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GameMaker engine goes free for non-commerical use in wake of Unity debacle

Following Unity’s massive pricing gaffe, GameMaker is doing something different

Chicory: A Colorful Tale screenshot, with a puzzle shown on screen and a small white dog in the middle.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale was made in GameMaker.
Image: Wishes Ultd., Greg Lobanov, Alexis Dean-Jones, Lena Raine, Madeline Berger, A Shell in the Pit/Finji
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

In the wake of Unity’s massive pricing controversy, which saw game developers boycotting the engine, GameMaker is doing something different with its technology: making it free for all non-commercial use. GameMaker is also switching is PC-based commercial license to a one-time fee of $99.99. Console game developers will still need to purchase the “enterprise” license, which is a monthly $79.99 fee, or $799.99 yearly.

“We have seen other platforms making awkward moves with their pricing and terms, so we thought, what if we did the opposite, something that could actually be good for developers?” GameMaker lead Russell Kay wrote on the company blog. “Our success is measured by the number of people making games!”

Kay is likely referencing the wildly unpopular changes to Unity’s pricing structure, which were announced — and somewhat backtracked — earlier this year. Unity’s proposed price changes are tied to the number of times a game is installed and run, and created lots of confusion around their complicated structure. Unity is no longer forcing developers into the new program, but expects to apply the fee for future versions of the engine.

Opera Software, known for its Opera web browser, acquired GameMaker owner YoYo Games in 2021. Kay said GameMaker has “seen a three-fold increase in its active users” since then. Lots of commercial games use GameMaker — Chicory: A Colorful Tale, Undertale, Hotline Miami, and plenty more — but it’s also an important platform for new developers to learn to make games. The new pricing structure makes it even more accessible for people looking to give game development a go. Beyond the pricing of the game engine itself, GameMaker has also made all its asset bundles free, too — another way to make development more accessible.

The next level of puzzles.

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