Unity is up for sale according to a presentation circulating the games industry. This blog post is why I hope Microsoft will be the one to buy Unity and take it to the next level.
How Likely Is It?
Microsoft has done two things recently relating to Unity that make me think there is a reasonable chance they will buy it.
- They acquired SyntaxTree, the creators of UnityVS. UnityVS is a plugin that allows debugging Unity applications within Visual Studio. Immediately after the acquisition they made UnityVS free. This shows that they are interested in acquiring companies related to Unity and specifically how it integrates with Visual Studio.
- Microsoft made the Unity Windows Store add-on (Windows Store and Windows Phone 8) free for all Unity users. This means developers can target Microsoft platforms for free compared to the regular $1,500 on other platforms. This shows that Microsoft is happy to write a blank cheque for developers to use Unity to target their platforms
What’s In It For Microsoft?
Why would Microsoft want to buy Unity? I see a few major reasons for this:
- Catch Up to iOS and Android – Microsoft is currently behind iOS and Android in market share for mobile. There is a chicken and egg problem where consumers won’t switch to Microsoft Phone as there aren’t enough apps, and app developers won’t switch as there aren’t enough customers. If Microsoft buys Unity and tightly integrates the Microsoft platforms into Unity, it becomes a no-brainer for developers to release their games on the Microsoft platforms. In turn, this will encourage consumers to make the switch.
- Buying Mindshare – Unity is used by a large percentage of all indie game developer. There is a massive amount of talent using the platform and tapping into this pool would be a huge plus for Microsoft. If the Minecraft acquisition was partly about buying the huge consumer base that plays the game, then a Unity acquisition would buy them a huge game developer base.
- .NET Penetration – Unity’s foundation is based squarely on Mono, the open source implementation of .NET. Microsoft is making moves towards embracing Mono in all its forms and this is great for Microsoft and .NET. The more developers using C# the better for Microsoft. By purchasing Unity (and I’d also like to see a Xamarin acquisition) Microsoft would be in a great position to widen the appeal and reach of .NET and could look to converge it with Mono to have more control over developers across many platforms.
Why Do I Want It?
So why do I want Microsoft to buy Unity? The main reason is Microsoft’s focus on developers and the fact they believe the way to get good products on their platform is good developer support. This focus would be perfectly realized with the purchase of Unity as Microsoft could extend their tools to games developed for nearly any platform. Unlike other viable companies that could buy Unity (Apple, Facebook, EA) I feel that Microsoft would put the developers first and make sure the product gets better for all platforms, specifically their own. Microsoft’s recent adoption of both open source software and non-Microsoft platforms shows there is a large shift within the company and a tool like Unity would fit perfectly into this shift.
The other reason I would like to see Microsoft purchase Unity is that they have the technical talent and experience with large products that would possibly enable them to fix some of the deeper issues that many people have with Unity. From making it open source to fixing some of the core functionality that is causing issues for many developers I speak with.
The rumours going around put Unity at between one and two billion dollars. That’s cheaper than the recent Minecraft acquisition Microsoft made. Microsoft has a lot of cash (around $85 billion in cash and short-term investments) and given their position in the market acquiring another company for a small percentage of this would put them in a great position in the game development space.
What are your thoughts about the sale of Unity? Who do you think should buy Unity, or would you rather not see it sell to anyone?