The Unity boycott worked: its ad network and UA business have both taken a hit


Unity’s ad network could have shrunk by up to 30% as a result of the Unity boycott, says admon consultant Felix Braberg. And Unity Ad CPIs are up by 35%, weakening the effectiveness of its UA business, says marketing firm Tenjin.

The estimates are the first signs of damage after Unity announced its controversial Runtime Fee policy. It prompted over 1,000 developers to switch off all Unity and IronSource ad products in protest. Unity later apologised and softened its policies, but the boycott continues.

One major publisher who signed the boycott letter told us, however, that it was “not sure how long the boycott will last”.

“The latest change in their policy was relatively well received, mostly because it will only impact future releases of Unity, giving us more time for negotiations or alternatives,” the publisher said. “It is very unlikely we migrate our existing portfolio to a different engine at this stage.”

Further reading: ‘Unity says sorry – again – and reveals its revised pricing plan‘.

The publisher added that it shut off Unity ads on its major titles but kept them running in smaller games and hasn’t seen any significant drop in revenue. Other ad networks are making up the shortfall, so the publisher will likely continue to leave Unity out of its marketing mix.

We asked ad monetisation consultant Felix Braberg to estimate the impact of the boycott on Unity’s ad network. He told us: “After reviewing DSP data, the Unity exchange looks like it’s shrunk by 17-30% due to the publisher boycott. Less supply will increase prices of UA on the Unity network.”

Tenjin marketing director Roman Garbar says there’s been “A 35% increase in CPI for Unity Ads over the past two weeks,” according to the marketing firm’s data. “Although CPI is influenced by multiple factors and tends to fluctuate, the recent spike strongly aligns with the start of Unity’s ad monetization boycott,” he told us.

Anonymised data collected by Tenjin over the last month suggests that CPIs have risen from just under 0.175 when the boycott began to hit 0.25 on Friday September 27.

“The spike itself isn’t entirely surprising,” Garbar continues. “The real question was the extent of its impact. User acquisition and ad monetisation are two sides of the same coin. When publishers disable ad monetisation in their apps, there are fewer slots available for advertisers to promote. This reduced supply intensifies competition for existing placements, resulting in higher CPI for everyone who wants to acquire users via Unity Ads.”

“For other ad networks, it’s business as usual. This only underscores the effect of the boycott. The new question now is whether all publishers will re-enable Unity Ad monetisation. If they do, we can expect a decrease in CPI.”

UA consultant Matej Lancaric says, however, that the boycott has been ineffective among his client base. “Looking at multiple accounts on Unity, there is no CPI increase whatsoever connected to the boycott or Unity runtime fee at this moment,” Lancaric told us. “We might see increase in the upcoming days which could be connected to Q4.”

Further reading: ‘Unity boycott begins as devs switch off ads to force a Runtime Fee reversal‘.

At the time of writing over 1,000 game studios have now signed up to the Unity boycott organised and announced by the United Game Devs group. Just as Unity announced its partial reversal of its controversial Runtime Fee policy, the developer group reiterated its commitment to switching engines to alternatives like Godot.

“The main problem is that an update to the runtime fee doesn’t solve its fundamental issue: its existential impact on the game dev community,” read the statement. “Building a games business while paying runtime fees, even with its proposed revenue cap, is not an option, and many developers will use the old version of Unity Engine to avoid that fee. The latest announcement shows again that the game developer community has no choice but to explore and focus on other engines.”

“Sadly, Unity is also unwilling to openly communicate with its community in a true dialogue to find common ground and a workable solution. Instead, it chose again to inform its community of its changes as a fact. The market rules are simple – everyone prefers to do business with partners whose changes in terms and conditions are transparent and consider developers’ interests.”

“That is why the community will not rely on Unity in the long run and already started migrating to other engines. As United Game Devs, we will focus on fostering and investing in open-sourced engines.”

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