Dispute Between Unity, Cloud Service Shuts Down Some Online Games

Donna Miller
January 13, 2019

Larger gaming companies tend to build their own technology to limit reliance on vendors, though Blizzard chose Unity for its popular Hearthstone card game.

The newly updated now specifically excludes "managed service [s] running on cloud infrastructure" which "install or execute the Unity Runtime on the cloud or a remote server". Its success, though, has not been welcomed by all: The company has been quietly fighting a battle with engine maker Unity over what the latter claims are breaches of its terms and conditions - and that fight came to a head late yesterday when Improbable claimed Unity had modified its terms of service to shut down all SpatialOS games, including those in production and already shipped. Worse, it has left some live and in-development games in legal limbo.

"Six months ago, we informed Improbable about the violation in writing", they said. "I can't fathom how anyone will be able to trust Unity if they're ready to do this", he said. In, the game-engine company offered a clarification for any Unity game makers concerned about their use of SpatialOS: "Projects that are now in production or live using SpatialOS are not affected by any actions we have taken with Improbable", the blog post says. Although admittedly potentially biased, Sweeney tweeted saying that "you couldn't operate Fortnite, PUBG, or Rocket League" under the new terms.

More broadly, developers are asking about other services, not just Improbable's. That hasn't made the situation any less concerning for developers, as the issue threatens to cause years of work worthless overnight. This applies to live games as well, which has the potential to be particularly problematic.

Since its open beta release in 2017 (), SpatialOS has allowed developers to easily integrate mass-scale multiplayer into their games by running a persistent version of the game in the cloud.

Sensing an opportunity, Epic Games, whose Unreal Engine is a direct competitor to Unity, then jumped into the fray.

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Improbable says it has set up an emergency fund to assist partners facing financial challenges as a result of Unity's enforcement action and has pledged to make its GDK open-source under an MIT license.

Business Insider has contacted Unity for comment. Improbable released a second statement saying that both companies were at fault for the spat. 'We terminated our relationship with Improbable due to a failed negotiation with them after they violated our Terms of Service.

Word of the loss of SpatialOS spread quickly, with several online games immediately being affected the news. We have never communicated to any game developer that they should stop operating a game that runs using Improbable as a service. Two weeks ago we took the action of turning off Improbable's Unity Editor license keys.

An Improbable spokesman told Business Insider that it was hard to estimate the potential financial impact on the startup, but added that the situation with Unity was "unique". 'This was the only course of action to protect the integrity and value of our technology and Unity developers. Projects that are now in production or live using SpatialOS are not affected by any actions we have taken with Improbable.

Ante said the changes to the company's Terms of Service represented an attempt to clarify its distribution and streaming restrictions.

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