Unity kicks off its developer event in Amsterdam this week by announcing some big changes, including a revamped pricing scheme that will see it debut a new mid-tier subscription option, Unity Plus, as it increases the cost of Unity Pro and renders all versions of Unity capable of deploying games on iOS and Android at no additional cost.
What this means, for developers, is complicated. First and foremost, Unity devs who currently pay for an Android and/or iOS license will no longer have to do so, potentially saving up to $150/month if you pay for both of the $75/month licenses.
"[Unity] has evolved into something over its 10+ year life that right now isn't massively accessible," Unity Technologies CMO Clive Downie told Gamasutra in a recent phone conversation. "[With Unity] it's actually three different things you have to buy if you want to be in as many places as possible, and take your ideas to the largest groups of consumers on the planet. It's just not very accessible in that way."
However, the cost of Unity Pro is going up from $75/month to $125/month. Alongside that price hike Unity will roll out a new $35/month annual (or $49/month if you pay month-to-month) subscription option, Unity Plus, that Downie says is meant to make a subset of Unity Pro's features accessible to developers at a lower price.
"There's a group of developers who are not in the beginning phase of their lifecycle, and are not in the kind of pro, kind of career developer phase of their lifecycle," said Downey. "But there is a middle, and they've honed their skills, and they want to take their first commercial product to market, and they want some optimization tools to do that that aren't in Personal, and are probably too cost-inhibitive in Pro. So we've added this new tier of Plus to be able to make that segment successful."
In concrete terms, Unity Plus is like Unity Personal in that it's only available to developers and studios who generate less than $100,000 a year in funding/revenue. Like Unity Pro, this new subscription plan will include some select Unity features not available in the free Unity Personal plan, including real-time data feeds via Unity Analytics, game performance reporting intended to help devs optimize their games prior to launch, and access to "specifically designed asset store project packs" via the Unity Asset Store.
While both Plus and Pro will be offered as annual subscription plans, now Unity developers can also pay a large lump sum upfront to buy a version of the engine outright via Unity's new "Pay to Own" program.
Unity believes devs want a "Pay to Own" option for their engine
"We're going Pay to Own because we realize there's probably a portion of our large userbase who want that security, said Downie. "They want that peace of mind of being able to keep something they've been paying for at the end of that subscription period."
If a developer opts to "Pay to Own" they can expect to pay for a multi-year Unity subscription deal up front (Downie says it's typically priced as your monthly cost x the number of months in your deal, so you'd probably pay $125 x 36 for a three-year Unity Pro deal) and get engine updates and support for the duration of that subscription. At the end of that time period they'll lose access to Unity services, engine updates and support, but they'll retain full access to whatever version of Unity they've reached.
"You get to keep the version of Unity that you're on at that moment, and you get to use that core engine in perpetuity until it may no longer be relevant because it hasn't had a tech upgrade," Downie added. "It's just another option for a percentage of our very large global userbase, who kind of may not be ready to move to subscription and they might favor a more traditional model."
The company also wants a piece of the recruiting game, so it's launching a job marketplace
The company is also getting into the networking business in a big way, as Unity now plans to launch a job marketplace called Unity Connect that's designed to help Unity devs find collaborators, contractors and new hires.
"If you're a small developer, you might be a great coder...but you might not be a great artist," Downie said. "Imagine what the unlock could be, if you could advertise for a great artist's time, share your project, so artists within the Unity community worldwide could look at your project. And you could hire them for a period of time to work on your project with you."
That's the pitch for Unity Connect, which Downie says will be entering a phase of beta testing in select markets ahead of a full commercial release sometime down the line. And yes, there's absolutely a commercial angle here for Unity -- in addition to giving Unity developers more reasons to interact with its community and remote collaboration tools, Unity intends to collect some sort of revenue from Unity Connect.
Downie tells Gamasutra the company is currently evaluating various business models for Connect, but he's confident there will at least be some sort of fee levied at Unity Connect users.
"This all comes back to the fact that it's just hard to be successful as a game developer right now, and we want developers to be as successful as possible, " he added. "[Unity Connect] is about connecting everyone in the Unity community globally with projects they might like to work on and available jobs that are going to provide a living for them."