High-flying gaming startups Unity and Improbable have ended their feud peacefully after a very public battle that involved the creator of ‘Fortnite’

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Improbable

  • High-flying game development company Unity has backed down after a bitter battle with $2 billion Improbable.
  • Unity updated its terms of services on Wednesday to put in writing that Improbable, and any other developer, can continue using the Unity platform without restriction — seemingly ending the fight. 
  • At one point, Epic Games — the creator of “Fortnite” got involved in this beef. But Epic CEO Tim Sweeney tweeted his support for Unity’s new update, signalling a trilateral detente.

It looks like the very public feud between high-flying game development companies Unity and Improbable has come to a peaceful end — at least, for now. 

In short: Unity has clarified its terms of service, putting in writing that it’s committing to an open platform, where customers can use technology from Improbable or any other developer. Furthermore, Unity says that it no longer considers Improbable in violation of its terms of service, and will be reinstating its licenses for Unity software. 

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“We are glad that Unity Technologies has done the right thing by making Unity an open platform,” an Improbable spokesperson said in a statement on Thursday. “We now have access to our Unity licenses again, and can provide full support to developers building games with Unity and SpatialOS. We are confident that this situation will not arise again.”

It’s a capstone on a fight with important ramifications for the video game development industry.

Read more: The CEO behind ‘Fortnite’ explains why he’s getting involved with an intense feud between $2.6 billion Unity and $2 billion startup Improbable

Unity, the flagship gaming engine from Unity Technologies, is the foundational software behind many modern video games, including “Pokémon Go,” “Hollow Knight,” and “Cuphead.” The $2 billion British startup Improbable created SpatialOS, which helps developers deploy the underlying plumbing for online multiplayer features.

The two got into a spat last week when Improbable accused Unity of suddenly changing its terms of service to cut off support for SpatialOS and any services like it. The news rattled game developers who were using both Unity and Improbable’s SpatialOS. 

Unity fired back by saying that SpatialOS users were fine, and would continue to be supported — its beef was with Improbable in particular, which Unity said was in violation of its terms of service. Unity said that it had revoked Improbable’s Unity software licenses. Still, Unity said at the time, it would update its terms of service to better reflect its commitment to letting customers use whatever technology they want to build their games. 

“When you make a game with Unity, you own the content and you should have the right to put it wherever you want,” Unity CTO Joachim Ante wrote in the blog post on Wednesday. “Our [terms of service] didn’t reflect this principle – something that is not in line with who we are.”

The ‘Fortnite’ connection

tim sweeney epicAt the peak of the back-and-forth, industry heavyweight Epic Games — the company behind “Fortnite” — got in on the fight. Epic sided with Improbable, with the two announcing a fund to help developers who might be affected by changes in Unity’s terms of service. 

Now, with things seemingly better between Unity and Improbable, Epic might be standing down, as well. 

“Unity made a solid move by undoing the recently-introduced Terms of Service restrictions on cloud services, SDKs, and stores,” Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney posted on Twitter. “Developers are again free to mix and match everyone’s tools and services.”

Room to grow

Ultimately, however, Unity is still keeping Improbable at arm’s length in some ways. 

While Unity has committed to keeping its platform open, it says that not every service that plugs into the engine will be supported — meaning that it’s not something that Unity itself has vetted to work great for its customers. While Unity customers are free to use unsupported technology, the company makes no guarantees about its performance. 

Improbable and its SpatialOS fall under the umbrella of “unsupported.” In its statement, Improbable said Thursday that it hopes this situation will change, and it plans to discuss partnering with Unity in the future.

For its part, Unity also reinforced in its blog entry that it plans on building and integrating its own services into the platform, which may compete with those built by other developers. However, Unity committed to not blocking services from rival developers. 

Finally, Unity plans to post its terms of service on the code hosting platform GitHub, so that developers can track what changes are made and when.

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