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GDC 2019: Unity expands value-chain role via new partnerships and delivers high-end features as next-generation approaches

March 21, 2019


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Unity partners Tencent Cloud to help developers enter Chinese market

At Unity’s GDC 2019 keynote, the company announced both improvements to the Unity Engine including numerous tools, and a few new partnerships to consolidate its position as a developer-first platform. The partnership with Tencent Cloud, for example, will help developers to enter the Chinese market. Unity also announced the AR Foundation for preview, which will help AR app creators bridge the development gap between ARCore and ARKit.

Unreal Engine 4 and Unity are two of the most widely used game engines today, each of which are employed by some popular titles. Unreal Engine 4 is employed by most high-end games given its graphical capabilities, while Unity is preferred by mobile developers considering its easily-accessible tools and features.

Changing the Unity narrative in the build-up to next-gen

The upcoming improvements to the Unity engine and development tools mean it will be poised to compete on par with Unreal Engine on upcoming platforms such as the recently announced Google Stadia, and the next generation of games consoles. This shift in focus towards more pioneering technological developments was exemplified by their solution for real-time ray-tracing – an elusive but sought-after technique that was previously considered out of reach. What’s more, there are high expectations in terms of both gameplay and the continuation of an established legacy for newly-announced games System Shock 3 and Oddworld Soulstorm. The System Shock 3 trailer showcased graphics that were uncharacteristically high-end for Unity, and will assist in the re-positioning of the development platform as a viable option for AAA-quality games and photorealism.

Increased exposure through Activision

Despite a clear focus on high-quality output and new features for developers, Unity also gained considerable exposure through Activision’s decision to provide an exclusive first look at Call of Duty Mobile during the GDC keynote. This shows that Unity will likely continue to dominate the mobile space, which is the fastest growing gaming platform. The look and feel of the game mirrors its console performance, a feature formerly associated with Unreal Engine, and the addition of classic maps from previous franchise entries will attract new users to the mobile platform.

Addressing smaller developers

Unity sets scripts on objects and uses mostly C# or JavaScript, which not only increases ease of learning but improves development efficiency. However, the programming language Unreal Engine uses is C++, which is the hardest coding language to learn, raising the barrier of entry for newcomers. Unity supports 27 platforms which allows developers to optimize content which is compatible with multiple operating systems. In contrast, Unreal Engine is less compatible with mobile platforms and its Android optimization is still under development. With intense competition in the mobile games market, developers are aiming for shorter game development cycles to save R&D spend whilst targeting a broader audience. This way, they can generate more revenue and improve marketing efficiency. This explains the popularity of Unity among smaller mobile developers.

The launch of the Unity Distribution Portal (UDP) open beta will also support smaller developers, and adds another dimension to Unity’s dominant role in the mobile games industry. Through a single hub, developers will be able to publish their mobile titles across third-party app stores in emerging markets and thus expand their player base globally. Confirmed UDP stores are largely embedded in the booming Asian app market and include Catappult, southeast Asian favourite Moo Store, and the second largest app store in Korea, ONE Store. This will bolster Unity’s presence in Asia - a theme throughout the keynote – and allow developers to access the highest-spending mobile gaming market in the world.

Unity seldom supports MMORPG titles

Compared with Unreal Engine, Unity supports fewer MMORPG mobile titles. They typically require a higher level of actual visual content such as landscapes, characters and creatures. Unity offers a lot of standard tools, but when developers want to present complex scenes, they must either use a third-party plugin, or write multiple advanced tools for extension. In contrast, Unreal Engine offers official support of graphical effects including diverse rendering and new particle systems. As such, recently-released mobile titles that were adapted from established PC franchises have employed Unreal Engine to present a similar gaming experience to the PC version; attracting fans of the original game.

A table of titles developed by Unity and Unreal:

 

Unity

Unreal

Selected PC titles

Ori and the Blind Forest, Hearthstone, Firewatch

Fortnite, Lost Ark, PUBG, Paragon, Starcraft 2,

Selected mobile titles

Honor of Kings, R.O Mobile, Temple Run

PUBG Mobile, Lineage 2 Revolution, Blade & Soul Revolution

Selected console titles

Overcooked 2, Blitzkrieg 3

GTA 5, Gears of War

Selected VR/AR titles

Beat Saber, Pokémon GO

Robo Recall, The Machines

 

Supporting developers to enter the Chinese market

Unity has long collaborated with Tencent on its flagship mobile titles, which include Honor of Kings, Crossfire Mobile, and more recently, Call of Duty Mobile. The announced partnership with Tencent Cloud, which will help developers enter the Chinese market, suggests that Unity is shifting up the games value chain into areas normally associated with publishing. Tencent is strategically focused on cloud gaming services in 2019 and is seeking developers to access and debug its cloud platform. Unity acting as an intermediary between Tencent Cloud and game developers will not only help developers to deliver a better gaming experience with cloud technology, but will also support their entrance into the Chinese market. The Tencent Cloud platform offers a complete and flexible cloud solution to diverse industries, in line with Unity’s strategy to reach a broader range of customers beyond game developers.

Unity’s expansion into Chinese territories via Tencent Cloud, its focus on the development of high-end features and its ambitious new projects in both the mobile and console/PC sectors suggest that it will provide solid competition for Unreal Engine across the spectrum. Unity is an established staple for mobile developers and, if successful in its AAA PC endeavours, this combination could see Unity edging ahead.

 

 

Geography
China Global
Organization
Tencent
Research by Market
Media & Advertising
Category
Games
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