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Mobile publishers threaten to ditch IronSource and Unity Ad monetization over install fee

An influential collective with MAUs in the hundreds-of-millions are targeting Unity's ad revenue stream.

Chris Kerr, News Editor

September 15, 2023

3 Min Read
A 'defeat' screen in a game supported by Unity Ads
Image via Unity

Influential mobile publishers including Voodoo, CrazyLabs, TapNation, and Azur Games are threatening to switch off all IronSource and Unity Ads monetization until Unity has reconsidered its "unacceptable" Runtime Fee policy.

Unity intends to implement a new per-install fee that will impact developers when they cross specific thresholds starting in January 2024. The news broke earlier this week and resulted in an outpouring of outrage and incredulity from the development community, who feel betrayed by the engine maker's decision to pull the rug out from under creators. Unity has attempted to clarify its position and policy in the days since, but developers still aren't sold.

In an open letter (Google Doc) highlighted by Rami Ismail on X, which has been signed by 18 companies at the time of writing, an expanding collective has now laid out plans to fight back by targeting Unity's ad revenue stream.

"As a course of immediate action, our collective of game development companies is forced to turn off all IronSource and Unity Ads monetization across our projects until these changes are reconsidered," reads the letter.

"We urge others who share this stance to do the same. The rules have changed, and the stakes are simply too high. The Runtime Fee is an unacceptable shift in our partnership with Unity that needs to be immediately canceled."

To provide some context as to how much is at stake here, according to their respective websites, Voodoo's portfolio currently has over 150 million monthly active users (MAUs), CrazyLabs is touting 250 million MAUs, and TapNation has 60 million MAUs. Azur Games, which shared the news on its website, styles itself as one of the top three mobile worldwide publishers by downloads, having crossed 3 billion downloads as of 2022.

Mobile publishers claim new install fee could have "monumental" consequences

The letter also breaks down why those involved feel so strongly about the install fee Unity intends to introduce, claiming the tariff "jeopardizes small and large game developers alike."

"We strongly oppose this move, which disregards the unique challenges and complexities of our industry," it reads. "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."

"To put it in relatable terms—what if automakers suddenly decided to charge us for every mile driven on the car that you bought a year ago? The impact on consumers and the industry at large would be seismic."

The letter notes the move comes at a time when the industry is contenting with tightening profit margins, and increase in competition, and escalating development and marketing costs. "This isn't just about developers. This impacts artists, designers, marketers, and producers. It's a cascade that could lead to the shuttering of companies that have given their all to this industry."

It also reiterates how Unity has often worked in tandem with its community, who've often supported the engine by hosting Unty-centric events, sharing their knowledge, and crafting educational content to help inspire others.

That symbiosis, they say, has helped Unity evolve into a "cornerstone of game development" establishing the engine as an "indispensable asset in game creation." Yet, despite that history of collaboration, the letter states that Unity chose to blindside its community by neglecting to include them in a conversation that could have "monumental" consequences.

"We entered this industry for the love of game development, but what makes it truly special is the community—a community built on openness, shared expertise, and collective progress," it concludes. "If you share our sentiment, we call on you to join us. Turn off all IronSource and Unity Ads monetization until a fair and equitable resolution is found."

As for whether to not Unity will fold, Innersloth co-founder Forest Willard spoke with the company this week and claims that while concessions might be made, a complete reversal seems unlikely. 

About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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