We’ve been covering SpatialOS since we first heard that Jagex was working with the new computing platform to develop a free-to-play game in 2017. That was followed by news of Netease investing $50 million at SpatialOS creator Improbable, which was itself dwarfed by the $506 million Japan’s SoftBank tossed Improbable’s way. In all, SpatialOS’s Wikipedia page lists five games currently in early access or development using the tech, which includes Mavericks: Proving Ground, the follow-up to Automaton’s Deceit.
All of those projects might find themselves facing significant delays following today’s news that Unity has made changes in its Terms of Service to prevent future development of SpatialOS games using its engine. As outlined in a blog post by “The Improbable Team” (and summed up in a Twitter thread by Improbable’s Vitor de Magalhães), “The game engine provider Unity recently changed (Dec 5) and then clarified directly to us (9 Jan) their terms of service to specifically disallow services like Improbable’s to function with their engine.” As a result, “Unity has revoked our ability to continue working with the engine” and “This will affect our ability to support games.”
The blog post outlines the steps that Improbable is taking, notably that it’s still trying to negotiate with Unity but is considering the radical step of moving to different engines as a “last resort.” It’s dire news to developers large and small, and while we can’t yet confirm which games are using which engines, it’s sure to be a major blow to many of Improbable’s clients, delaying their games for an extended period of time — or, especially for smaller devs, even seeing them cease production altogether.
UPDATE: Epic Games and Improbable have partnered up to create a $25 million fund “to help developers transition to more open engines, services, and ecosystems.” Naturally, the company hopes that devs left out in the cold by Unity will transition to Unreal Engine. You can read the announcement here.
UPDATE 2: Improbable made two more blog posts on Thursday: a further reflection on the day’s events that took the time to “apologize that this event we instigated has created so much uncertainty, confusion and pain for so many developers who really do not deserve this,” while looking to review its own policies; and a “final statement” in response to a blog post by Unity, clarifying the situation with games using SpatialOS — namely that such games can “stay live, but we cannon legally support them” — while also asking Unity to address the “lack of clarity in the Terms of Service for Unity – and the ambiguity created by their subsequent statements.”