Interview

Unity's Brett Seyler explains how its Union aggregation scheme will drive support for new platforms and revenue for developers

Unity's Brett Seyler explains how its Union aggregation scheme will drive support for new platforms and revenue for developers
Such is the current energy around digital distribution, it's no wonder that previously uninvolved companies are looking into the possibilities of adding publishing services to their business model.

UK prosumer middleware outfit YoYo Games is porting web content to iOS and PSP Minis with Android to follow, while Gendai Games, the US company behind the GameSalad Creator, has just launched its similar Accelerator initiative.

Even Unity, the most successful middleware company in recent years, is getting involved. It announced its Union program at its annual Unite developers conference in November.

The scheme isn't traditional publishing however. Instead, as Unity's veep of strategy Brett Seyler explains, it follows more of a business to business aggregation model.

"We often get approached by companies who want to source Unity content, say for new hardware launches. Union is a way of enabling our developers to make the most of these opportunities that as individuals companies they wouldn't otherwise have access to," he says.

Come one, come all

What's significant about Union is that it's open to all Unity developers to submit complete games for, with only the lightest approval filter being applied in terms of a game's technical and basic legal integrity.

"Of course, the companies we're talking to will likely have their own criteria in terms of the type and number of games they'll accept, but we want to offer them as many titles as possible," Seyler says.

IP rights remain with the original developers and all revenue generated is split 80:20 with Unity taking the smaller slice; something Seyler points out is unlikely to provide it with a breakeven.

Instead, as well as provided a better ecosystem for its developers, Union forces Unity to ensure its technology - engine and development environment - supports new and upcoming platforms.

If, for example, an OEM wants content for its new device that's running a non standard OS, or is launching a new app store it wants to populate quickly, Unity's core coders will have ensure they're providing the wider community with the required tools so the folk at Union can do the required deals.

Alongside new mobile platforms, others potentially in the mix in terms of getting Union support include the burgeoning social sites, internet-enabled TVs and tablets.

"It should only take a couple of weeks to look at new platforms and scope out how much work adding support will take," Seyler reckons.

This activity might even stretch to Unity staff helping developers port their games, although it's expected that in most cases while Unity provides the heavylifting when it comes to the underlying code, developers will port their content themselves.

"In many cases, it could just be a case of pre-compiling assets and code using our tweaked technology. We'll try to automate the process as much as possible," he adds.

First move advantage

With Union announced but not yet commercially launched, there should be time to sort out these details, although Seyler reckons the first deals could be announced in early 2011.

Of course, developers are enthusiastic about the opportunity, with over 500 expressing immediate interest in signing up.

"It's a scary move for us in terms of shifting away from dealing with tools, but it also seems like a natural move in terms of how the market is going and what our developers require," Seyler says.

"I hope in 2011, we'll be able to get our developers' content live in the launch windows for devices that have the potential to be as big as iOS or Android."

You can find out more about Union via its website.

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.

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