Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Unity, platforms, lock-in and your future.

So Unity has changed its pricing structure, and suddenly its not so cheap, and getting rid of that ‘made with unity’ splash screen is a lot more expensive. Thats no surprise to me. that splash screen is like the packaging that says ECONOMY BISCUITS. Its there to guilt you into not wanting to look cheap. Intellectually do I think a game is less worthy if it has that splashscreen on it? Nope. Emotionally do I? Yup. I’m just being honest. Unity know that, which is why they charge you to get rid of it. bis

The unity licensing scheme allows you to earn a certain amount of money before you have to upgrade. Thats sensible, they want a multi-tiered model, its good business practice. Whats also sensible is how they have done this, ie: make the tool so valuable and cheap it become ubiquitous, then start charging for it once everyone is addicted /locked-in.

I hate lock-in. I hate the idea that the free market is limited by the inertia and invisible walls that portals build up. The company you use to do X should be the best company that does X, not the one that already has your preferences saved or your friends list on it. This isn’t some sort of moral crusade by me, its just efficiency. Barriers to entry in a market place lead to inefficiency, and thus a reduction in global happiness. Just ask anyone whose geographical location limits them to one telecoms or internet provider and see how happy they are.

One of my pie-in-the-sky ideas if I leave game development is to set up what would effectively be a high-frequency trading model for energy at the customer level. Rather than locking us in to dumb contracts for 6 or 12 months to buy electricity at a fixed price, I want the option to negotiate with 100+ providers on a second-to-second basis for each watt of power I use. I also want to build that tech into fridges, phone chargers and car charging. I need my Tesla charged in the next ten hours, but I don’t care when, I’d like to have a bot that haggles for me on the open market to pick a time…

anyway, Lock-in is bad for YOU the consumer. Whenever you are locked-in to a product or store or a contract, you lose out. Every-time you are offered a ‘service’ or ‘feature’ that locks you in more, you LOSE some freedom to negotiate at a later stage. The thing is, few people see it like this. They always think you are getting a good deal. Thats the way this stuff works…until you become a casual game publisher and change 70% royalty to 30% or 20% royalty. Yup, that really happened. And do we even have to go in to how little people earn from spotify?


It really is worth thinking like this. If you have any lock-in or dependency on a tech or company you do not *own*, then you need funds set aside in a ‘what if they turn evil‘ wallet someplace. Similar to a ‘fuck-you’ fund as an employee, you need that WITTE fund. You are probably locked-in WAY more than you think.

  • If your blog is hosted by wordpress or medium or someone similar, they own a  bit of your future.
  • If your game tech is dependent on steamworks they own a bit of your future.
  • If your game community is based around facebook or reddit, they own a bit of your future.
  • If your whole game runs on AWS then they too, own a little bit of your future.

Most people are nice people, most of the time, but businesses change, people retire, businesses get bought out. News item: Microsoft buy Valve tomorrow. Steamworks is now $1,000 a year. You ok? Facebook now wants $1,000 a year for company web pages with > 100 fans. Still ok? Unity changes to a fixed 25% of your revenue model. You OK? You think this cannot happen? or will not happen? you think all these dotcom companies will continue forever with zero profits just to make your life easier?

Yes, I worry about the future a lot. Thats why I’m still here, still indie, still profitable.