Unity Engine Enshittification: developers will be charged on a per-install basis

Can anyone explain why Unity has 7,700 employees? That seems like an absurd number. I can imagine 200 max to code/QA/test the engine, maybe another 2-300 to produce content for their store, perhaps 500 in Ireland or Bangalore for support, a couple dozen for oversight and project management. What in the world are the other 7k people up to?

Psst, this happens with private ones too. See, oh, EVERY Private Equity Hedge fund and their acquisitions…

Come up with brilliant monetization ideas, of course!

It’s just a staggering number of people for a product company, unless their store generates a lot more revenue than I had assumed.

From what I can tell Epic has between 5-10k employees, although that’s from public webpages so nobody knows how inaccurate it likely is. And Epic makes actual games. Well, game, but it’s extremely actively developed. And they’re a publisher too, and have a large storefront to sell them, alongside Unreal content packs.

It seems they support some stupid number of platforms. I read 23 or 24 platforms? There is a list on their site:

  • Desktop:

      • Windows (PC)
      • Mac
      • Universal Windows Platform (UWP)
      • Linux Standalone
  • Mobile:

      • iOS
      • Android
  • Extended Reality (XR):

      • ARKit
      • ARCore
      • Microsoft HoloLens
      • Windows Mixed Reality
      • Magic Leap (Lumin)
      • Oculus
      • PlayStation VR
  • Consoles:

      • PS5
      • PS4
      • Xbox One
      • Xbox X|S
      • Nintendo Switch
      • Google Stadia
  • WebGL

  • Embedded:

      • Embedded Linux
      • QNX

and before, they supported (from the wiki)

Formerly supported platforms are Wii,[77] Wii U,[78] PlayStation 3,[79] Xbox 360,[79] Tizen,[80] PlayStation Vita,[81] 3DS,[82] BlackBerry 10,[83] Windows Phone 8,[83] Samsung Smart TV,[84] Gear VR,[59] Daydream,[85] Vuforia,[69] Facebook Gameroom,[85] and Stadia.[86]

OK that’s fair. Say another two hundred developers to cover those ports? Still falls short by thousands of people.

Do they really create content for the store? I thought that the Asset Store was mostly content from third parties.

Yes, 8k people is grotesque for a game engine business. But it seems they don’t want to think they’re in that business, and keep expanding into markets they probably shouldn’t be in.

1700 of the employees seem to be at Weta (the movie special effects studio), which Unity bought a couple of years ago.

Their product isn’t just the engine and the asset store, they’ve accrued dozens of other products on the side, chasing the current fad. For example it looks like during the pandemic they went all in on buying up all kinds of online collaboration tools.

They have a professional services / consulting sweatshop division.

They run an ad network or two. They’ve probably got O(1k) people in sales and account manager roles for that business.

Have you ever tried maintaining three* incomplete UI frameworks? It’s not easy, bud.

*I haven’t used Unity in a year, they might be up to four different and incomplete UI frameworks by now.

Ahh, I had no idea. So they went on an acquisition spree and now are trying to leverage their core business to keep the wolves from the door. A++ job, Johnnie.

That’s the neat thing - you don’t!

(The joke being that if you have shipped 3 incomplete UI frameworks you almost certainly don’t seriously maintain at least 2 of them)

Nah, they are still chipping away at making the third do everything the second did. I don’t think they’ve touched the first one in years. FWIW, they’ve built a progressively better foundation each time, just not sure why it’s taken three tries to get it this right. Especially when they settled on just copying HTML and CSS for that third attempt.

Unity overplayed their hand.

https://twitter.com/GenshinImpactOC/status/1704138880709017722

Well, sure. Their monetization model runs contrary to the engine’s.

F2P games have thousands of times more players, more installs, and rely on a combo of whales and season passes with cosmetic and convenience dlc for revenue. Best case scenario, of course many are blatantly pay2win too.

Now unity charges per install— the vast majority of which generate zero revenue. You’re losing money as each (most) player joins! This is intolerable.

I’d expect legal action too. Genshin is huge, they’ve got money for attorneys.

Unity should also give monetary credit for uninstalls, if they’re going that route. Eventually, devs would get all their money back!

According to Wikipedia, the dev miHoYo has total assets of $7,000,000,000 and 5,000 employees. I had no idea.

Genshin Impact’s ARPU is like $40, and they would be paying 1 cent for most of their installs under this model.

Well, at say, $3B in game revenue per year you are talking about 150M new installs and about $2M in install fees, less than 0.1% revenue and likely much less than what they are already paying yearly (they probably have special licenses).

Can they develop a new engine at $2M per year? Very unlikely.

The truth is that they have had those kind of positions and job openings for a while now (before the announcement of the per install fees). As much a piece of news as the CEO share sale.

As to what those positions mean: It could be both they are developing an own engine in a long term strategic play (they are very big, so this is very possible), and/or that they are hiring engine developers to expand their branch of Unity (you can buy source code access to Unity).

Don’t worry, it’s still incoherently incomplete.

In preparation to some lectures I had given, I’ve seen the OG presentation of Unity UI (the self-written UI framework from 2016) and they had plans like virtual windows and tabs. With the 1.0* release of it, the guy writing it was laid off and since then that UI part is in maintenance mode.

You know you’re doing well when people not even using your engine start donating money to your competition in protest:

That was really nice of Re-Logic. They get it. ;)