Kingdom.
“Under UK law, if a clause in a service provider’s standard terms of business permit them to provide a contractual performance substantially different from what is expected, that clause would only be enforceable if it passed a ‘reasonableness’ test,” said Wiggin. “We expect that the significance of the shift, and relatively little prior notice, would likely be core grounds of contention.”
The runtime fees were also argued to be “anti-competitive” due to the dominance of Unity in the development of mobile games and the industry more generally.