- Unity, a popular game development engine, has merged with a company known for its ties to malware.
- Developers are concerned about the move, which does little to improve the platform and instead focuses on monetization.
- You don’t have to worry about malware infecting your Unity-run apps, but it sets a bad precedent for the industry moving forward.
Unity is officially merging with IronSource, but game developers are concerned about the bad precedent this could set for the industry.
Studios big and small rely on Unity to create games. If you’ve ever played Among Us, Pokémon Go, Beat Saber, or Genshin Impact, you’ve experienced firsthand the power of the engine. IronSource, meanwhile, doesn’t have the same reputation. The software company is responsible for InstallCore, a bit of software that tries to install unwanted software alongside your target program, and it often plays host to malware. Developers are uneasy knowing that their engine is now tied to a company with an unscrupulous past, but it sounds like most gamers won’t be impacted by the awkward business move.
"I don't know that it is a particularly big deal," Mark Methenitis, attorney and video game analyst, told Lifewire on Twitter. "It's certainly a large financial transaction, but with Unity being the acquiring entity and majority shareholder post close, I think the concerns about some of Iron Source's past development work are smaller than they're being set out to be."
It’s About Money, Not Malware
It should come as no surprise, but Unity’s merger with IronSource is all about money. IronSource might have a spotty track record, but it has developed tools Unity thinks will help developers monetize their games. For the average consumer, that simply means microtransactions could become more embedded in a wide variety of apps.
"Yes, it's built around (in particular) monetizing games, but I don't think that results in anything radically different than what we already see in the space," Methenitis said. "Microtransactions aren't going to go away, and this acquisition isn't moving the needle on that big picture."
Malware and bloatware don’t seem to factor into the purchase at all. In fact, Methenitis believes Unity could sell off the "concerning parts" of the IronSource portfolio to mitigate the ensuing PR headache. Consumers can rest easy knowing games and apps won’t be used as a funnel for bloatware, but developers of those applications don’t like the direction Unity is headed.
Developers Are Concerned About Unity’s Future
While Unity might gut portions of the IronSource portfolio, things already seem to be getting out of hand for the company, with developers seeing the move as a money-grab as opposed to something that will actually help produce better software for the end user.
"In a weird way, I think that this merger almost normalizes the arguably shady practice of monetizing games," Fred Toms, co-founder of Symbiosis Games, told Lifewire in an email. "Games designed with the priority of making money first, and delivering exceptional content second, is not the direction I want to see this industry go, and it’s not something I want to see more normalized than it already has."
Toms isn’t the only developer to voice this opinion, as there’s no shortage of concerned developers speaking their minds on Twitter. Andre Sargeant, an indie game developer using Unity for their current project, told Lifewire they are "concerned about the future of the engine" and "considering switching to Unreal," a different creation platform.
Unity isn’t specific to game development, as savvy programmers can use it to develop a wide variety of business applications and tools. It's not a stretch to think these monetization programs can creep into other programs, making this monetization move a concern for more than just gamers.
A report from Insider Intelligence noted that in-app smartphone purchases have nearly doubled since 2019, with companies exploring a variety of ways to monetize their products. Wanting to make a profit is simply business as usual, but when companies become too aggressive, they can alienate their users. And unless Unity starts making different choices, some developers see a rocky future ahead.
"From a developer perspective, the merger is the latest in a series of moves that makes me feel like their focus on ads, and new business models are coming at the expense of improving the workflows and stability of their core game engine," Holden Link, founder of VR studio Turbo Button, told Lifewire on Twitter. "Unity's long-term viability depends on developer trust and confidence—and that confidence has been shaken more in recent months than I've seen in over a decade of using it."