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Last week, Epic Games surprised developers by revealing that it would start giving more money with every sale in the Unreal Engine Marketplace to the creators who built them. While the norm is a 70/30 split in favor of the creator, Epic has an 88/12 split instead. This is great news for people who create assets and tools to sell to other developers who use Unreal Engine.
The only entity that might not see this as positive news is Unity Technologies, the company that makes Unity, which is Unreal’s main competitor in the game development toolkit space which debuted in 2005. In its press release last week, Epic said it had 8 million downloads for 5,000 assets from 1,500 creators on its Unreal Engine Marketplace. On Friday, I spoke with Unity Asset Store boss Peter O’Reilly, who pointed out that the trade volume is significantly higher on Unity.
“Since [the Unity asset store] spear [in 2010], we’ve made about 40 million downloads, ”O’Reilly said. “We currently average around 12 million downloads each year. This number has grown rapidly from year to year. We have over a million developers who come to the store each month to find 56,000 packages available. We get about 10,000 new packages submitted every year, out of the tens of thousands of creators that we have – we call them editors, but it’s creators – who create these packages.
And Unity is courting an audience that wants and needs third-party content for their projects. The engine is especially popular with students, hobbyists, and small indie developers, and it’s a group that would have a hard time hiring artists, but they can walk into the asset store to buy a door or a tree.
Unity may have that audience now, but Epic could start threatening it by creating a more attractive market for asset builders. To compete, Unity could cut its own share of the asset store’s revenue – it captures the standard 30%. But the company doesn’t have a Fortnite to lean on – it has scale. O’Reilly makes it clear that Unity can continue to attract the best asset publishers for this reason.
“Honestly, it was an interesting angle for [Epic to cut its take]Said O’Reilly. “Like they said, they can do it with the money from Fortnite. But the reality is they have a very small market compared to us. We’re a lot bigger. When you think of publishers, giving 88% is amazing. It’s amazing. I totally commend them for doing this, because anything that makes creators more money means they can spend more time creating more content. great for us. It’s great for publishers. I love to see it happen. But the reality is that 88% of a small number is still a small number. In fact, it’s pretty much nothing. was my first response. It’s a little offhand. But honestly as I got there – wow, 88 percent, that’s amazing.
“But my rational side says that 88% of a small number is a small number.”
Epic also pointed out that the number of people installing and trying Unreal Engine is increasing at a good rate. It had 6.3 million users in July, but that’s 1 million more than in the past four months. Much of that growth is likely attributable, you guessed it, to Fortnite. The Unreal Engine is just a push of a button for anyone installing the Epic Games Launcher to play the shooter, and the law of large numbers means that some Fortnite gamers will have at least a fleeting interest in create their own games.
The unit is larger at the moment, but that could change. O’Reilly doesn’t sit around knowing his platform has more content and more users. Unity is working to improve the platform for the people who use it and the people who create packages for the store.
“It’s about adding value to the ecosystem as we continue to develop this market,” he said. “There is a strong belief among all C-suites that the asset store could be bigger and more impactful for developers. My job is to think about it, and I want the Asset Store to be the starting point for every Unity developer – where they can come find, source, and sell whatever they need to be successful. A lot of it is about content, and of course, expanding the offerings that we have to make sure we have the best content that exists on the store. But there’s still a ton of content that exists outside of the asset store. Businesses have huge libraries of content that don’t exist on the store today. We partner with a lot of these places and bring the best content to the store.
O’Reilly also focuses on much more than the arts or plugins for the Unity store. He wants to create an ecosystem for a wide range of tools that automate the difficult aspects of development for small times.
“You think of development, it’s more than just artistic content,” he said. ” There is [software asset management] solutions, compilation tools, backend-as-a-service solutions – this is also where we grow. We want to partner up and offer more and more different types of services, products and offerings so that we can satisfy developers. No matter what they need, they know they can get to the asset store first. We are starting this process now, and it will accelerate over the next year.
Unity already has a large number of designers working in its store and O’Reilly also wants to improve their workflow. The company plans to engage directly with these community editors to help them understand what makes high-quality content as well as what makes content useful for developers.
O’Reilly also wants to help asset designers understand the store’s shortcomings. If developers need something they can’t find, Unity wants to let creators know about the potential high ROI to meet that demand.
“There are a number of programs that I have in the works,” O’Reilly said. “We will see some of these launches later this year. “
Finally, Unity wants to continually improve the in-store shopping experience. Since it has so much content, it can be difficult to navigate at times. The company is working on ways to resolve this issue at all times.
“A big part of my investment this year is spent redesigning the asset store experience to make sure it’s super easy to navigate,” O’Reilly said. “And it’s not just for the online store. We also need to tackle it in the editor. Today, the publisher’s experience is really just an i-frame of the web asset store. We could be so much more if we integrated more natively into the engine, so that it really becomes part of the workflow. You build your game and say, I need a chair, I need this kind of tool, and you can easily access it from the right panel, just drag it and go back to the work without having to leave your developer mindset, your development space, to find content.
The battle between Unreal and Unity is going nowhere. Epic is making waves with its cut in revenue, but the asset builders at its store I spoke with are asking for improvements similar to what Unity is promising. Ultimately, Epic has more money to invest, but Unity is buttering its bread with its engine and asset store – it has no choice but to make it an attractive product for developers. Epic obviously wants him too, but he can fall asleep on heaps of money every night thanks to Fortnite. And Unity sees the opportunity to compete by making sure it always improves its tools.
“I think there is a huge opportunity for us to continually improve the experience and add value,” said O’Reilly. “That’s, I think, what’s going to help us stay one step ahead. The more we develop the base, that means any creator or publisher who creates content will see the best ROI by having that content on the asset store.
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