Unity has come back with a lengthy response to Improbable’s announcement yesterday that Unity had blocked its Spatial OS for violating its terms of service. Detailing how a long discussion between the companies, and recent updates to its terms of service, brought about the current schism.
The blog post, written by co-founder and CTO Joachim Ante, first sets out to quell the fears of those with currently running or in development projects saying: “Projects that are currently in production or live using SpatialOS are not affected by any actions we have taken with Improbable,” adding that: “Improbable’s blog is incorrect… We have never communicated to any game developer that they should stop operating a game that runs using Improbable as a service.”
That will be a huge relief to the likes of Bossa Studios and Klang. Though it does still prevent any new projects being launched that utilise both companies’ technology.
The post then delves into the reasons behind the issue.
Unity is happy to let users run their games on a server of their choosing: “If a game developer runs a Unity-based game server on their own servers or generic cloud instances (like GCP, AWS or Azure), they are covered by our EULA,” says Ante.
“Improbable chose an approach which doesn’t involve partnering with Unity, but instead involves making unauthorized and improper use of Unity’s technology and name in connection with the development, sale, and marketing of its own products,” he added.
“However, if a third party service wants to run the Unity Runtime in the cloud with their additional SDK, we consider this a platform. In these cases, we require the service to be an approved Unity platform partner.” And this is where things have broken down between the companies.
Ante claims that this has been brewing for some time, with Unity informing Improbable of its issues a year ago, and formally in writing six months back. Saying that it finally took the decision to deactivate Improbable’s Unity Editor license keys two weeks ago.
“We are genuinely disappointed that we have been unable to come to an agreement with Improbable, and their improper use continued until we took the action we did,” he noted. Which does seem to open up the possibility for further discussion and eventual compromise between the two parties.
In the meantime, Epic announced the creation of $25m fund to help developers “left in limbo” to transition to Unreal.
Improbable itself put up another blog post today, this one is far broader though, acting as a call to the games technology companies as a whole, and suggesting some kind of code of conduct and mediation service for future such disputes.
“Ultimately a commercial dispute between two companies, in which both sides have certainly made errors, should never threaten access to essential technology used by a large number of developers,” said Improbable.
Though it still clearly feels that Unity has as much of the blame to shoulder in this case as it does: “We also invite Unity to participate in this broader thinking with us, whatever the outcome of our misunderstanding. You are an incredibly important company and one bad day doesn’t take away from all you’ve given us. Let’s fix this for our community, you know our number.”
Speaking to MCV yesterday, Herman Narula, Improbable’s CEO, told us that: "In truth, we don’t fully understand why this decision was made. We hope it comes down to a mistake and will be reversed quickly.
"We’re currently trying to get in touch with senior leadership to discuss the issue further. We’re aware that the impact this will have on developers through the day will gather a lot of attention. The ideal situation would be for Unity to reverse the change and support developers."
Our take is that while both companies are rightly saying that its developers who need to be put first in all this, they both still need to find an amicable solution quickly. Both to allow the brave experimentation of Spatial OS-powered games to continue, but also to provide confidence to other technology companies what wish to enter the gaming space, but which may be deterred by all this.