Business news Unity faces death threats, Ubisoft closes a studio: the business news of the week
Published on 09/17/2023 at 4:00 p.m.
On the business news agenda this week: a lot of bad news unfortunately, including a real video game crisis following announcements from the firm behind the Unity engine, the imminent closure of a Ubisoft studio and even the departure of a figure from Electronic Arts.
At Unity, nothing is going well anymore
Unity is a famous video game engine which has the advantage of offering a free plan: it is a tool of choice for many studios of different sizes, including small independent developers. However, the firm behind the engine recently announced a new price list: for the Personal-Plus formula, the one most used by small developers, all games exceeding $200,000 in revenue and 200,000 installs will trigger a payout of 0.20 cents per install. And this payment is the developer of the game in question who will have to make it to Unity. This new rule will apply in 2024.
A sort of tax that has caused people to cringe terribly since its announcement. It’s simple: countless studios are simply thinking of looking elsewhere and using another engine with fairer conditions. “Unity could (…) put a huge dent in our revenues and threaten the sustainability of our business,” says Aggro Crab, behind Another Crab’s Treasure, for example.
The studio behind Slay the Spire, Mega Crit Games, has been working on a new project under Unit for two years and has made an alarming observation: “The retroactive installation royalty pricing structure is not only detrimental to developers in many ways. respects, it also constitutes a breach of trust. The bad buzz is total and the affair has caused a lot of ink to flow.
Faced with the controversy, Unity boss Marc Whitten spoke directly and thus reversed certain decisions : the first installation of a game on a machine will be taxed and in the case of an installation on a second device (PC or Steam Deck), a new tax will then be applied. For demos, for games included in charitable bubbles and for those included in catalogs such as Xbox Game Pass or PlayStation Plus Extra/Premium, no tax will have to be declared.
But nothing helps and Unity is currently facing enormous anger. Therefore, to say, the company received so many death threats most recently that it was forced to close two of its U.S. offices, one in San Francisco and the other in Austin, United States. “We have taken immediate and proactive measures to ensure the safety of our employees, which is our top priority,” assures a spokesperson.
For their part, studios are already starting to act and a collective of sixteen companies have deactivated advertisements integrated into Unity, in order to cut short their monetization. To be continued in the next episode.
One of the thinking heads of Electronic Arts leaves the ship
In the video game landscape, Stig Asmussen is far from being an illustrious unknown. The man was still the director of the sumptuous God of War III before joining Electronic Arts, where he was among the key people since being appointed director on Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order, at Respawn Entertainment.
An extremely important title for Electronic Arts since one year after release, there were already more than 10 million sales (and more than 20 million players today). A production which will have allowed the franchise to restore its image in the video game industry: Asmussen also produced Star Wars Jedi Survivor and intended to make a third episode. In short, the man helped make Respawn one of EA’s flagship studios and above all one of its golden gooses. Someone very important, you will have understood.
But as Bloomberg reveals, the American has just left Respawn and even Electronic Arts altogether. A painful departure for the publisher who sees one of its key figures leave: faced with the news, EA has therefore spoken officially:
After careful consideration, Stig Asmussen has decided to leave Respawn to pursue other adventures and we wish him good luck. Respawn’s veteran leadership will step up to guide the team as they continue their work on Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.
Now let’s see how Asmussen’s ideas for a third Star Wars Jedi will be applied.
The studio behind Ubisoft’s most played franchise is reportedly closing its doors
Do you know Hungry Shark? This is a license belonging to Ubisoft born in 2010 on mobile, with a simple and fun concept: you control a slightly bulimic shark who must devour everything in its path. Over the course of his meals, the player then unlocks points to unlock another type of shark and so on. Several titles subsequently emerged, including the very prolific Hungry Shark World in 2016, downloaded more than 10 million times in less than a week. A software also released on PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.
In reality, we have no idea of the economic power of the franchise which accumulated, in 2022 and hold on tight… a billion players. It’s simply colossal. Basically, the games were developed by Future Games of London, a studio created in 2009, which became Ubisoft London in 2013 when it was bought by the French publisher. A real gold mine.
However, Ubisoft is going through a bad patch and is reducing its workforce in the hope of getting out of it as best as possible. In this dynamic, Ubisoft London would soon close its doors and relocate the development of the franchise to Ubisoft Barcelona Mobile.
As part of our ongoing efforts to improve efficiency, streamline operations and reduce costs, we propose to consolidate the current management of the Hungry Shark franchise within our Ubisoft Barcelona Mobile studio, which already oversees part of it.
Bad news for the British studio with still fifty-four jobs threatened.
In this context and in accordance with British regulations, we are beginning consultations with our team at Ubisoft London regarding the proposed closure of the studio, which would impact 54 positions. We are sincerely grateful to our colleagues in London for all their passionate contributions to bringing the project to fruition. Franchising being what it is today, we are committed to supporting them throughout the process with the greatest consideration.
In brief in the business news of the week
Ascendant Studiosrecently opened and of which Immortals Of Aveum is the first game, lays off 45% of its employees following probable poor sales of the title. Netflix signs a deal with Football Manager to regain exclusivity for Football Manager 2024 Mobile, scheduled for November 6 on the Netflix app.Donald Mustard, Creative Director of Epic Games, announces his departure from the company. He will be replaced by Charlie Wen.Playtika Group purchased Innplay Lables (behind mobile games like Tiles of Fortune and Animals & Coins) for a sum that would go up to $300 million. The UK, the UK Games Fund received £5 million (€5.8 million) to create the UKGF Content Fund: now, English studios and developers can apply for this funding to help them in their task, within a range between 50,000 and 150,000 pounds sterling.Since the release of Final Fantasy XVI, Square Enix lost almost $2 billion in value. It was confirmed that The next game in The Sims saga will be completely free-to-play. The UK, Xbox Series X|S sales jumped 76% following the launch of Starfield. Over the past decade, mobile puzzle games reportedly generated $42 billion.
Jedi Survivor: The Star Wars video game we’ve always dreamed of!