A fresh drama has emerged between Unity and Improbable. According to yesterday’s blog post by the SpatialOS creator, Improbable says that Unity has blocked SpatialOS based on a recent change in Unity’s terms of service (clause 2.4). Unity has contested this stating Improbable’s blog post was misleading and added that they have terminated their relationship with Improbable without affecting anyone using SpatialOS.
What did Improbable say?
Unity had updated their terms of service on Dec 5 and then informed Improbable directly on Jan 9 that their service has been revoked on the Unity’s game engine. Per the blog, “all existing SpatialOS games using Unity, including production games and in development games of all developers, are now in breach of Unity’s license terms.” The blog also states that Unity has put a stop for Improbable to continue working with the Unity engine, affecting their ability to support games.
The blog post disapproved Unity’s decision stating that Unity’s actions have done harm to projects across the industry, especially affecting vulnerable or small scale developers. Moreover, this is a threat to games that have been funded based on the promise of SpatialOS to deliver next-generation multiplayer as their choice of game engine.
The improbable team has also stated that going further they would be helping developers using SpatialOS with Unity to finish, release and operate their games and set up an emergency fund. They are also fully open-sourcing the code of SpatialOS Game Development Kit for Unity, under the MIT license.
How did Unity respond?
Unity has termed Improbable’s blog as ‘incorrect’ stating that they have “terminated their relationship with Improbable due to a failed negotiation with them after they violated Unity’s Terms of Service. However, anyone using SpatialOS will not be affected.”
Unity also assures that even 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 Unity’s EULA.
“From a technical standpoint, this is what our clarification on our TOS means: if you want to run your Unity-based game-server, on your own servers, or a cloud provider that provides you instances to run your own server for your game, you are covered by our EULA. We will support you as long as the server is running on a Unity supported platform.”
Unity blocked Improbable because the company was making unauthorized and improper use of Unity’s technology and name in connection with the development, sale, and marketing of its own products. Early last year, they informed Improbable in person that they were in violation of Unity’s Terms of Service. Then, after six months, Unity informed Improbable about the violation in writing. Seeing no changes, Unity decided to take strict action by turning off Improbable’s Unity Editor license keys, about two weeks ago.
Unity says they are trying to resolve the dispute with Improbable without affecting developers. SpatialOS Developers will receive support for any outstanding questions or issues directly at email@example.com.
What about Unity’s TOS Clause 2.4?
Unity’s updated clause states that they are prohibiting “streaming or broadcasting so that any portion of the Unity Software is primarily executed on or simulated by the cloud or a remote server and transmitted over the Internet or other networks to end user devices…”
This is alarming for Unity asset and service providers and developers. As explained by a gamedev.net user, this could mean that “any kind of processing offload for entity state occurring on a server or cloud provider (such as SpatialOS) is no longer allowed. As such, developers who planned to use Unity in any kind of distributed network capacity may find themselves in a difficult situation.”
The creator of Epic Games, Tim Sweeney, has reacted harshly to this clause as well.
“We specifically make the UE4 EULA apply perpetually so that when you obtain a version under a given EULA, you can stay on that version and operate under that EULA forever if you choose.”
Did Unity just prohibit all cloud-hosted multiplayer games? You couldn’t operate Fortnite, PUBG, or Rocket League under these terms. pic.twitter.com/NXy6yjS5ni
— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) January 10, 2019
This battle has definitely added a boost to Unreal Engine’s popularity.
The Unity/Improbable situation is fascinating (and makes me glad we use Unreal!) Reading the new terms, it sounds like Unity games aren't allowed on PS Now or any other cloud service. Does anyone know if this is true? I guess Unity are going into cloud streaming… #unity
— Patrick O'Luanaigh (@patrickol) January 10, 2019
@EpicGames are absolutely SAVAGE.
But also they're an amazing company that I wholeheartedly stand for, who've seriously changed my life and others that I know. Any Unity users knocked down by these recent changes should *really* give UE4 a shot.https://t.co/wspy0CFYCD
— Christian Sparks (@hippowombat) January 11, 2019
Epic Games have also said that it has partnered with Improbable to establish a $25 million fund to “assist developers who are left in limbo by the new engine and service incompatibilities that were introduced.”