Unity is beginning to look more and more like the standard for mobile gaming, as mobile developers now account for more than half of the company’s rapidly growing business. Tellingly, two thirds of the games Inside Mobile Apps previewed at the Game Developers Conference last week were built with Unity.
“I don’t think I’ve ever dared to use the word standard myself, but the more the better,” says Unity’s CEO and co-founder David Helgason.
The development platform, which allows developers to create high quality 3D games, has now seen almost a million lifetime users, up from the 750,000 the company reported in November 2011. In just 18 months, the company’s monthly active users have gone from 60,000 to 220,000.
According to Helgason, the company’s growth has largely been in the last two years, and has been primarily centered around mobile. Although the company isn’t aiming to be “just a mobile product,” Unity is working aggressively to expand its reach on mobile. Until April 8, the company is giving away the $800 add-on license that allows developers to create iOS and Android games with Unity. As of last week, the company had already attracted more than 20,000 new customers with the promotion.
“We were a horribly slow-burn company for a long time,” he explains. “We were already on a curve with our web-products and they’re still doing really well, but mobile really accelerated everything. It’s now more than half the business. Adoption is slow — it might take a year to convince someone to use Unity, but one they do, they stick with it and tell their friends. That’s why the curve is so sharp now, but it’s still a slow, long-term process.”
Unity is backed with $17.5 million in funding from Sequoia Capital, David Gardner and others. Although Helgason declined to share any specific revenue numbers, he did reveal his company is profitable its overall revenues grew by about 130 percent year-on-year.
The company’s largest market is still the US, but its Asian markets grew by 270 percent last year, although they started from what Helgason refers to as a “low base.” In September, Unity opened a Japanese office and partnered with GREE to distribute free licenses to Japanese developers. The company now employs 170 people in nine countries.
As Unity has grown, so has its customer base. Originally the engine of choice for independent developers with small teams, Unity is becoming more and more popular with with large companies. This has forced Unity to shift its strategy slightly, growing the product into more all-encompassing toolset that can go head-to-head with heavy hitters like Epic’s Unreal Engine.
To this end, Unity launched what Helgason calls its AAA initiative. The goal was not to surpass the competition’s technical specs, but to ensure that Unity would match them. Unity 3.5 came out of beta on Feb. 14 as a cumulation of these efforts, and includes both technical and workflow improvements to support bigger development teams. However, despite the shift to compete better on the high-end, Helgason stressed Unity’s plan for the mobile space is to continue to grow slowly and act carefully.
“We’ve raised a lot of money, but we’ve never spent that money. It’s all sitting in a bank account because we have to be able to look people in the eye and say we’re not driving for anything crazy, we’re just going to be here,” he says. “I think a company like ours has to act and be a think quite conservatively. If you’re consumer oriented or doing something really cool like Foursquare or Twitter, it’s really a go-big or go home thing. People’s lives are not going to be ruined by a [business like that] failing along the way. With this company, even if we only had one customer, that customer still needs us two years from now.”