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Is Unity free? (and will you ever need Unity Pro?)

In Unity by John French10 Comments

Unity is an extremely powerful game development tool, as it allows anyone, regardless of their experience or background, to learn how to make and release a game, using the same technology and tools that larger developers use, all for free.

However, Unity isn’t, technically, a free program, it’s a paid program, with a free plan.

Unlike tools and software that are provided on a truly free, open-source basis, Unity is, instead, licensed to you via the Unity Personal plan.

Meaning that it’s a commercial product, with a licence agreement, that’s simply provided to you for free.

While Unity’s paid plans, Unity Plus, Unity Pro and Unity Enterprise, unlock additional features at a cost.

But, will you ever need Unity’s paid features, or is Unity Personal enough?

The short answer is, yes…

For many people, the free version of Unity is more than enough to build and release commercially successful games, and make a good living from doing so.

And, even if you do expect to need Unity Plus or Unity Pro in the future, Unity Personal, which features the same technology and technical features as Unity’s paid products, is still the best place to start.

However, while the Personal plan is usually going to be the best place to start making games, it’s likely that, if your projects become very successful, you will, at some point, need to upgrade to a paid plan such as Unity Plus or Unity Pro.

In this article you’ll learn some of the basic differences between the Unity plans, how they work and when you might want, or need, to upgrade.

Here’s what you’ll find on this page:

So how does it all work?

Is Unity free?

Unity isn’t free but, for many people, Unity is available for free via a Personal licence.

This means that you can download Unity, in full, use it to create a game and then sell that game for profit, without paying for a Unity subscription.

Which is great, because it means that just about anyone can get started making games with Unity, without needing to pay for a premium licence.

However, while most people will be allowed to use Unity Personal, not everyone is able to.

So why not?

Unity’s licensing works on the basis of tier eligibility, where the plan you’re allowed to use, such as Unity Personal, Unity Plus or Unity Pro, depends on your current position as a Unity Developer.

If you’re a beginner, a lone developer or someone who’s only just getting started with Unity then you’re more than likely going to be ‘tier eligible’ for Unity Personal, as it only requires that your revenue or the funding related to your use of Unity is less than $100,000 for the most recent twelve-month period.

And, while there are technicalities to how this requirement is met, such as your status as a legal entity, or if you’re doing work for a larger client whose revenue makes them ineligible for Unity Personal, generally speaking, if you’re not making more than a hundred grand a year with Unity, you don’t need to pay for it.

So how does it work and what might cause you to need to buy a unity subscription?

Unity’s subscription plans explained

There are generally two reasons why you’d want to get a paid Unity subscription.

Either because you want one of the features offered by a paid Unity plan, such as removing the ‘made with Unity’ splash screen, or the ability to build for closed platforms, such as consoles.

Or because you have to pay for Unity Plus or Pro, because the amount of money you’re earning means that you’re no longer eligible to use Unity’s free Personal plan.

For example, you can only use Unity Personal if your Unity-related funding or revenue is less than $100,000 for the most recent twelve months, while Unity Plus requires that you’re earning less than $200,000 from Unity.

Unity Pro and Unity Enterprise have no earning limit.

unity revenue limits compared

How much money you’re making from Unity-related work can affect which version of Unity you’re allowed to use. (visit the Unity Store for more information)

Is Unity royalty-free?

Unity is royalty-free, meaning that you completely own what you make with it and that you don’t need to pay any additional fees to them, even if your game is earning you money.

While your use of the Unity editor is provided by a licence which, depending on your status and revenue, you may need to pay for, you do not need to maintain a Unity subscription simply because you’ve created a profitable game using Unity.

Meaning that, if you create a game using Unity Personal, and you release it, and that game earns you more than $100k a year, there’s no obligation for you to then purchase a Unity Plus or a Unity Pro subscription just because the game you made with Unity is now earning you money.

After all, that would be a royalty, and Unity is royalty-free.

However, if you want to keep using Unity, and chances are you will, either to update your game or to make another one, you’ll need to make sure that you have an eligible licence to use the Unity software which, depending on how much you’re now earning, you may need to pay for.

So while Unity does not take any royalties, and while you don’t need to pay money to Unity when you’re not using their software, if you want to use the Unity editor, and your earnings mean that you can’t use Unity Personal (congratulations), you’ll need to purchase a licence.

Who can use Unity for free?

If your Unity-related revenue or funding is less than $100,000 for the last year, you can use Unity for free.

But what does Unity consider to be unity-related income?

When deciding if you’re eligible to use Unity Personal, the method of calculating your revenue is based on what you are and who you’re working for.

For example, if you’re a legal entity, such as a company, all of your revenue is taken into consideration when calculating your tier eligibility, whether it’s related to Unity or not.

However, if you’re an individual, who earns a living from a full-time job, for example, but who’s making games on the side, it’s only the money you make from using Unity, that is taken into consideration.

Which might be a little, or it might be a lot, but you don’t have to include any non-unity work when considering if you’re eligible to use Unity Personal, just the money that you earn from using Unity.

Unless you’re using Unity to work for someone else.

If you’re working as a freelancer and are using Unity to provide services to a client, then it’s their revenue, not yours, that matters when working out if you’re ‘tier eligible’ for Unity Personal.

For example, if a company that’s earning more than $100,000 pays you to work on their project, you won’t be allowed to use Unity Personal for that work1.

This is due to the fact that different licence tiers cannot be used by a single entity or for the benefit of a single entity1, such as working on someone else’s project as a contributor.

Which makes sense for Unity as, otherwise, it would be possible for a large company to take advantage of the small status of an individual freelancer, and avoid paying for Unity licence seats themselves.

What are Unity seats?

Unity licence subscriptions are purchased as seats which are then assigned to individual users using their Unity ID and are activated on up to two machines at a time.

If you’re purchasing Unity for yourself then, chances are, you’re only going to ever need one seat, for you, since you’ll be the only person working on your project.

However, if you’re part of a team, then the number of seats you need depends on how many people will be using Unity.

For example, if there are three people in your team, and all of them are going to be using Unity, you’re going to need three seats.

But what happens when someone in your team leaves?

While seats are assigned on a per-user basis, they’re not permanently linked to individuals or their machines.

If a member of the team leaves, their seat can be reassigned to a new user and their machine activations can be returned, without needing to buy a new licence.

However, while seats are reassignable to a new Unity ID, shared, ‘floating’ licences aren’t typically available in Unity Plus or Pro, where different people could share the same ‘seat’ and simply use it at different times.

While there may come a time when your success with Unity means that you have to pay for a premium subscription, chances are that, at least at first, you won’t have to, and you’ll be able to use Unity Personal for as long as you want.

So how does Unity Personal compare to paid Unity plans and is it ok to use it long-term?

What do you get with Unity Personal?

You can use Unity Personal to develop and release games, and make money from them, for free.

And, so long as you continue to meet the eligibility criteria for Unity’s Personal licence, meaning that your unity-related revenue or funding is below $100,000 for the most recent twelve months, you can continue to use Unity Personal to make new games and update your old ones.

Which is great, because it means that it’s entirely possible to make Unity games, and make a comfortable living doing so, without ever having to pay for a Unity Plus or Unity Pro licence.

Unity Personal features

Unity Personal works in the same way as Unity Plus or Unity Pro meaning that, if you can use Personal, you probably should.

But, if you’re a serious developer, should you be using Unity Pro, or at least Unity Plus, or is Unity Personal ok?

Unity Personal vs Unity Pro

From a technical standpoint, Unity Personal is exactly the same as Unity Plus or Unity Pro.

Meaning that, if you make a game with Unity Personal, there’s no reason why it won’t play, sound or look exactly as good as a game made with a ‘professional’ tier of Unity.

However, there are a couple of small differences.

One of the most notable differences between the free Personal version and paid Unity subscriptions is the ability to customise, or completely remove the ‘made with Unity’ splash screen.

How to remove the ‘made with Unity’ splash screen?

The made with Unity splash screen is a mandatory logo that appears when building a project using the free Unity Personal editor.

It appears while the first scene is loading and can be combined with your own developer logo or a series of logos that each appear in order, either before or after Unity’s logo, or simultaneously, with Unity’s logo appearing below.

Like this:

Unity Splash Screen example

In this example, I’ve added a custom background and configured the Unity logo to appear below my own.

However, while it’s possible to customise how the Unity logo appears, to remove it completely, you’ll need a Unity Plus subscription or higher, which allows you to remove the Unity logo or disable the splash screen.

Can I pay a one-off fee to remove the splash screen?

As it stands, there’s no option to pay a single fee to remove the Unity splash screen.

Which is a shame, given that some developers feel that having the Unity logo in their game could suggest that their project is lower quality, purely because it was made using the free version of Unity.

Personally, however, I don’t think that having the Unity logo in your game’s splash screen is a problem. Just like with any widely used engine there are good Unity projects and there are bad ones, but it’s common knowledge that Unity is an extremely powerful engine that has been used to build a wide range of hugely successful titles.

However, if it is important to you to remove the splash screen, the simplest and cheapest way to do it is with a Unity Plus subscription.

While it’s not a one-time fee, you could, effectively, pay once for a one-year subscription, which could be used to cover the initial launch of your game and any updates you release during its first year, which is the minimum commitment period that Unity currently allows you to buy.

This would allow you to remove the splash screen when releasing your game, after which, so long as you remain eligible to use it, you could downgrade to a free Personal Unity plan afterwards.

However, if you do plan to do this, keep in mind that it’s only possible to open a project that has been created with Unity Plus or Unity Pro with that tier of licence, meaning that, even if you are technically eligible to use Unity Personal after having Pro or Plus, once a project is tied to a particular tier of Unity licence, you’ll need that level of licence, or higher, to open it again2.

Who is Unity Personal for?

Because it offers the same level of features as Unity Plus and Unity Pro, if you’re eligible to use Unity Personal (and you probably are) then that’s what you should use.

Game development can take a long time, particularly if you’re a beginner and especially if you’re learning how to make your first game, and it simply doesn’t make sense to use a paid Unity plan until you need to or until you want to, since many of the benefits of Unity Plus and Unity Pro simply don’t apply until it’s time to release your game.

In fact, even if you’ve already released a game, and even if you’re earning good money with Unity, the free Personal version might still be all you ever need to use.

So should you ever consider buying Unity Plus or Unity Pro?

In my opinion, everyone that can use Unity Personal should use it, and the only time you should consider purchasing Unity Plus or Unity Pro is when you’re getting closer to the release of your game, which is when you might typically want or need some of the additional features that a paid plan can offer, or because you’re not able to use Unity Personal anymore, because you’re making too much money.

At which point you might want to consider upgrading from Unity Personal to Unity Plus.

What is Unity Plus?

Unity Plus is Unity’s mid-tier subscription option and, for many developers, has historically been a sweet spot between the free Unity Personal plan and the top-tier Unity Pro subscription.

At the time of writing, Unity Plus costs $40 per month, with a commitment period of one year, or you can pay annually, up-front, for a price of $399, the equivalent of around $33 per month.

Unity Plus features explained

Unity Plus offers splash screen customisation and increased collaboration and diagnostics limits.

But is it worth it?

Depending on how much money you’re earning you may need to upgrade to Unity Plus, which increases the financial eligibility from Unity Personal’s $100,000 limit to $200,000.

However, while you may need to upgrade because you’re earning more money, buying Unity Plus also unlocks additional features.

So what do you get?

What do you get with Unity Plus?

The first benefit you’re likely to notice with Unity Plus is splash screen customisation.

This allows you to remove the ‘Made with Unity’ logo from the game’s opening splash screen, leaving only your own logos, or you can choose to disable the splash screen entirely.

The greyed out show splash screen dialogue

Unity Plus or higher allows you to disable the default ‘Made with Unity’ splash screen.

Unity Plus also increases the number of collaboration integrations that you’re able to use with your Unity project.

But what does that mean?

What are Collaboration Integrations with Unity Plus?

When working with your Unity project, there are a number of Unity services events, such as publishing a new version, building to the cloud or receiving diagnostic reports, that can be connected to project management tools such as Trello, Discord or Slack3.

By default, using Unity Personal, events can be configured with a single integration meaning that, while you can connect as many of your project’s events as you want, you can only use a single management tool to do so.

Unity Plus and higher increases the number of integrations you can configure with your project’s events, meaning that multiple different services can be used to track issues, manage development or receive reports.

The ability to separate your project’s events could be useful if you want to keep your cloud build notifications and your crash reports separate, for example.

Which might come in handy, since Unity Plus also significantly increases the number of crash and exception reports you’re able to receive in Cloud Diagnostics.

Cloud Diagnostics in Unity Plus

While Cloud Diagnostics is already enabled in Unity Personal, only a limited number of crash and user reports are available.

Which could be a problem if you’re trying to work through your game’s early issues, particularly if your player count spikes at launch, as it’s likely to do.

Unity Plus significantly raises this limit, allowing you to track user reports, errors and full-blown crashes from the Cloud Diagnostics dashboard.

This is not the same as analytics, which is a feature of Unity Gaming Services that helps you to understand how a player is playing your game.

While Cloud Diagnostics allows you to track what’s happening when your game goes wrong, allowing you to monitor and analyse exception reports and crashes.

Who is Unity Plus for?

Unity Plus starts to make a lot of sense as you get closer to the release of your first game.

This is mainly because of the significantly higher level of diagnostics it supports, which can be hugely valuable for making sure your game’s initial release goes well, avoiding early negative reviews.

Which is why, in my opinion, Unity Plus is a good investment for your game’s first year, since it allows you to keep a close eye on the critical performance of your game during its initial release and, as a bonus, allows you to remove the splash screen too, if that’s something that’s important to you.

However, it’s important to remember that, while it is possible to downgrade your Unity licence to Personal from Plus, so long as you’re still ‘tier eligible’ for Personal, projects created with a Unity Plus or Pro licence will, reportedly2, remain tied to that tier, meaning that you won’t be able to open them using a Personal licence.

Meaning that, while it’s possible to upgrade projects to a higher tier of Unity licence it’s, generally, not possible to go back, at least on a per-project basis.

The additional diagnostic features that Unity Plus offers can be extremely useful for making sure that your game’s release goes well.

However, if you’re planning to release your game on closed platforms, such as Nintendo Switch, Xbox, or Playstation, you’re going to need Unity Pro.

When do you need Unity Pro?

Unity Pro is the professional tier of Unity’s product lineup.

It removes all revenue limits and offers improved customer service support from Unity themselves, in the shape of priority access to Unity’s Success Advisors and Customer Service staff.

However…

As valuable as that might be, typically, there’s one big reason why you might want to get Unity Pro.

Unity Pro, unlike Unity Plus and Unity Personal, allows you to create and deploy to closed platforms, such as Xbox, Playstation, Stadia and, Nintendo consoles4.

Which means that, if you want to release your Unity game on Switch, or on any other closed platform, you’re going to need a Unity Pro licence to do it.

Which, at $1800 per year, could be expensive.

Unity Pro features at a glance

Unity Pro is required to build and deploy to closed platforms, such as games consoles. However, you may not need to pay for it yourself.

However, while you do need a Unity Pro licence to release a game on Playstation, Xbox or on Nintendo Switch, you might not have to pay for it yourself.

Instead, your intended release platform may be able to provide you with a Preferred Platform Key, giving you access to Unity Pro, essentially for free.

So how does it work?

How to get a Preferred Platform Key for Unity

A Preferred Platform Key is a licence for Unity Pro that’s provided by a platform holder, such as Sony or Nintendo, that will enable you to develop a game for their platform using Unity Pro, but without having to pay for it yourself.

Reportedly, Sony5 and Nintendo both provide Unity Pro licences as part of their development programs, while Microsoft, for the moment at least, doesn’t6.

Which means that, if you’re developing an Xbox title, you may need to purchase Unity Pro yourself in order to release it.

However, in any case, it’s not possible to release a game on a closed platform, using Unity, or anything else, without becoming a part of that platform’s development program first.

As a result, if you intend to develop for a console using Unity, the first step is, typically, to apply to the development program of the platform that you’re interested in:

And, in the meantime, there’s nothing to stop you from building your game using whatever version of Unity you already have.

Is Unity’s dark theme free?

Unity’s dark mode, which is simply a dark editor theme, used to be specific to Unity Pro, meaning that, if you only had the free version of Unity, you couldn’t use it.

However, while it was, at one point, a sign that you were using the premium version of Unity, dark mode has since been added as an accessibility option to all versions of Unity (since Unity 2019.4.8).

Who is Unity Pro for?

Chances are, if you need Unity Pro then you probably already have it, or at least you already know that you need to get it.

While revenue limitations might require you to get Unity Pro early, one of the main reasons for picking it up is for development and deployment to closed platforms, which usually always starts by applying to a specific platform’s development program, during which you may be given a copy of Unity Pro to develop for that platform anyway.

As a result, if you’re a beginner or someone who’s in the middle of their game’s development, there’s probably no reason for you to get Unity Pro anytime soon.

Instead, keep making your game with whatever version of Unity you’re allowed to use and worry about Pro later, even if you’re planning to release on consoles, since your participation in a development program may mean that you don’t need to pay for Unity Pro yourself anyway.

Unity Enterprise vs other plans

While Unity Pro is typically seen as Unity’s top-tier plan, there is another level of support, aimed at much larger developers.

Unity Enterprise is a large-scale Unity plan that starts at a minimum of 20 seats, adding included Build Server licensing (a paid addon with Unity Pro) and additional support and learning resources.

Targeted at large teams, Unity Enterprise, like Pro, doesn’t have any eligibility criteria, meaning that you only need to get Enterprise if you want the additional features it offers.

Which Unity licence should you use?

If you’re a beginner, or even if you’re an experienced developer who makes games for a living, chances are, Unity Personal, so long as you’re allowed to use it, is the best option for you.

It’s fully featured and, from a technical standpoint, can do anything that Unity Plus or Unity Pro can do and allows you to make good money from the games you make.

Generally, the best time to consider upgrading to Unity Plus is when you have to, either because you’re making too much money from your games or because the amount of players you have means that Unity Plus’ extra features, such as increased cloud diagnostics, are now going to be important to your success.

And while you will need Unity Pro to release your game on consoles, it’s important to remember that some platforms, such as Playstation and Switch may provide you with a Preferred Platform Key for Unity Pro anyway as part of their development program. Meaning that, unless you know you need Pro now, it’s generally a good idea to hold off upgrading to Unity Pro until you have to.

This is, in part, because Unity projects are tied to the tier of licence that they were created with, meaning that you can only open a project if you hold the same licence or higher. As a result it’s important to carefully consider when, if at all, is the right time for you to upgrade, as going too early could mean you have to maintain a certain licence level in order to access a particular project.

Generally speaking, Unity’s paid subscriptions, while they can be expensive, tend to scale with success. As you earn more money from the games you make, you’ll need to pay for a Unity licence to keep using it. However, at that point, because Unity’s revenue thresholds are quite high, you’ll be able to afford to anyway.

In the meantime, if you’re trying to decide which version of Unity you should be using, Unity Personal, so long as it’s an option for you, is usually, always, the best place to start.

Now it’s your turn

Now I want to hear from you.

Are you using Unity Personal, Unity Plus, or Unity Pro?

What’s your experience with Unity’s paid platforms?

And what’s your best advice for someone considering paying for a Unity subscription?

Whatever it is, let me know by leaving a comment.

To avoid bias, this article does not include in-content affiliate links for paid Unity plans. If you feel that this article helped you, you can choose to support the blog by using my affiliate link here, which means that I may receive a commission from your purchase at no cost to you. However, in this article, links to paid Unity plans are non-affiliate, and are for your information only.

by John Leonard French

Game audio professional and a keen amateur developer.

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My favourite time-saving Unity assets

Rewired (the best input management system)

Rewired is an input management asset that extends Unity's default input system, the Input Manager, adding much needed improvements and support for modern devices. Put simply, it's much more advanced than the default Input Manager and more reliable than Unity's new Input System. When I tested both systems, I found Rewired to be surprisingly easy to use and fully featured, so I can understand why everyone loves it.

DOTween Pro (should be built into Unity)

An asset so useful, it should already be built into Unity. Except it's not. DOTween Pro is an animation and timing tool that allows you to animate anything in Unity. You can move, fade, scale, rotate without writing Coroutines or Lerp functions.

Easy Save (there's no reason not to use it)

Easy Save makes managing game saves and file serialization extremely easy in Unity. So much so that, for the time it would take to build a save system, vs the cost of buying Easy Save, I don't recommend making your own save system since Easy Save already exists.

Important:

The information in this article is based on my personal understanding of Unity’s product line-up, my opinions on when someone might find their products useful and has been written using the guidance of official documentation and public product pages available at the time of writing. While every effort has been made to verify the information in this article as correct, this post is not endorsed by Unity Technologies and should not be considered to be an official source of information on Unity products and their terms of use. For the avoidance of any doubt, for accurate, up-to-date product information, please refer to Unity’s product pages.

Sources:

  1. unity.com – terms of service/software – (updated 10th March 2022)
  2. Confirmed by Unity Customer Experience Advisor (30th August 2022)
  3. docs.unity3d.com – Manual: Unity Integrations (v2021.3)
  4. Gamedeveloper.com – “Going forward, Unity devs will need Unity Pro to publish on consoles” (published 4th August 2021)
  5. support.unity.com – Developing for Playstation.
  6. support.unity.com – Developing for Xbox.

Image attribution

Comments

  1. Some time ago I had a unity pro license and tried to use Unity’s Success Advisors service but couldn’t find good information about this. Could you share some info about this service?

    1. Author

      Unity’s FAQ’s suggest that you should have received an email from a Success Advisor shortly after purchasing Pro, with details on how to contact them. As for what a Success Advisor can actually do for you, my understanding is that the role, as far as Unity is concerned, is as a point of contact, basically to help you navigate Unity’s services or, possibly, to match you with learning events that you might need. While this might be useful if you don’t know what Unity can offer you, I don’t believe that it’s a technical or developmental support role and it’s likely that your advisor will be there to match you with Unity’s products more than they will be there to help your game succeed. However, I may be wrong, I don’t have direct experience with this service but I’d love to hear from someone who has.

  2. Thanks John, Great article. How about the Pro’s line item of “Over 300 hours of professional training content available”. Is that a worthwhile benefit of the Pro’s plan?

    Thanks,
    Tim

    1. Author

      Hi Tim, while I haven’t confirmed it, I believe that may be referring to Unity Learn premium, which became free for everyone in 2020 (see this blog post for details). As far as I can tell, there’s no other mention that Unity Pro customers get premium learning resources that other users don’t. Additionally, one of Unity’s biggest benefits is that it’s extremely well supported by community tutorials and resources that are either free or low-cost, at least in comparison to the Unity Pro price tag.

      1. Author

        After getting in touch with Unity, they’ve told me that refers to Unity Learn, which I believe used to be a Pro perk but is now free for everyone.

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