Unity is one of the most popular game engines used by developers around the world. But an important question for many is – is Unity free to use or do you have to pay for it? The short answer is that Unity offers both free and paid versions of its engine.
Unity Personal – The Free Version
Unity has a free version called Unity Personal that anyone can download and use to create games and other interactive content. The Personal edition has all the core features needed to develop games and content for a wide range of platforms including mobile, desktop, consoles, AR/VR and the web.
Some key capabilities offered in Unity Personal include:
- The ability to create 2D and 3D games with full source code access
- Support for building and publishing to multiple platforms like iOS, Android, Windows, macOS etc.
- A full featured editor with tools for animation, physics, particles, visual scripting and more
- Access to a large asset store with free and paid assets and plugins
- Real-time rendering and lighting capabilities
- Support for augmented reality and virtual reality platforms
With the Personal edition, you own the content you create and can publish and sell your games without paying royalties or any revenue share to Unity.
The only limitation is that your studio or company revenue from titles built with Unity Personal must be less than $100K in the last 12 months. Once you cross that threshold, you need to upgrade to a paid version.
So in summary, the Personal edition gives you fully-featured game development capabilities for free with no strings attached until your game starts making serious money!
Unity Plus & Pro – The Paid Versions
Once your revenue exceeds $100K in a 12 month period, you need to upgrade to a paid version of Unity to continue development and publishing. The two main paid versions are Unity Plus and Unity Pro.
Unity Plus is the base paid tier aimed at indie developers and studios. It builds on the Personal edition with additional features like:
- No revenue limit – you can publish and earn over $100K with no issues
- Additional build support like WebGL and cloud diagnostics
- Access to source code and priority bug fixes
- Dark skin editor theme
- Standard support via online help and limited email/chat
Unity Plus costs $399 per seat per year when paid annually, or $45 per month when paid monthly.
Unity Pro is the top tier aimed at professional studios and enterprises. It includes everything in Plus along with more advanced features like:
- Team license management
- Advanced lighting, navigation and pathfinding features
- Advanced analytics and monitoring
- Cloud build acceleration and prioritization
- Professional-grade support via chat, email and phone
Unity Pro costs $1,800 per seat per year when paid annually, or $150 per month when paid monthly.
Both Plus and Pro allow you to own your content while removing the $100K revenue restriction. They add more features focused on professional teams, live-ops, monitoring and support.
Other Paid Offerings
In addition to Plus and Pro, Unity offers some other paid products and services:
- Enterprise: A customized high-end product for large studios and corporations with negotiated pricing.
- Unity Teams: A collaboration platform for managing large projects and teams.
- Unity Asset Store: Paid assets, tools, plugins, code and art content created by the community.
- Unity Ads: An ad network to monetize mobile games by displaying ads.
- Unity Cloud Build: A cloud-based build service for automated builds.
So in summary, once your revenue hits $100K, you need to upgrade to Plus or Pro based on your studio‘s specific needs. And at large scale, options like Enterprise, Teams and Cloud Build help manage huge projects.
Key Differences Between Free and Paid Versions
Here is a quick table summarizing some of the key differences between the free Personal edition and the paid Plus/Pro editions of Unity:
|Feature||Personal (Free)||Plus/Pro (Paid)|
|Revenue Limit||$100K in last 12 months||No revenue limit|
|Platform Support||Wide platform support||Additional WebGL, Linux support|
|Source Code Access||No||Yes|
|Support||Community support||Email, chat, phone support|
|Advanced Features||Limited||Advanced lighting, navigation, analytics etc.|
So in summary, Personal gives you full core engine capabilities for free, while Plus and Pro unlocked additional features, platform support and professional services once your studio starts generating real revenue.
Can I Publish Commercial Games with Unity Free?
A common question is whether you can publish and sell commercial games built with the free Personal version of Unity.
The answer is yes – you can absolutely use Unity Personal to build and publish games for commercial sale without any royalties or revenue share as long as you meet the requirements:
- You must be eligible to use the Personal license (less than $100K revenue)
- Your games must comply with the Unity Terms of Service
- You must not reverse engineer or modify the Unity engine code
So there are no hidden costs or catches – you can build real-world games for app stores, consoles and other platforms and keep 100% of the revenue using Unity Personal.
Once you exceed $100K in revenue you have to upgrade to Plus or Pro, but until then you can publish freely. This makes Unity an extremely attractive option for indie developers wanting to build and publish their first commercial titles for free.
What Happens If I Go Over $100K?
A follow up question is what happens if you release a successful game with Unity Personal and happen to go over $100K in revenue in a 12 month period.
If this occurs, you simply have to upgrade all your active project seats to Plus or Pro licenses within 30 days to comply with the terms.
You will not lose access to your projects or code – you can simply purchase the required licenses and keep going. But you cannot mix free and paid licenses, so if you go over $100K revenue, all seats must be upgraded.
Unity provides clear notifications within the editor when you are approaching the revenue limit and prompts you to upgrade when required.
The revenue threshold is based on gross revenue including everything like game sales, in-app purchases, advertising etc. The limit is calculated based on your entire studio, not per-project.
As long as you upgrade in time, you can continue building and publishing games smoothly once you cross that $100K milestone.
Does Unity Personal Have Time Limit?
Another common question is whether the free Unity Personal license has any time limit or expires after a certain period.
The good news is that Unity Personal does NOT have any time limit – you can continue using it as long as you qualify based on revenue, without having to renew or re-download anything.
As long as your studio revenue remains under $100K in a 12 month period, you can use Unity Personal indefinitely for as many projects as you want.
Once you cross the revenue limit you have to upgrade, but there is no cutoff after say 1 year or 6 months – you can use Personal forever as long as you stay under $100K revenue.
So there is no need to worry about your free license expiring – you can take your time to build and publish games with Unity Personal as needed.
Can You Get Job With Unity Skills?
A common goal for many developers starting with Unity is to gain skills that can eventually land them a job or freelance work.
The good news is that there are plenty of job opportunities across industries for Unity developers:
- Game Industry: Studios across mobile, console, desktop and emerging platforms hire Unity devs. Knowledge of Unity is a huge plus for any game programming role.
- AR/VR: Many AR and VR apps are built with Unity, leading to job demand for Unity devs with emerging tech skills.
- Animation/Film: Unity‘s flexibility has made it popular for animated film, video production and visualization which need Unity experts.
- Advertising: Ad agencies and brands use Unity for interactive banners, product configurators and other ad content.
- Training/Simulation: Unity is used widely for corporate training, education, and simulations which require Unity specialists.
So knowledge and experience with Unity can open doors across a wide range of industries beyond just gaming. Both technical and non-technical roles need Unity expertise.
Even if you are just starting out, having some simple Unity projects in your portfolio along with C# coding skills can give you a leg up for many development roles.
Unity skills are especially attractive for startup and indie studios who rely heavily on generalist programmers with knowledge of Unity versus just specializing in one domain.
So in summary, learning Unity can provide very transferable and lucrative skills across tech industries, even if you are just using the free version. The availability of Unity Personal makes it easy to start building a portfolio.
What Are Some Disadvantages of Unity?
While Unity provides a ton of advantages, it isn‘t perfect. Here are some potential downsides to consider:
- Unity uses C# which can have a learning curve for non-programmers. Visual scripting helps, but C# is required for complex games.
- 3D graphics and optimization capabilities may not match engines like Unreal for high-end games. Unity puts more focus on multi-platform support.
- Many assets and tools in Unity Asset Store are paid-only. Quality varies greatly between assets.
- Frequent engine updates can sometimes break existing projects and assets.
- Lacks native support for some specific features like destructible terrain or vehicle physics.
However, Unity continues to improve over time by adding new features and updates for areas where it may have weaknesses compared to rival game engines.
For most indie developers, Unity provides more than enough capability, even with the free version. The core engine is very mature and powerful after years of development and user feedback.
Should Beginners Start with Unity?
Due to its flexibility and large community, Unity has become one of the most popular choices for beginners looking to learn game development.
Here are some key reasons why Unity is great for getting started:
- Availability of free Personal version allows you to get your feet wet at no cost.
- Extensive online resources from Unity and community since it is widely used.
- Support for both 2D and 3D means you can start simple and expand your skills.
- C# is relatively straightforward for beginners to learn vs C++ which is complex but powerful.
- Visual scripting via Bolt allows coding games without writing code.
- Asset Store provides pre-made art, animations, effects and other assets to accelerate projects.
Many industry experts recommend Unity as the best entry point for programmers with little to no game development experience.
The caveat is that you need to be willing to learn C# in order to really unlock Unity‘s full capabilities for complex games. But the learning curve is well worth the payoff for mastering such a versatile engine.
Should Professionals Use Unity?
While Unity has established itself as a great entry-level engine, many professional developers wonder if Unity can scale up for more advanced projects.
The answer is a resounding yes – Unity has proven itself capable of powering hugely successful commercial games like Hearthstone, Cuphead, Escape from Tarkov and Fall Guys.
Here are some key reasons why Unity works well for professional game studios:
- Rapid iteration and prototyping helps test and validate game ideas faster.
- Component-based architecture makes it easy to reuse code and assets between projects.
- Strong multi-platform support to target mobile, console, desktop and web.
- Extensive profiling tools, analytics and optimization guidance for high performance.
- Cloud build support, AutoCAD integration and other pro-level tools.
- Mature ad monetization system with Unity Ads.
By leveraging all the professional workflows in Unity Pro and additive tools like Unity Teams or Cloud Build, AAA quality games can be produced efficiently.
Unity will likely not displace specialized in-house engines at the largest studios. But its flexibility makes Unity a smart choice for professional studios looking to build great games across a range of platforms.
Should You Pay for Assets in Asset Store?
One way to accelerate game development with Unity is by using pre-made assets from the Asset Store marketplace. But should you pay for assets as a beginner?
Paid assets provide useful functionality like saving you time on art, animations, effects and technical features. However, consider a few tips before spending money:
- Search for quality free assets to use at first while learning.
- Only buy assets you fully understand and will use – don‘t overbuy!
- Focus purchases on saving time on non-programming stuff like art.
- For programming, try to build core code yourself before buying plugins.
- Evaluate asset quality and ongoing maintenance and support.
- Use affordable plugins over expensive packages while learning.
Following these tips will help make the most out of your Asset Store purchases. As a beginner, it‘s totally fine to rely solely on free community assets at first as well.
Paid assets can speed up development later on for non-essential stuff that you‘d rather not build from scratch. But try to learn core architecture and gameplay coding without relying too much on plugins as a crutch.
Should You Learn C# Before Unity?
Since Unity relies heavily on C# scripting for actual code, is it worth learning C# first before touching Unity?
It can be helpful to learn some C# basics like:
- Syntax, variables, functions
- Object-oriented concepts like classes
- Arrays, collections
- Conditional logic and loops
With those foundations, you‘ll be better equipped to write C# scripts for tasks like moving characters, implementing game rules, responding to input, and so on.
However, you certainly don‘t need to master C# or become a professional programmer first before using Unity. The best way to get started is to learn just enough C# to follow Unity tutorials, while learning both in parallel.
Over time, focus on improving your programming skills in areas that are critical for your game mechanics and gameplay. Learn other areas of Unity like animation or effects as needed for your game project.
Trying to learn C# completely in isolation may cause you to learn concepts not widely used in Unity game development. By learning C# through game examples in Unity, you‘ll retain it better as well.
To wrap up, Unity makes quality game development accessible to everyone through both a free Personal edition as well as paid Plus and Pro tiers.
The free version has all the core functionality needed to create great games while learning the engine. Paid versions unlock additional features, platforms and revenue potential for serious studios.
Both beginners and professionals can benefit from Unity‘s usability and extensive resources. Learning Unity can provide valuable skills across a wide range of industries and roles.
By leveraging the free tools, expanding your C# knowledge, and using professional techniques, it‘s possible to build and publish games of any scope and complexity with Unity.