In 2018, technology news outlet TechCrunch reported Unity CEO John Riccitiello said Unity is the framework behind “pretty much half of all games”. In the same article, TechCrunch says Riccitiello claimed users downloaded 2 billion Unity games monthly at the time.
This comes as no surprise. Unity’s user-friendly framework gives access to a wide range of gaming possibilities studios want to integrate into their work. Now given all of Unity’s merits, can we praise it with equal measure as a mobile game app development tool?
A Brief Look Into the C# Game Engine Unity
Before we discuss whether Unity is a good tool for mobile app development, let’s take a quick look into what this technology is.
Released in 2004, Unity is a C# game engine created by the American company Unity Technologies. It is widely used in the gaming community in both professional and non-professional capacities, attracting a massive following since its release.
Among other things, Unity is popular for being able to deploy games on different platforms, and it has numerous libraries capable of rendering hyperrealistic art and animation. And the fact that its primary programming language is C# is a major draw for developers as it runs fast and is the easiest to understand among the C languages.
The Types of Applications Unity Can Develop
First and foremost, Unity is a game engine. Unity Technologies built its framework for creating video games, which means developers often turn to it specifically for this kind of project. But is it possible for Unity to go beyond its intended niche?
The answer is yes. Unity has not only been used for game development in the past. Different industries have greatly benefited from what the game engine can accomplish. In fact, several of the common uses for Unity — within or outside gaming — include special effects and virtual and augmented reality applications. Video games have become increasingly cinematic over the years, which is why game engines like Unity have upped the ante on graphics and modes of immersion.
Here’s an example of companies applying Unity beyond the realm of gaming. Through Unity’s extensive automotive tools and its VR and AR capacity, giants in the automotive industry, such as Toyota and Audi, have used the engine to enhance their manufacturing and design process.
Another example is the film industry. Unity has been a tremendous help as well in terms of visual effects. In 2016, the team behind Unity released Adam, a proof-of-concept short film, to showcase what the game engine can do in terms of animation, an article in The Verge says.
It has received a ton of praise and even a Webby Award for Animation (Branded), which is for “animated video content that integrates products or services on behalf of a brand…to convey a marketing message,” the awarding body’s official website says. So while Unity is a tool mainly used for game development, Unity Technologies has pushed the boundaries of what its engine can do.
What About Unity for Mobile Game App Development?
Unity has proven its capacity for top-notch video games, special effects, and VR and AR applications. With the variety of visually stunning output Unity has produced, we can say it’s able to perform tasks within and outside game development. But can we say the same for its ability to develop mobile game apps?
Yes, we very much can. When it comes to mobile applications, Unity’s forte is, of course, mobile games. On their official website, Unity highlights mobile games as one of the engine’s core products. And this shows in its body of work.
Think Pokémon Go (2016), Super Mario Run (2016), and Alto’s Adventure (2015). These are only a few of the popular titles the remarkable game engine has made in the past. But why do game developers and studios love working with it so much?
If you found a way to hasten your mobile game’s development phase without sacrificing its quality, you would think you’re one lucky developer. This is precisely how developers feel about Unity. Because with Unity, you get to have the following:
- Cross-platform capability
- A wide array of gaming experiences
- The game engine’s libraries and community support
Benefits of Unity Mobile Game App Development
Optimal for Cross-platform Development
A great advantage of using Unity is its ability to deploy to virtually any platform from the same code. Its platform support is so diverse that aside from iOS and Android, the game engine also supports Windows Phone, Fire OS, and Tizen, among others.
Why is this important? We asked our expert Unity developer the importance of having multi-platform support for game engines. And one thing he noted was how particular and demanding game development can be, especially in the mobile market where developers have to accommodate different operating systems, hardware capabilities, and screen sizes. On top of this, operating systems require different approaches to code, giving developers extra work just to make sure a mobile game is accessible on as many platforms as possible.
With Unity, however, developers can easily deploy their mobile games on major platforms with little to no inconvenience, NarraSoft’s Unity developer said. Mobile games will feel native despite their build coming from the same codebase.
Unity is one of the best [game engines with] cross-platform support.— NarraSoft’s Unity expert
Capable of Producing a Variety of Games
If you want diverse gaming experiences for your target audience, Unity allows you to render 3D, 2D, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR) game applications on mobile. While the game engine is often used for 3D game development, it is equally capable of creating stunning 2D games as well, such as Monument Valley 2 (2017).
Unity has also shown great capacity to build VR and AR games with its many features. It has great VR and AR platform support and amazing rendering pipelines that can form high-definition graphics.
Here are some of the top mobile games Unity has produced, according to its official website:
- Pokémon Go (2016)
- Call of Duty: Mobile (2019)
- Hearthstone (2014)
- Age of Magic (2018)
- War Robots (2014)
Easier Game Development with Numerous Asset Libraries & Great Community Support
Since Unity is a popular and trusted game engine, the number of developers who know how to use it has increased since the engine’s release. And over the years, the engine has grown in terms of not only the kind of output it can build but also the support it receives from its community. This means documentation for this game engine is extensive, allowing developers to quickly find solutions on the web.
Additionally, developers will have an easier time finding and integrating assets thanks to its readily available asset store. They can find almost every element they need for their game, including GUIs, audio, and textures.
Unity for General Mobile App Development
Unity is an excellent framework for mobile app development, especially if the type of application you’re building is a game. But what if you want to build a general mobile application? Will this popular game engine perform just as well?
According to NarraSoft’s Unity expert, Unity might not be a good fit for regular mobile app development. And here’s why:
- Unity tends to consume a regular mobile application’s battery life fast.
- It contains unnecessary gaming code.
- Its tools for UI development are non-native.
Our Unity developer explained regular Unity-based applications will drain a user’s battery life much more quickly as it will max out their mobile device’s performance. Even a static screen can consume large amounts of your device’s battery, he said.
He also explained how cluttered the development phase can be when a non-gaming mobile application is built with Unity. This is because Unity’s code is heavy on gaming, and since your application will not require game-related functionality, you will encounter a lot of excess code. He went on to explain how the build size will unnecessarily take up space, too.
Moreover, while one of Unity’s strengths is cross-platform development, the same cannot be said for regular mobile applications. A Unity-based mobile application’s user interface (UI) will not translate well across platforms if gaming is not its core function. At present, the engine needs to upgrade its framework to include UI that regular mobile applications commonly have.
A Summary of the Pros and Cons of Unity for Mobile App Development
Here’s a recap of the pros and cons of using Unity for mobile app development. Note the pros pertain to mobile game development, and the cons are mainly for general mobile app development.
|Uses C# as its main programming language||Drains a mobile device’s battery easily|
|Allows for cross-platform development||Contains overhead or excess code|
|Provides tools for diverse gaming experiences||Currently unable to accommodate non-native UI|
|Has extensive documentation and libraries||Slow loading times|
|Receives great community support|
So, is Unity a good tool for mobile game app development? Yes! In fact, the game engine is known for developing impeccable video games and mobile games. It’s also an excellent tool for VR and AR applications, mobile or otherwise.
However, as a general mobile app development tool, Unity might not be the best option, but it is undoubtedly great for any type of graphics-heavy software.
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