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From discovery to VR and monetisation: 5 things we learned at Unite 2015 Boston

Fresh from Unity's flagship conference...

From discovery to VR and monetisation: 5 things we learned at Unite 2015 Boston

For all its bright lights and slick presentation, Unite 2015 had a whiff of school summer camp about it through its three day run.

Developers lounged in cross-legged clusters, trading coding tips while munching on complimentary cookies.

Old friends caught up with high-fives and fist-bumps before heading into crammed conference halls where a sea of laptops lit up the faces of those taking studious notes from industry veterans.

Seriously, upon reflecting on the last few days in Boston we have to say that we wish all school summer camps were #MadeWithUnity.

Key executives from Unity took to the stage, alongside representatives from Google, Intel, Microsoft and Sony.

A showcase of games created in Unity overflowed with prospective development talent, while the Unity Awards celebrated those who'd already caught the spill.

So after picking our way between virtual reality demos, briefings, and insightful talks, here are five things we learned during our time at Unite 2015 Boston.

Click here to view the list »
  • 1 Discovery still sucks

    Discovery still sucks logo

    If there was one thing to take away from Unity CEO John Riccitiello's keynote address, it's that Unity is buckling up to help developers get discovered.

    The conference was an opportunity to whip the cloak off Made With Unity (site not yet live) - a new website that will aggregate industry news from around the web, while providing developers with blogging tools and a way to create demo screens.

    Equally, when Clive Downie took to the stage, Unity's chief marketing officer admited that "Discovery kind of sucks. It is one of the hardest problems for game developers... Word of mouth is still the number one driver for discovery."

    That word of mouth is exactly what Unity hopes to harness, promising a vaguely defined "pipeline" to be announced in the coming months alongside more features for the Made With Unity website.

  • 2 Forget Oculus and Samsung, Unity is powering VR

    Forget Oculus and Samsung, Unity is powering VR logo

    It's no coincidence that 12 out of Unite Boston's 74 sessions were devoted directly to VR development tips.

    There was everything from "5 Must Know Design Strategies for Better VR Games" to "The Holodeck is Here: Designing for Room-Scale Virtual Reality."

    In his opening address, Unity CEO John Riccitiello boasted that "Unity is the biggest platform in the world, right in the midle of VR and AR. You look at Vive and their big reveal at E3, they have their own engine but that was built on Unity."

    When we caught up with the man himself for an interview, he was particularly vocal about how he believes virtual reality games will be monetized in the future.

    "In general all content is monetized by two things - either you pay to access it outright or through a subscription, or you have an advertising model.

    "Look at film: it can be monetized by selling tickets, it's a premium product primarily, but if you arrive early you also get 20 minutes worth of advertisements. Then there's Netflix.

    "In the VR model, you might need to pay for an experience like a traditional console or PC [game]. My personal view is that I'm a greater believer in premium models than I am ad-driven models for VR. For VR, it's going to be premium driven."

    And speaking of making money....

  • 3 Unity wants you to make money

    Unity wants you to make money logo

    "We understand as hard as it is to build a game, it can be as hard to monetize and discover that game," CEO John Riccitiello said on stage in his opening address.

    No longer just a creative platform to make games, Unity won't stop shouting about its desire to "democratize game development." In short, it wants to make all aspects of game design and production as easy as possible - and that now means the business side too.

    Unity ads and analytics was the first step down this path. Technical integration of ads is incredibly easy in Unity - since Unity 5.2, you don't even need to have an SDK. All you need to do is check a box that literally says "enable ads," and you'll be given four lines of code.

    Unity's senior director of business development, Jarkko Rajamaki, gave a mini workshop on how to monetize mobile games.

    He said, "It's a misconception that ads are inherently evil and need to be gotten rid of. Some people even try to make ads as horrible as possible, in order to persuade players to pay to remove them. But what actually happens is that most players just stop playing because they're annoyed.

    "What if you let players have a positive experience with ads by using rewarded video? Players choose to watch video and earn a rewward? Content is targeted and relevant with no negative effect on retention. It's 100% user intitiated, the experience is overall positive and the advertisers get better results. The user wins with better experience, the publisher wins with more money."

    In other words, Unity wants game developers to create ads that actually enhance the user experience or provide a sense of fun.

  • 4 Project Tango is a better Google Glass

    Project Tango is a better Google Glass logo

    If you haven't yet heard of Project Tango, you soon will.

    Launched in March 2014, Project Tango is aiming to become the next essential tool for creating 3D models of the world around us. Its potential applications include creating augmented and virtual reality games, indoor mapping and medical uses like helping the blind navigate.

    It's a tablet that was created by Google's Advanced Technology and Projects group (ATAP), formerly a division of Motorola.

    Packing an Nvidia Tegra K1 mobile procesor, its imbued with more senses than most robots have, making it one of the most powerful Android devices created today.

    Presenting the technology on stage at Unite 2015 Boston, project lead Johnny Lee said "We've distributed over 4,000 developer kits and there's 3 categories we've seen applications of this technology - navigation, gaming and utility."

    "You can get up and walk around virtual stories without any wires whether they're on your tablet or headset. We've seen a lot of excitement over AR, and while Google Glass was an early attempt at that, with Project Tango it's a lot more immersive.

    "We know that Project Tango won't be mass market in the super short term, but we're looking to help you promote your new and existing IP, find clients and partners, and gain firect funding and stipends."

  • 5 Top tips for Google Play success

    Top tips for Google Play success logo

    The second day saw a "how to" style talk from Dan Galpin, Google Play's developer advocate, and Maarkus Nuotto, the store's head of business development.

    With over a billion active Android users operating round the world, they wanted to answer the question of how to take advantage of it.

    Well, first off, you need to make a great game - and they admitted that they can't tell you how to do that. However, they did have a few top tips for the things you can do to ensure your quality game gets featured.

    For example, "You'll want to have tablet screenshots submitted to Google Play if you have tablet content, as well as any examples of different on screen controls," advised Galpin.

    Nuotto also pointed towards utilizing Alpha/Beta testing with Google's Staged Rollouts.

    "You can test two versions of your game at once, with a third in production. This makes sure your game will be well loved before the ratings roll in."

    Other top tips included directly responding to bad ratings, and the acknowledgement that "Icons are the single most important marketing icon you have on Google Play - it's worth investing in them."

    Nuotto said that Google can help developers by running store listing experiments and trying out different logos to see which has the most success.

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