Unity's Helgason on the importance of stupidity, going against the grain, and focus, focus, focus for mobile success

PGC Helsinki's fireside chat

Unity's Helgason on the importance of stupidity, going against the grain, and focus, focus, focus for mobile success

"Unity has always been a mission-driven company. We're about always making our tools better and more accessible," said David Helgason, kicking off day two of Pocket Gamer Connects Helsinki 2015.

The Unity founder talked about how this mission resulted in its recent move to make its tools free.

"We're not here to make money from tools," Helgason added.

Indeed, when Unity originally released its first free tier of tools - which he admits were a "bit shitty" - it doubled its userbase overnight.

Ad funded

The result of this saw Unity moving to find new revenues streams outside of its tools business; most importantly developing its ad network.

"We thought developers were not well served by existing ad networks," Helgason commented.'

So Unity acquired Finnish technology company Applifier, developing its ad networking into what is now Unity Ads.

Jussi Laakkonen, Applifier's CEO and now Unity's EVP, Everyplay & Ads, pointed out that "Credibility is really important in the games business, especially in terms of ad networks."

This has been reflected in the growth of Unity Ads, especially in terms of video advertising, which Laakkonen said was now 'chasing down AdColony as the #1 in the video ads market'.

Seeing the future

Yet remaining a multi-platform technology remains vital to Unity's thinking.

Helgason admitted that there was a time when Unity was considered "the iPhone engine", but that if the company had just focused on mobile, "we would not be looking at VR and AR in the same way that we are".

Indeed, Unity is currently the only engine to support all announced devices - ranging from Oculus and HTC Vive to Gear VR, Morpheus and HoloLens.

"People are going nuts over VR. Some of the demos are mind-blowing. It could become a deeply entrenched part of our lives," Helgason commented.

However, Laakkonen pointed out that "commerciality won't be around for a number of years. But we go where game developers go".

Be different

As for the future of mobile games industry - especially for the indie scene that Unity has helped established - both men had strong advice.

"You have to go against the grain," Laakkonen said.

"Find a niche and exploit it. You won't be the next Clash of Clans or Game of War."

"Every big hit is different," Helgason echoed, also joking that stupidity in games such as Crossy Road and Surgery Simulator is an under-rated feature.

But his final advice was more pointed: "Be fucking good at one thing".

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at 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.