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Unity imposes new fees on video game developers as Football Manager Mobile becomes Netflix exclusive

Users of video game engine will be charged per download under new structure.

13 September 2023 Steve McCaskill
Football Manager 24 Sports Interactive Netflix

Sports Interactive

  • Unity is one of the most popular video game engines in the world
  • UFC, Rezzil and Football Manager are all Unity users

Video game engine developer Unity has attracted criticism from the developer community after changing its pricing structure so a royalty is imposed every time a game that uses its software is installed.

Unity is popular among indie developers without the resources to develop bespoke engines like major publishers such as Electronic Arts (EA) and Ubisoft, while its technology has also been used to power several sporting metaverse environments.

Unity is free to download for personal users, with pro and enterprise versions available on a subscription basis. The company says the shift to a pay-per-download model will help fund development of its engine, adding that most users would never reach the threshold required for additional charges to be imposed.

The new policy, which comes into effect from 1st January 2024, will only apply to games that have achieved a certain number of installs or generated a certain amount of revenue.

The maximum fee will be US$0.20 per download for a free user whose game has been installed more than 200,000 times or has generated more than US$200,000 in the past 12 months. The thresholds are higher for Pro and Enterprise subscribers who will be charged significantly less.

Many developers have expressed outrage and concern that their previous downloads will be taken into account when determining their eligibility. Others fear marginalised groups will bear the brunt of the changes, while some say they will defect to Epic Games’ Unreal Engine moving forward.

One developer that will continue with Unity is Sports Interactive, which is using the engine as part of an overhauled matchday experience in Football Manager 25. However, before then, it has confirmed that the mobile version of Football Manager 2024 will be exclusive to Netflix subscribers on iOS and Android.

Last year, the developer made Football Manager 2023 Touch exclusive to the Apple Arcade service.

SportsPro says…

While most major sports video games, such as EA Sports FC or NBA 2K, are powered by custom graphics engines, the emergence of free or affordable engines like Unity and Unreal Engine has been a huge boost to an industry that is now an important channel for sport.

The barriers to entry are significantly lower, allowing indie developers to create titles based on their favourite sports, while also reducing costs for rights holders looking to expand their audience and engage younger, digitally native fans on web, console and mobile.

Game engine technology is also crucial for the next wave of digital fan engagement opportunities, including metaverse, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), and broadcast technologies. Engines like Unity help bring match and event data to life and have potential uses in coaching and fitness applications. Unity itself is working with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and soccer training app Rezzil among others.

All hope to become as successful as Football Manager. The game is a well-established brand that has been both a valuable source of engagement and data for the soccer world for more than three decades but is still managing to innovate with its distribution – and is now helping Netflix appeal to sports fans, which is doing anything but secure live sports rights.

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