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What the ad industry and in-game advertising can learn from Unity's runtime fees

by Nick Woodford

September 26, 2023

Last week, Unity (a cross-platform game engine designed to be affordable and flexible and widely used by the indie game community to build titles such as Pokemon Go, Among Us, and Fall Guys) announced it would introduce a new Runtime Fee. The announcement from Unity stated that developers of a specific size will have to pay every time their game is installed on a new device after January 1, 2024.

According to Brendan Sinclair, MD of, “It doesn't sound like a lot, and if a developer just had to pay the fee each time they sold a $60 game, it wouldn't be. But there are problems because these charges are based on game installs, not sales.”

As expected, there has been a lot of backlash from the game developer community, with many studios threatening to ditch the tech in protest. In response, Unity has begun to backtrack on its decision. At the time of writing, they have issued a statement saying they apologize and will revise the planned policy changes.

So, what can we learn from this?

First, this update shows that developers are extremely passionate about their craft and understand the value of what they create. If you work for a brand or agency, it can be very easy to detach yourself from the channels and platforms that your (or your client's) ads run on, especially if you are regularly overseeing large omnichannel campaigns. However, taking time to ensure your ads are running in premium environments and that the creatives you’re using complement them can help ensure your campaigns resonate with your audience.

Last year at Anzu, we ran an extensive survey to understand how people who play games feel about in-game ads. When asked what advice you would give advertisers planning to launch a campaign in-game, the most popular answer was that relevance is the golden rule — cementing that players want the ads that they see in their games to elevate the experience. More recently, we brought together three indie game developers to do a live talk on their monetizing experiences with in-game ads.

During the session, Danny Jugen, president of Axis Games, an indie studio behind the hit PC sports title Axis Football, said, “The idea is to make a great game first. We could all fill every inch of the screen with ads, but it wouldn't take long before the gamers no longer play. So, when we are looking at our stadiums and how we place ads, we place ads in locations where users are expecting to see ads. Our approach has always been to make things consistent for the players and show an appropriate amount of ads. This formula has worked really well for us.”

Why respecting the gaming environment will only become more important

Respecting the gaming environment will continue to be a hot topic for advertisers, developers, and players as in-game ads continue gaining momentum and becoming more commonplace outside the mobile ecosystem.

When the App Store first launched, and mobile game publishers began monetizing with ads, many took the same practices from other channels and simply implemented them into their games. For a long time, this was the norm. However, with new players growing by the day — Newzoo currently puts the count at just over 3.38 billion — and Gen Z less tolerant of intrusive ads, the expectations around how ads should look and feel within mobile games are changing.

On top of this, in-game ads are beginning to appear within games on other platforms like PC and console (the above-mentioned Axis Football is played on PC). Many developers who build titles for these platforms are looking to in-game ads to help them offset the large costs now associated with game production to help them compete in a now hugely saturated market.

Succeeding in the gaming space

Gaming is unlike any other advertising platform that has come before. To succeed in this space, we recommend doing it carefully, ensuring you consider what platforms your ads might appear on, which kind of players you are targeting, what genres and games make sense for your brand, and whether your creatives are right for the 3D gaming world. Doing all of this will help boost your campaigns and ensure that the entire ecosystem is respected, you as an advertiser, the developer of the game, and the players.

This may seem like a lot to consider. However, to ensure you set yourself up for success, it’s important to choose a partner who can help you navigate the gaming world and has experience working with game developers and running successful in-game campaigns.

Head here to learn more about Anzu’s market-leading in-game advertising solution.


video games
in game ads