The last few days have seen a rather acrimonious split between Unity, who obviously make the Unity game engine and manage the market around it, and Improbable, whose SpatialOS plugs into a variety of different game engines and enable the easy creation of huge shared open worlds. With a change to their Terms of Service at the end of last year, Unity deemed Improbable to be in violation and revoked their access, in a move that could affect numerous developers and games going forward. It led to Epic and Improbable setting up a transition fund for developers to switch engines.
Their version of events contradict each other, with Unity stating that they had warned Improbable that they were in violation a year ago, but Improbable refute this in what was described to us as a “final” statement on the matter.
Improbable state that, when Unity asked for an inspected technical details last year, they told Improbable that SpatialOS was not in breach of their former Terms of Service. However, with the updated Terms of Service on 5th December, they are now in breach and Improbable note that “an any managed service like SpatialOS,” […] and “any cloud-based multiplayer solution or cloud-based streaming solution would be a potential breach. Even most cloud provider services would, according to this, be in breach.”
Despite asking for clarification, the next that Improbable then heard was when a developer was told by their Unity account manager that Improbable was no longer permitted to use Unity. At that point, Improbable’s licenses were revoked, meaning Improbable can no longer provide support. Though existing games can continue to use SpatialOS, Improbable can’t legally provide further support.
They close the blog post with the following statement:
Currently the lack of clarity in the Terms of Service for Unity – and the ambiguity created by their subsequent statements – places us and developers in a difficult situation. We urgently need clarity in order to move forward. Everyone requires a long term, dependable answer from Unity on what is and is not allowed, in a documented legal form.
More broadly, developers are asking about other services, not just Improbable’s. This urgently needs resolution.
We do not require any direct technical cooperation with an engine provider to offer our services – Crytek, Epic and all other providers clearly allow interoperability without commercial arrangement with cloud platforms. We have no formal technical arrangements there and have not required any with Unity for years.
Our preference would be that Unity simply adopts industry standard practice and allows platforms to host the engine as was the case before the change in Terms of Service. Failing that, Unity must grant Improbable sufficient legal basis to protect its existing customers, or be honest with the community about the situation.
We now hope Unity will seek to engage with us to solve this issue.
We anticipate that Unity will work to create more clarity on their new Terms of Service in the near future, but the manner of the split and the fallout from it makes the future unclear. The best solution would be for Unity to relent, but there’s no guarantees of that.