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Petition YoYo Games to Change Terms of Their Console Licenses ($799 a Year Each)

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To Playtech and YoYo Game

I'm a indie game developer and the sole owner of a game studio. I have used GameMaker back when it was still in it's early stages (with no console export available). I didn't make any games then though and several years later I see that YoYo games has come out with GameMaker Studio 2, that now has Console Exports. Which got my attention to get back to use the game engine. Mainly because the Nintendo Switch is one of the exports.

The console export license costs either $799 per console export or the Ultimate License is $1,500 for ALL exports available per year. Up front. Before you as a developer/studio has even made any games or money.

For the purpose of clarity, I'll refer to “the Ultimate License” as the Console License. Just because it includes all consoles.

Unlike popular game engines like Unity and Unreal, which allow you to export to consoles and a variety of platforms for basically free.

The only thing is, that with Unity, AFTER you as a developer/studio have made $200,000 in revenue from you game, you need to subscribe to the Unity Pro for $45 a month which is about $540 a year. Which is a LOT cheaper than the GameMaker Console License. But the thing is, even though you need to start paying Unity to continue using it, they don't “require” you to pay until you have earned a certain amount of revenue. So, actually, Unity Pro is paying for itself, if you're already making $200,000 a year, $540 a year isn't a big deal. But on the other hand, paying $1,500 a year starting out with GameMaker, that's a HUGE amount for an indie developer. Especially a single person developer such as myself.

Now with Unreal Engine 4, they just recently said that people don't have to pay them royalties until they have made one million in revenue and even after that, if you don't earn over $3,000 in a single quarter (3 month period) you don't even have to pay Epic anything.

Although this engine doesn't have native console exports, I wanted to mention them just because they still can export to console from third parties. The engine I'm referring to is Godot.

I asked a third party what the costs would be to export a Godot game to the Nintendo Switch and PS4 would be and their cost for the Nintendo Switch was about $5,000 and the export to PS4 was $10,000.

Now you may be thinking, “$1,500 is a lot cheaper than $5,000 or $10,000.” It may seem that way, but it really isn't. Since the $5,000 and $10,000 are ONE TIME costs per game title. Where the $1,500 is a yearly cost. Whether you're game is in development, released, making $20 a year or making a million a year. The $1,500 is a MANDATORY cost no matter what.

And the worst part about the $1,500 a year is that once you stop paying the license cost, you don't have access to the exports anymore. Even if you have 2 Switch games, 5 Xbox One games and 1 PS4 game out. If you stop paying the $1,500 license cost, you've lost access to your console exports and CAN'T UPDATE the builds ANYMORE. I asked the YoYo Staff about this and this is what they told me.

This is bad. Really bad. If for whatever reason someone needed to stop paying the License fee, they've just lost access to their exports (and several thousands of dollars they spent).

What I Would Like to see YoYo Games do

*** UPDATE 5/26/2020

Some people have pointed out that a separate license would be a better option. Yes, I know there is  separate console license, but, it still costs $799 a year for each console. So, even if a developer/studio wanted to release on only 2 of the 3 consoles, they would be paying $1,598 a year. Which now makes only console exports cost even more than the ultimate license.

I know think that rather than lowering the yearly cost for console exports, why not just make a separate "console export" option and make it a one time purchase? I would even pay $1,500 or $2000 for a one time price. Rather than a yearly fee. As indie developers have said time and time again, that the yearly cost of $1,500 is just too much for them.

As I will explain further on down, making console export accessible to more developers/studios will help not only the developers themselves, but YoYo Games and the gaming industry in general.

I made a small calculation of what a developer/studio would pay in 5 years with the GameMaker Studio 2 Ultimate License compared to Unity.

Cost of the GameMaker Studio 2 Ultimate License in 5 years:

  • $1,500 x 5 = $7,500

Cost of Unty Pro in 5 years ($45 a month x 12 = $540):

  • $540 x 5 = $2,700

What you would pay for Unity Pro in 5 years is just $2,700. That's only $1,200 more than the amount YoYo Games charges for ONE year of the Ultimate License.

Again, you don't even have to pay Unity until you meet their threshold of $200,000 in revenue.


Original Text Continues

I have even read on the YoYo Games GameMaker Forums of people saying how expensive they think the license is, compared to what the other “bigger” engines have to offer. While GameMaker Studio 2 is a really good game engine, like some of the people in the forums have stated, they just have less features compared to Unity and Unreal which have both 2D, 3D and VR capabilities while at the same time offering all of that for basically free. While GameMaker Studio 2 is a 2D engine with basic 3D capabilities and charges a premium price for non premium features.

Click here to read the whole forum post: Forum Post

Here are some points that members of the forums have made:

“Having to pay $800 USD for a TEMPORARY module is ridiculous indeed, also, if they're planning to do a subscription model, they should consider MONTHLY subscriptions instead of annual subscriptions.

Really, we have to pay 800 dollars just to test our games on consoles?? Also, there are other costs like Dev Kits, Static IP Address services (Sony) and so on, this business model is just a no-no for indie devs.” - psyke

“I just have to wonder what made YoYo put the console exports up at a premium like that, while the benefits offered are not at a premium.

Unity has a workflow conducive to 3D. GMS 2 does not.

Unity has a field-tested codebase that has been out for years. GMS 2 does not.

Unity has a large professional community with full industry acceptance. GMS 2 does not.

Unity has support for a stable, object-oriented language with official access to edge API resources. GMS 2 does not.

As it stands, the GMS 2 console exports are a hard sell to new clientele. It can't make much of a splash with existing GMS power users only.” - FrostyCat

These next two comments share my almost EXACT feeling and experience on this.

“I agree this is really not a good direction. Non-optional software subscriptions are a *terrible* idea in any scenario (designed to benefit shareholders, not customers) but they are an especially bad idea for indies on a budget. If you have limited funds the last thing you need are additional ongoing software license costs. I don't see how this model could be interesting to anyone who isn't funded by a publisher and as others have pointed out there are other less expensive alternatives. This is actually making me consider holding off on porting my GMS 1.4 projects to GMS2 in case I want to release my game on console later (assuming that existing console export options even continue to be available for 1.4) or to just avoid consoles altogether.” - NinjaDoDo

“As an indie dev who's currently working on console games using GMS 1.4, this news is extremely frustrating and feels like a slap in the face...

I'm all for YoYo making money on their engine, but even as an indie developer with commercial projects on the market (both solo games and with a small studio), I'm NOWHERE near being able to afford $1500 a year for console export, much less $800 apiece per year for Xbox /PS4 export. And the prospect of starting a new console project that might take a few years to complete, that's digging a deep hole without guarantee of cash flow.

So...great, I'll be able to hopefully get my current console project out before 1.4 support gets dropped next year, but THEN what? If that game doesn't wind up being a solid hit, it pretty much pushes me out of making consoles games using GMS. (BTW - if you thought developing PC or mobile games was tough and had a lot of hoops to jump through, 10X that if you're developing for console). The process has been so technically convoluted, that I've been tempted to say bag it and turn back to PC/Mobile development numerous times. It's almost not worth the insane hassle.

As much as I value working with our console partners, NOTHING about the console development process is indie friendly. It's designed for AAA, so expect lots of specific regulations and arbitrary rules/hoops to jump through, lots of added time for approvals and QA/review, and all with no guarantee your game will sell. Honestly, you really need a FT team member who JUST handles paperwork, juggling all the red tape, and scheduling important timetable stuff.

Anyhow, I work FT at a non-games day job, and my solo projects and 3-person studio Touchfight Games are ALL bootstrapping it project by project with zero budget and only a trickle of cash flow from our existing projects. Studio-wise, We run a super tight ship with low overhead to cut down on operating expenses, but until we get a few great selling games out, there's no way we can afford $1500 a year.

This is really disheartening, and as much as I love GMS (despite its jankiness and frustrating bugs) I'm seriously considering Unity. I've been gradually learning Unity, and loving it, but had planned to stick with GMS long-term due to its ease of use for more simple 2D games. Unity's sub model makes a lot more sense...since you're not paying $1500 a year UNTIL you're earning over $200k a year, which means you've become successful enough to afford the expense.

This console sub model was rolled out in a really inelegant, clunky way that blindsides both newer devs looking to use GMS for console export AND existing devs who are currently working on console projects (but don't have them out yet or don't have a "hit" and steady enough cash flow to afford another annual operating expense).

The problem isn't that they're asking a bit more for the licenses -- it's that what they're asking is really unfeasible for a huge chunk of their core indie-focused audience, including developers who are beyond the hobbyist level and are already releasing commercial projects. Sure, you've got a handful of small studios that have used GMS and landed indie hits, but that's not the vast majority of us.

Really sort of grossed out on GSM2 over this. I bought the desktop license (haven't switched over to it yet) and I pretty much don't have a choice but to grab the mobile export module if I want to be able to continue updated/supporting my existing iOS projects beyond next year, but it leaves a pretty sour taste in my mouth. I also feel bad for the newer folks who haven't even gotten started releasing commercial projects yet.” - NathanMeunier

These posts go on for 6 pages.

What I, and a lot of other people would really like to see YoYo Games do, is to lower their Console License costs.

Like, what one person in the forums suggested, is that they could have a “Lifetime License”. This could be a one time License cost. Which, given that it would be a Lifetime cost, could be like, $2,000 or $5,000. I know that's not really in terms of an indie budget or compared to Unity and Unreal's free licenses. But, at least it's a one time cost, that a developer or studio can save for, then purchase outright and have access to their console exports forever.

Or YoYo Games could have a separate “Console Only” License and make it more affordable This could be like a lifetime License, so developers/studio can have access to their console exports forever.

Or maybe YoYo Games could start doing a like Unity and Unreal does and set an amount for developers or studios to reach before having to pay for the game engine.

I would actually go as far to say that this pricing structure is unfair. It's unfair to the developers/studios whose exports they would lose if they needed to stop paying the $1,500 a year License.

How a Lower License Price Would Actually Help YoYo Games and the Game Industry and Consoles

Let's think of it this way. I did a poll in a game development group on Facebook and some people said that the License was either “Too Expensive” or “I Would Use it if it was Cheaper”.

I did the same poll in a couple of Reddit groups having several thousand members and those who did vote in the poll gave about the same response. Mostly people said “No, Too Expensive”. While some did say “I would if it was cheaper”.

Here are the combined results of the polls. I also know that since I posted the same poll in multiple Reddit groups, the same person could have voted twice, but this is what the majority voted.

(I'll update how many and what people voted every few days).

If you use GameMaker Studio 2, do you use their Ultimate License or their Console License? (Console $799 a year Each or Ultimate License $1,500 a year)

Out of 90 Votes (and counting)

  • No, it's too expensive – 63 Votes
  • I would if it was cheaper – 22 Votes
  • Yes, I do pay the the Console/Ultimate License – 4 Votes

Only 4, said “Yes, I do pay the the Console/Ultimate License.” But, look at the other votes who said "No, it's too expensive" and "I would if it was cheaper".

If the Console License was made cheaper and more accessible to more developers/studios, there would be a lot more indie games coming to consoles like, Xbox One, PS4 & Nintendo Switch.

Click to see one of the live polls on Reddit: (I would post more but might be considered link spam) Do you use GameMaker Studio 2 Ultimate License or their Console License?

Don't get me wrong. I really like GameMaker Studio 2 and I PREFER it over Unity or Unreal because of how easy it is to learn GML which is the code language they use.

Having a lower License would also be good for YoYo Games, since they would get more developers/studio buying the Console License.

Because when you make something as accessible as it can be, more people can use it and benefit from it. Both on the Company side and the Developer side.

I had actually been working on a big game in GameMaker Studio 2, for a little over a year because I wanted to export it to Xbox, but when I actually realized what they cost of the Console License entails, I stopped working on it in GameMaker and have now started it again (from the beginning) in Unity. Just because of the Console License cost.

But, I would in a heartbeat, go back and finish the game in GameMaker Studio 2 if the Console License was cheaper or was a different pricing structure. And because of that fact that GameMaker Studio 2 is WAY easier and straightforward to use than Unity or Unreal.

I'm also pretty sure, I'm not the only one who feels this way, or who actually would like to see their GameMaker game on a console, but doesn't have $1,500 a year upfront to spend.

To YoYo Games

If you see this YoYo Games, please listen and consider the reasons in this petition and make the Console License more accessible to more developers and studios. I Believe this would make GameMaker Studio 2 a much more popular and accessible game engine for both the single person indie studios to the larger studios.

Why I included Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony in This

If you see this, as I described above, for YoYo Games to lower the cost of their Console License, more and more indie game developers will have access to console exports, which in turn will amount to more games available on these consoles which amounts to more revenue for these consoles, YoYo Games and the gaming industry in general.

Please negotiate with YoYo Games about how beneficial this price change would be to the gaming industry and how it would empower even the small indie studios to achieve console releases.

To Everyone Reading this

If you agree with my reasoning and feel you would be helped by YoYo Games lowing the cost of their Console License, then please share and sign this petition. Also, comment what a “reasonable” Console License or pricing structure would be. Let's make our voices heard and ask YoYo Games to make Console Licenses more accessible. More and more companies are even getting more accessible towards different walks of people. But, the Console License, in it's current state, is not vary accessible.

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