HTML5 a threat to UNITY3D?

Spread the word

Well you can make web games in the following ways:

  • Unity3D. Very easy to make games with this and play them on the browser via the Unity web player.
  • Html5 and javascript. Using libraries like canvas, easelJS etc and some simple physics engines like Box2D, one can make some really cool games.
  • Build games using flash.

Unity3D to bind them all

Unity3D is primarily a tool that developers use to create games. While I have no doubt the Unity3D Web Player is an important component to their strategy, the soon-to-be-released flash export from Unity shows that Unity Technologies will continue to focus on providing a superb middleware / game engine, and not on creating a new web standard. Unity3D is not the dominant 3D plugin on the web, Unity 3D is the dominant 3D application authoring platform on the web and mobile devices.

First of all, think of Unity as a high level language (like C++ or Javascript) and HTML5 as a low level language (like assembly language). Most developers (professional and hobbiest) choose high level languages over assembly language even for applications where performance is critical. Then add into that analogy the reality where HTML5 today lacks both the speed and power for most of the functionality that Unity provides.

And second of all, the Unity team has shown with their 3.5 release that they understand their real value proposition is in being a content authoring pipeline not in being an end-user plugin. The 3.5 release includes the ability to export to Flash 3D, Chrome’s new integrated WebGL + NaCl runtime, iOS, Android, Windows, OSX, and their own Unity3D browser plugin. HTML5 is a long way from matching the 3D (or even 2D) functionality Unity offers today but if HTML5 ever does reach that level it stands to reason Unity will simply add HTML5 to their export list.

Being the dominant 3D application authoring platform is a much better business model than being the dominant 3D browser plugin, that’s why Unity3D is making the decisions it is making and why HTML5 is not a threat to its platform.

On the other hand: Unity3D a dominant authoring platform

The answers here seem to say HTML5 could potentially threaten the Unity Web Player, but not Unity3D since it’s the “dominant 3D application authoring platform”. Long-term however, I think HTML5 will indirectly cause problems for Unity3D as it lowers the barrier to entry for developers.

A huge part of the appeal of HTML5 is that it works on any modern device. WebGL is starting to catch up as well with support on Android, and support coming in IE11 and (presumably) iOS (I say presumably because it was implemented in iOS5, but limited to iAds).

Performance has long been the issue for HTML5 games on mobile devices, however it is rapidly improving. It’s a matter of how efficient the JavaScript engines can get to put it on or near the same level as native code. If that can be achieved, then “native” loses its main advantage.

How this plays in to the Unity3D discussion is, if HTML5 (including WebGL) achieves it’s idealistic goal of native-like performance and support on all modern devices, individual exports for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, even the consoles, become meaningless. All that would be required is an well-produced HTML5 export. If and when that happens, competing companies can put more focus on the game development tools rather than how to export games to a multitude of platforms.

As an example, there is Construct 2 (http://www.scirra.com/construct2), a game maker/engine that only produces an HTML5 export. Right now it’s able to produce games for just about any device you could hope for, but it’s still a little finicky for some. Where it gets really impressive if that until this point it has only been a tandem of brothers developing the tool and has had over 500,000 downloads.

Construct 2 is for 2D games, and I know the leap to 3D is a huge one, but the point I’m trying to make is: If companies don’t have to worry about the overhead for supporting so many different platforms, and instead focus on just HTML5, it becomes a whole lot easier to reach the level of Unity3D. Of course, it’s not an easy task, because Unity is a fantastic tool, but it does lower the barrier to entry.

Any Plans To Support HTML5 In Unity3D?

With the news of Windows8 cutting support for plugins for their default browsing experience, this puts both the Unity3D webplayer and the Flash export option on borrowed time. Both, Microsoft and Apple are gunning for the end of web plugins, the future of dynamic web content is quickly shaping up as one run off of html5, as it will be the only option.

If Unity wants to remain in competitive in the webspace in the near future this feature is nothing more then a non-negotiable requirement.

I am really put off that this thread started 2 years ago and there is no real commitment of Unity on this. In order to illustrate please let me use an example:
Imagine yourself negotiating with any company to create them a game which advertises their product.

  • Yes, yes Mr/Mrs X, we use the outstanding Unity3D for programming, able to put YOUR product on Iphones, Android, PC downloadable.
  • Can you put this game into Flash?
  • Not anymore, because that is instable and Unity ceased its support (REMARK: Totally understandable from my side)
  • Can you somehow put it on the net?
  • Yes, you can download the plugin and it will run properly.
  • Plugin??? But then I already loose a lot of contacts not willing to install anything on their computer. Or what about users in strict networks, like companies with strict IT policy. How will they access my game over the net?
  • There is no solution for that, sorry.

AND THIS IS WHERE THE WHOLE NEGOTIATION ENDS.

In terms of percentage of page viewers that actually load the game content, the anecdotal numbers we’ve heard in the past for Unity 2.x content fall in the range of 60-80%. Keep in mind that those have generally come from gaming specific sites and often ones with particular games of interest so the users were “motivated” to do the install. That 60-80% of people are a mixture of those that have the plugin already and those that complete the install process, I don’t know any numbers on that second part in isolation.

FYI, with Unity 3’s improved Windows install process we expect those numbers to creep higher, but first we have to wait for the player to have been out there in the wild a bit longer. – Gilbert Gregg, Unity Technologies (3 Nov, 2010)

Back to where we are with Unity3D

Come on, this is not a question of could. You should realize that there is a huge potential in your product than “just” producing games, I myself already use your product for a non-game application, which I would love to put onto the web, spread the word to as many people as possible. But downloading the plugin at least cuts my potential to an all time low and provides no access to company employees accessing my site, because the strict IT policy blocks them from loading apps.

Moreover maybe I miss something, but there are already examples of products able to make 3D animations and interactivity in HTML5. Please take a look at playcanvas.com. On their site they say: “3D HTML5 Game Engine. Create games that run plugin-free in any modern browser. Hardware-accelerated using WebGL” WHY CAN’T UNITY ACCOMPLISH THIS? Stay tuned to what Unity has to offer in the long-run! Maybe you have some valuable insights? Please comment in the section below; I’d appreciate it!

Comments (3) Write a comment

  1. Okay… go on. I am intrigued. I like WebGL and its motivation! Are you using WebGL in any projects?

  2. Hi Pete,

    I like your energy. I must confess I am a JS hipster but I am also working with Unity at the moment and I must confess Unity changed quite a bit since I last wrote the post entry. Anyway, thanks for your comment! Do you work with Unity?

    Cheers,

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