The four hallmarks of Unity 5 include increased emphasis on graphics, quality and stability, efficiency, and platform growth. The company made some major strides towards its goals of democratizing development, solving hard problems, and enabling success for developers over the past year, as shown by Unity’s CEO John Riccitiello (pictured above) at the company’s GDC presentation keynote. Riccitiello stated that 38 percent of the top 1,000 mobile games around the world were developed using Unity, up 34 percent from 2015. Unity games were downloaded 16 billion times in 2016, showing a 31 percent growth from the previous year. Lastly, Unity games were installed onto 2.6 billion unique devices, which is two billion more than 2015.
Things are looking bright for the game development technology company, especially given its partnership with Facebook to help build a computer gaming presence on the social platform. Facebook announced that it will be including a digital store in its Gameroom platform so that a targeted audience can purchase games directly. The company also further emphasized its commitment to expanding its platform support, specifically in VR, by officially including Google Daydream and Cardboard into its development suite. Additionally, the company will be helping to bring Western games into the massive, but difficult to enter, Chinese market through a partnership with Xiaomi, which was announced during the keynote.
Clive Downie, chief marketing officer at Unity Technologies, spoke to [a]listdaily at GDC to talk about some of the company’s exciting endeavors and how it continues to grow. He said that, “Unity is only as awesome as the people who use it. That is the God’s honest truth, and that is the power that Unity has.” That power shows across numerous platforms that include mobile, VR, PC and console gaming.
How do you achieve your goals, particularly in the areas of graphics, stability and performance, on the notoriously fragmented Android market?
By working from top to bottom with all of the incumbents you need to in order to understand the majority of challenges. Chip manufacturers, handset manufacturers and the OS developers. You need a multidimensional partnership with all of those three to ensure that you understand the stack rank of challenges and how they impact the developer audience.
The second thing you do is invest in it. There isn’t an easy path. You have to invest in the best engineers tackling the problems, and have lots of them. We’ve invested in our engineering teams substantially over the Unity 5 cycle, in all areas. You use a combination of those two strategies. It’s not magic, it’s just hard work.
Another thing that augments those two is our Unity analytics solution. If you enable Unity analytics and hardware intelligence in your product, we’re able to see the performance of your game on the widest range of hardware. We can use that to pinpoint the challenges that exist and go after them.
Unity presented impressive growth numbers for the past year. What is the approach toward further growing that success?
One of the things that we didn’t touch today [at the keynote] was that we have a lot of 2D and mobile technology in development. When I think about how we go about growing our share, I think it’s in continuing to make great technology that makes making games on mobile easier. Also, I think there’s going to be ongoing continued adoption of Unity by the mobile developer ecosystem because they realize that there’s proof that making games on Unity and launching them on mobile leads to success. I think we’ll see continued organic growth that is accelerated by some of the new technologies we’re making for mobile.
How do you think mobile VR will grow, and is there a competitive difference between the Google Daydream platform and the Samsung Gear VR, backed by Oculus?
I believe in mobile VR, and I think it will be continue to be adopted. Like any platform, it needs great content to grow. I’ve played a lot of the Daydream products, desperately hoping for a killer app. It’s a personal opinion, but I don’t think there is one yet. However, I know that Google has invested in partnering with content creators and there’s a lot that’s in production. So, I’m hopeful that we’ll see killer apps and content come out. That, plus the addition of Daydream hardware from different vendors is going increase the accessibility. So, 2018 is going to be an interesting year for Daydream.
Samsung and Gear VR were pioneers in that area. They have a good position and foundation to work off of. I think they faltered somewhat with the Galaxy Note 7’s battery challenges, but they’ve picked themselves up well and it appears that they’ve solved them. So, I think they’ll capitalize on their Gear VR head start and will also continue to grow as good content comes in. We’re seeing a lot of people come in to develop for mobile VR across the Unity ecosystem. There’s a sign there that content is coming, and content is king. So, as content comes in, both Daydream and Gear VR are going to grow.
How did the partnership with Xiaomi come together?
We have a really good country team in China, all the way from the leadership to the marketing and ad team. They fostered relationships with the key partners in China. We talked to Xiaomi and understood their aspirations and they understood ours. It felt like there was an opportunity for us to do something exciting for developers, so we did. It’s very exciting, and we’ll see what comes from that, but I think it will only be good things for Western developers.
Many people probably still relate Facebook games to the Flash games of the past. What would you say Facebook gaming is now?
I think what Facebook gaming now is the ability for you to take your PC executable product and put it in front of Facebook’s audience in a targeted way through its Gameroom product. This isn’t the Flash game past of Unity on Facebook. These are PC executable, standalone products that Facebook will distribute into its audience through Gameroom. It’s a way for developers to take sophisticated PC products and get them in front of a very scaled audience in a targeted way.
What do you think will be the biggest things consumers and marketers have to look forward to in gaming in 2017?
I think consumers can look forward to killer apps coming to mobile VR. Every platform goes through an early moment where the pioneers come in to experiment and learn, then make the next generation of content, which is supremely polished and immersive. They can also look forward to a richness in graphics and therefore a new kind of experience that hasn’t been seen on mobile. Mobile has generally been about one-and-a-half or two cycles behind consoles in terms of visuals, but it’s catching up. That means that customers will have a new type of immersion on mobile.
The PC gaming market is blossoming because of indie game developers. The experimentation happening on PC and the new kinds of games, both with business models and mechanics, is really where innovation is happening. I think it’s going to be another great year for PC gamers.