Unity Technologies is a Danish gaming technology startup. They provide tools for creating visually-rich 3D downloadable, online, iPhone and Wii games, or other interactive content like as architectural visualizations or real-time 3D animations. The company is based in Copenhagen, but has an international team and a sales office in San Francisco.
The company’s main product is Unity multi-platform game development tool, including a 3D game engine, which enables developers to create cutting-edge 3D content supposedly faster and more efficiently than with other tool sets. The Unity editor only runs on Mac OS X, but it can be used to produce games for Mac, Windows 2000/XP/Vista, Nintendo Wii, and iPhone. In addition, it’s possible to publish a web game played inside a normal web browser from the same project, the visual fidelity being identical to the standalone version. This is achieved by the company’s own Unity Web Player Plug-in for the most common web browsers. The plug-in is said to be already distributed in “6-digit” numbers.
Over the past couple of years, the company has gotten lots of new clients from indie and small shop developers, and a few high-profile customers including Disney, Sony Motion Pictures, and Cartoon Networks. Unity has been used in games, advergaming and edutainment projects, and technology demos. There is quite impressive a variety of games (latest best).
The company promises to combine usability, power, and platform reach in their tools, and seems there is user support for the claim as well. The framework is said to have built-in fallbacks and workarounds to provide solid support for almost all hardware and software combinations. It also presents features like Live Preview for playing the game exactly as it is and do real-time modification, Click to Publish to build the game with one click and running it with another, even directly on an iPhone. Unity also claims that with their tools the developers get the best out of iPhone, “consistently beating GL ES benchmarks by 30-40%.” However, while Unity has features supporting ease of use, like drag-and-drop, it’s still script-based programming tool, so not perfectly suitable for purely visual designers alone.
Unity Technologies is a technology company by heart, they state they’re “all about building technology, driving it forwards, and supporting it.” The company offers the tool with a standard licensing model, differentiating between small developers and companies with turnover in above USD 100,000.
Unity probably finds the biggest market within smaller indie developers and in different special projects (like WolfQuest and Axe Billions), while the big companies most likely will keep using and developing their own tools. Considering the real mass-market, online web gaming, the web plug-in works neatly, but the biggest drawback is exactly the need for it. It’s not possible to install new plugins in many of the public or workplace computers, even though the installation of the Unity plug-in is quick in itself. Gaming sites offering Flash-based games have become hugely popular due to the fact the Flash plug-in is available in pretty much all main browsers. Breaking into the mass-market will thus be difficult. Also, the market for in-browser 3D gaming is still relatively small compared to casual 2D games. There’s also competition, like Adobe ShockWave and services like InstantAction competing for the hardcore gamers. In iPhone game development, on the other hand, it will be interesting to see what kind of customer base Unity is able to get.
If you want to check out a demo, see Unity’s Tropical Paradise browser demo.