Yesterday, Unity announced that their engine will gain the ability to export to Flash. This seems to be an odd move considering they already have a web player built into the engine. What reason could they possibly have for such a seemingly contridictory move?
The first thing I can think of is the problem of plugin penetration. Untiy is far far from Flashes nearly 100% penetration rate. They need to do something to expand the possiblities for the users of Unity. This will provide game developers the ability to expand the market for their games while at the same time providing Unity the opportunity to splash a few “Created using Unity 3d” messages on games to gain some more market recognition.
This seems to be a good opportunity for game developers to limit functionality in Flash games and provide a message saying that the better more full experience can be had using the Unity plugin. I am not sure just how big a deal this will be, since details about what features will support Flash as of yet. I think this would be something that Unity would be more interested in than the game developer since this would provide an incentive for gamers to install the Unity plugin. Thus, increasing the Unity penetration rate.
This could also be a stop gap in bringing Unity support to the Linux operating system. Since Flash is already supported on Linux, Linux users would finally be able to play browser games built using the Unity engine. I don’t really see why they would go this route instead of making full native Unity support for Linux. This is also more speculation since there is little information available.
So what does this all mean? Does this mean that Unity is on a death spiral? Probably not. While I still think this is an odd move, I doubt, and hope, this is not a sign of doom and gloom. Based on the comment to their announcement above, this is a welcome feature by Unity developers, most likely because it expands the potential player base.
Is this something that will get me to choose Unity for game development in the future? Not likely. My previous stance on the issue still stands. Until Unity gains full Linux support for both browser and client games, I will not support it.
I am aware of Unities efforts to expand their engine to support Google’s Native Client, but it seems to be a far off prospect. This support would bring Linux support, but only for users of Google’s Chrome Browser and only for browser games. For now there is no speculation on what if any effect Native Client will have on the browser market or if any other browsers will pick it up for integration. This could be just as limiting in the end as not supporting Linux at all.
So for now, I will just sit back, watch and wait.