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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 the adoption of their games. In the user-acquisition and marketing program, Unity will use its resources for user acquisition to help grow the downloads and revenues for indie games — addressing the biggest problem that developers face as their games get lost in a crowd of titles.

Getting free-to-play mobile games and apps discovered 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 — is a big part of drawing attention to games. Unity will offer its tech resources and funding for user acquisition to scale indie games in the program. Unity and partnered developers each share the revenue 50-50 after Unity recoups its user-acquisition spending.

Once the developer graduates from the program, it can keep all of the proceeds and retain full ownership of the intellectual property, said Julie Shumaker, vice president of revenue for operate solutions at Unity, 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.”

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

Above: Unity Technologies has 1.5 million monthly active users.

Developers can submit their games for program consideration. If selected, Unity will partner with them to design and accelerate a robust player engagement strategy, comprised of full game support, including user acquisition campaigns, optimized monetization via ads and in-app purchases, and player analytics.

While the program is certainly needed, it’s coming out at a time of uncertainty. While games are popular during the pandemic, Apple is proposing to change the way that targeting advertising works on iOS, in the name of user privacy, and that will have an unknown effect on Unity’s user acquisition techniques, Shumaker acknowledged.

The Game Growth Program provides selected developers with a dedicated team of Unity experts who partner and educate on user acquisition, player engagement, and monetization strategies. In turn, this frees-up developers’ internal teams to remain focused on the core game to make the improvements necessary for success. Unity is also committing funds to the program to enable discovery and accelerate 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 begins by going through the application process on the Unity Dashboard. During the application, Unity will learn all about the project and development team, then work with selected applicants to integrate the Game Growth package into their game via the Unity editor.

“We do believe it’s 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.”

She said the program is like giving the developers a crash course in an MBA for monetization. The program is different from 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. At the moment, Unity isn’t setting a specific time period for how long a game can be in the program. But it could be a year or so.

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

If any of the games are big successes, Unity’s program could pay for itself, Shumaker said. That will help it grow in the long term. Shumaker said the company has been working on the tech and the investment behind the program for a while.

One of the biggest areas where developers have to learn is how to drive their free-to-play economy. Unity has an ebook on this topic, and that’s a big part of what developers can learn in the program, Shumaker said.

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