Unity Engine ToS change makes cloud-based SpatialOS games illegal

Ceria Alfonso
Enero 13, 2019

Unfortunately for some Unity devs, a recent spat between the engine's creators and the developers of SpatialOS (a cloud service used to create MMOs), Improbable, is putting their projects at risk.

"Though Unity's terms of service were updated at the beginning of last month, Improbable wrote today that Unity only recently confirmed the implications of those changes to it. "Unity has clarified to us that this change effectively makes it a breach of terms to operate or create SpatialOS games using Unity, including in development and production games", Improbable said today".

Unity is well-known as one of the most popular cross-platform game engines.

As one might expect, developers using Unity and SpatialOS have been caught off-guard by the announcement, and the reactions have been diverse.

Epic Games' partnership with Improbable, and the integration of Improbable's cloud-based development platform SpatialOS, is based on shared values, and a shared belief in how companies should work together to support mutual customers in a straightforward, no-surprises way. Indeed, game dev studio Sensiga expressed their concern with Unity's SpatialOS block on Twitter today.

But Improbable can't be certain what the real issue is until it discusses the matter in depth with Unity, something that company plans to continue doing. "We are very concerned about this news, and hope it is some kind of mistake".

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Unity said that developers should not have been affected by the ongoing dispute.

In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, Improbable co-founder Herman Narula speculated that Unity's decision was either an accident or a negotiation tactic, adding in regards to the latter, "We're waiting for someone in the West Coast to wake up and make some ransom demands, basically".

Unity's Terms of Service isn't exactly the most lucid reading material, but the section in question titled Streaming and Cloud Gaming Restrictions seems to lay out a fairly clear rebuke of what Improbable does.

"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". Six months ago, Unity once again notified Improbable of the violation, but seemingly no action was taken.

This caused a ripple effect in the gaming industry, as developers who used SpatialOS quickly began taking their games down from the market. "Failing that, Unity must grant Improbable sufficient legal basis to protect its existing customers, or be honest with the community about the situation". In a blogpost, jointly signed by Epic CEO Tim Sweeney and Improbable CEO Herman Narula, the two companies announced a $25 million fund to help developers struggling due to the move from Unity: "To assist developers who are left in limbo by the new engine and service incompatibilities that were introduced today, Epic Games and Improbable are together establishing a United States $25,000,000 combined fund to help developers transition to more open engines, services, and ecosystems". It isn't known who will take up the offer, but Improbable and Unity's public fighting sure does put them in an awkward position.

While it is still early days and we have yet to see a full response from other game developers and the greater community, be it a speculation, but a massive industry coup has just happened.

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