Eric Johnson

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Unity Plans to Publish, Cross-Promote Mobile Games

At its annual Unite conference today, Unity Technologies said it planned to move more aggressively into business verticals around mobile games, rather than just working inside those games as it has in the past.

For the uninitiated, Unity is a “game engine,” a software ecosystem for making games that may be ported to multiple supported platforms. Among the company’s announcements today is the official launch of a mobile publishing arm, Unity Games, and a suite of app-advertising and cross-promotion services, Unity Cloud.

The publishing project actually began its work in July, when Union — a platform for syndicating Unity games to “niche” platforms like Roku and smart TVs — rebranded as Unity Games along with the publication of a new title, Gears, to the (much more mainstream) Google Play store on Android. This autumn, two mobile games will be published under the Unity Games label to both Google Play and the iOS App Store: A sports game, Freeride Ski Cross, and an action-RPG, Archangel.

“Publishing” is a four-letter word for some devs, especially indies who see publishers as artistically limiting, but Unity is positioning itself as a safe bridge, since it maintains good relations with both the developer community and the zoo of app stores around the world.

“Our mission is to elevate the status and success with independent developers,” Oren Tversky, Unity’s VP of business development, said during the Unite keynote. “You guys are great at making games. We’re looking to provide a bunch of complementary services that make games successful.”

In an interview before the keynote, CEO David Helgason acknowledged that publishing — unlike graphics — is “not something we can do at scale,” since Unity Games will want to pick winners that can compete in the crowded mobile field.

And speaking of crowded: Unity’s other new initiative, Unity Cloud, is joining a busy fray of companies targeting that cadre of DIY developers, many of whom are monetizing their games without going down the publisher route. Launching into beta today, the ad network will compete with cross-promotional tools like Chartboost that try to monetize mobile gamers, primarily by serving targeted interstitial ads within games for other games.

During his keynote at Unite, Helgason said that a survey of 22,000 Unity users found that a majority was not using competing cloud services products, and developers who were using those services largely reported being unhappy. Unity Cloud’s advertising partners for the beta launch include Kabam, Glu and Supercell, and the company hopes that the ad network will leave beta and roll out to all of its users quickly. Update 1:49pm PT: A Supercell representative says it is not involved with Unity Cloud and that Unity should not have mentioned the company in the keynote announcement.

Unity Cloud’s potential edge over the competition comes from the fact that it will be baked into the Unity graphics engine currently used by 400,000 developers monthly. So, instead of adding a new SDK on top of one’s game, Helgason said, registered Unity licensees would just have to flip one switch in their back-end settings to get started.

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