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Unity targets indie game developers with new growth program

Unity is launching its Game Growth Program to help indie game developers accelerate adoption of their games. Through this program, Unity will use its resources to help developers grow downloads and revenues, addressing the key problem of getting lost in a crowd of games.

Getting users to discover free-to-play mobile games and apps is tough on platforms like iOS, which has more than 1.7 million games and apps. That means advertising — through platforms such as Unity Ads — plays a big role in drawing attention to games. As part of its user-acquisition and marketing program, Unity will offer tech resources and funding for user acquisition to help scale indie games.

While developers are participating in the program, they will share revenue 50-50 with Unity after the latter recoups its user-acquisition spending. Once a developer graduates, they can keep all proceeds and retain full ownership of any intellectual property, Unity’s Julie Shumaker said in an interview with GamesBeat.

“The intention of the program is to focus on independent creators and setting them up for long-term success,” Shumaker said. “We do this by starting with a live mobile free-to-play game that is made with Unity. We are bringing a team of experts that help them run their game as a service — so everything from the breadth of user acquisition to monetization and other operations.”

Unity, which recently raised $1.3 billion in a public offering at a $13.6 billion valuation, is launching the program in recognition that helping developers make their games with the Unity engine isn’t enough. Those developers also need help monetizing their games so they can go on to make new games. Unity won’t dwell on content creation or gameplay vision, which it views as the developers’ main tasks.

Unity Technologies has 1.5 million monthly active users.

Above: Unity Technologies has 1.5 million monthly active users.

Image Credit: Unity

Unity will partner with these developers to design and accelerate a strong player engagement strategy with full game support, including user acquisition campaigns, optimized monetization via ads and in-app purchases, and player analytics.

One of the biggest lessons developers need to learn is how to drive their free-to-play economy. Unity has an ebook on this topic, which is a big part of what developers can learn in the program, Shumaker said.

The program is coming at a time of uncertainty in the game industry. While games have been popular during the pandemic, Apple is proposing to change the way targeting advertising works on iOS in the name of user privacy, a move that will have an as-yet-unknown effect on Unity’s user acquisition techniques, Shumaker acknowledged. But she added that the program can serve a valuable function during this transitional period.

“We do believe [the program launch is] timely because of the complexity of the industry,” Shumaker said. “In essence, the tools and the firepower required beyond brilliant content creation are really robust.”

The Game Growth Program provides selected developers with a dedicated team of Unity experts who will work with them on user acquisition, player engagement, and monetization strategies. This will free up developers’ internal teams to focus on the core game and make any needed improvements. The funds Unity is committing are aimed at enabling discovery and accelerating user acquisition through the use of ads, including Unity Ads, as well as those available through outside networks. Unity Ads produces 22.9 billion monthly global ad impressions, reaching 2 billion monthly active end-users worldwide.

Anyone interested in joining the Game Growth Program can submit their game for consideration through the application process on the Unity Dashboard. Through the application, Unity will gather background information about the project and development team. Unity will then work with selected applicants to integrate the Game Growth package into their game via the Unity editor.

She said the program is like giving the developers a crash MBA course in monetization. The program is different from those offered by other accelerators because Unity doesn’t take an equity stake in the game studio, nor does it take ownership of any part of the game property.

“We want them to retain full ownership of their company, retain full ownership of the intellectual property of the game in the program,” Shumaker said.

If any of the games are big successes, Unity’s program could pay for itself, Shumaker said, which would support its long-term growth. She said the company has been working on the tech and the investment behind the program for a while. At the moment, Unity isn’t setting a specific time period for how long a game can remain in the program, but it could be a year or so.

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