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I wanted to take a moment and talk a bit about how we see mobile platforms here at Unity.

Any talk about mobile will start with the iPhone - it's the device that really showed even disbelievers like me that you do want a general-purpose computer-like device in your pocket. The iPhone has been great for us - we got in on it early and let our users publish to it - adding "quite a few" users in the process. We've now shipped 6 versions and over 500 Unity appstore games have been launched. Pretty much whenever anyone does a list of top-something-or-other on iPhone games, you can spot a couple of Unity-powered games.

What games are people playing on the iPhone? From what I've heard based on data from ingame ad networks, an interesting trend is surfacing: iPhones are typically used for play sessions of around one hour - mainly in the evenings. If iPhones are really giving traditional consoles a fight in their own turf, this means that mobile devices have a huge future in the gaming space as well.
So how will all this play out? I expect that over the next few years we'll see a bunch of mobile platforms appear. Some of these will stay and quite a few more will die - in the end, I wouldn't be surprised if we ended up with iPhone, Android and a third player. Obviously, we want our customers to be able to deploy their games to as many platforms as possible - this means that we could be adding support for some that will possibly go away in the end - that's ok. While platform fragmentation is annoying to us, the ease of targetting multiple platforms is something we've always held close to our heart. Maybe we'll suffer a bit when porting, but at least it's only us and not all the people that just want to get creative. It's our unofficial slogan: We suffer, so you don't have to.

Some of you have probably seen the announcement that we're going to support NVidia's Tegra 2 chipset. This is the first of various things we're ready to announce and also says something about how we see the world: there's chipsets and OSes (and then there's the physical devices). We work on supporting a chipset (like SGX/ARM for iPhone) and we work on supporting an OS (Windows, MacOSX, iPhoneOSX). Behind the huge range of mobile devices mentioned above, there's a somewhat smaller list of stacks: Broadcom, Qualcomm, Apple, NVidia Tegra - with an OS on top: iPhoneOSX, Windows CE, Linux, Android, etc. those are the ones that are real work for us to support - but once we have some more of these, adding new devices shouldn't be that hard.

And then there's the Apple tablet (sure, there's others - but who really cares?). I expect it to be OSX-based, probably some SGX/ARM chipset - while I know as little as anyone else, I'm basically thinking of an oversized & clocked iPhone 3GS. Supporting it will be some pain, but nothing major (these things are hard to say - half the time on the original iPhone port was spent on one single issue).

Either way, I think gaming on mobile platforms are going to be huge, and I think we're small and nimble enough to be among the very first with support for many of these platforms. If any of you are going to GDC, I'd love to meet up and chat about these things - drop by our booth (or failing that, there's a wonderful comment thingy below this post).

January 20, 2010 in Technology | 3 min. read