More gamification talk from CEO David Helgason.
The final keynote address at today's Develop Evolve conference came from Unity Technologies CEO David Helgason, who addressed the issue of gamification - how games are everywhere.
The Unity game engine has been gaining momentum fast in the last 12-18 months, for developers making iPhone games as well as browser-based titles.
More than 200,000 developers are using it - up from 10,000 a year ago. More than 30 million players have installed the Unity Web Player, while on any day, 10-20% of the top-selling games in the App Store use the iPhone/iPad version of its SDK.
However, his talk today focused on a popular topic among Silicon Valley techsperts - gamification. "We recognise that something is brewing which is quite exciting," he said by way of introduction. "Gamification summed up a lot of concepts in my mind that I'd been seeing in the world," he continued.
The definition is the use of game design outside of games - in product and user experience design - but also the use of game technology in other fields. The first definition takes in services like Foursquare, Swoopo, Mint and things like Wii Fit and EA Active on console.
However, Unity is more excited about the second definition - the gamification of technology. Examples include games being used for military training; architects and product designers using game engines; complex data visualisation; medical visualisation; social spaces and virtual worlds; and art, VJing and experimental media.
Helgason described this trend as a perfect storm fuelled by several factors. First: programmers, many of whom started coding because they wanted to get into games.
The second factor is education - the increase in game development courses and degrees. "We're educating what some might say are disturbing numbers of game developers at universities!" he said.
The third factor is content creation - tools that let people create content without requiring specific tool skills (Maya for animation for example).
The final factor is technology and community - standardised platforms that a lot of people can use to do different things, including games but also non-games.
Helgason said Unity is obviously one of these platforms. "There is this crazy ball of energy that has to be released somehow," said Helgason. "We are sure this is going to affect a lot of industries."
At this point, Helgason talked about a third gamification trend, fuelled by the simultaneous growth of social games on Facebook, and games on the iPhone and its App Store.
Effects include other social networks like Hi5, MySpace and Orkut becoming game sites, Google investing heavily in games - witness its recent investment in Zynga - and the fact that "all the phone, TV and set-box manufacturers are rushing to get a game strategy".
Games are going everywhere, in short. "If this is gamification, then it's gamification as an economic driver. Games are really things that push other things - platforms and ecosystems - out there," said Helgason.
One effect of the second kind of gamification is that traditional games developers may start to face competition for their best staff - or the best new graduates - from other industries.
Helgason admitted that even Unity has seen developers poached by, for example, architectural visualisation firms. "It hurts every time, and they're getting paid SO much!" he laughed.
But naturally, this is an opportunity for individual developers, whose skills will be in demand. Someone put the inevitable question about iPhone games built on middleware - and Apple's rumoured ban on middleware products.
"He doesn't understand the economics of game development fundamentally," says Helgason, saying that while pure native code development might suit simpler apps, it's simply not an option for many game developers.
He also said that the popularity of iPhone games developed using Unity shows that middleware isn't responsible for creating "crappy" games, as has been suggested.