Unity and Brand Awareness

When we talk about games we occasionally tend to talk about the graphics, the audio, gameplay, but we rarely think about what’s behind all of that: the engine. We hear about Frostbite, EA’s proprietary engine that’s been largely advertised and is responsible for most of their projects, Unreal, behind a lot of some of the biggest AAA releases, and the CryEngine, known for being the driving force behind Crysis.

 

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Battlefield 1 is an example of the power of Frostbite

 

But last week, a controversy surrounding Unity brought to the discussion the image of these engines. A consumer on steam claimed that he wouldn’t buy a game specifically because it was built using Unity. And many wondered why would anybody give up playing a title simply because of the engine used. The answer is brand awareness.

Every decision a company makes, from the color of the product, specs, sounds it does, to the strategy used to advertise it, all of that aims at brand awareness. That basically consists of the image that a company or a product has on the market. The sound the Xbox does when it boots wasn’t chosen by accident, after all, they use at E3, in trailers, all to create a connection with consumers, an identity, a sound that becomes synonymous with the brand, that it doesn’t matter where you are, you recognize it.

Apple is a master at that, from the aspect of the stores, with a clean look mainly composed of glass and a minimalistic approach to its layout, to the box, that according to Steve Jobs should be an experience when opened. The design of their products, focusing on round shapes, the OS that has a friendlier user experience, the integration of the systems, to create the idea of an ecosystem that works perfectly in conjunction. All of that to change or create the perception of the consumer.

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A clean and sophisticated design, a characteristic that Apple cherishes

And when it comes to brand awareness, Unity has a very negative reputation. In part because of poor decisions from management, but mainly because of the games that use the engine. The simplest of the most famous, Unity has made their name as the easiest to use, allowing a user without much game development experience to create a game with less technical hurdles than Unreal and CryEngine.

However, an irresponsible use of assets by developers and an association with low-quality early access games have tarnished the image of not only the engine, as well as the company.

The abusive use of assets from their store has also been responsible for their image problem, with many cases in which we can see the same models and problems in various different games that use Unity.

Developers have used them indiscriminately, with a lot of them using the free license, that requires users to attach their logo to the game, so whenever you start a horrible, poorly designed game and you see their main source of recognition in the splash screen, you relate it to a bad experience.

Many of these titles proliferated through Steam Early Access, and even though we can find many using CryEngine and Unreal, Unity has been the most linked to them.

Another factor is that whereas the other engines appear to be used mainly on AAA games, we rarely see that happening with Unity. The most high-profile project using it is Hearthstone, that is not the kind of game that feels like AAA. Just look at some famous games powered by these engines.

Hearthstone
Unity
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CryEngine
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Unreal

 

From what we’ve seen, this situation apparently won’t change that quickly, as the company doesn’t appear to be all that bothered about it. And that could quickly result in a bad ending for them, particularly after the backlash it has suffered recently.

If they are responsible, working on a rebranding focused on attaching their product with quality games, looking to sway the notion gamers have of them, everything can change quickly. If no action is taken, they can either accept that they will never be among the best engines or even worse, become another company that died due to irresponsible management, that didn’t take the market’s viewpoint seriously.

How changing the engine could affect Fifa

 

Since the reveal of this generation, EA has used in all their sports titles the Ignite as the official engine, being advertised as the next great revolution, making sports games “alive” with better animations, more reactive audiences, improved artificial intelligence, amongst other refinements, but recently in the reveal trailer for Fifa 17, rumours were confirmed, with the change to the Frostbite engine, that’s used in most of the company’s games.

But what is an engine? It is the software framework used to create and develop video games, responsible for all of the areas of creation, going from the physics, to the movement of the characters, to the sound, and the Frostbite is one of the most famous in the market, being developed by EA, and has been used since the Xbox 360/PS3 generation in franchises such as Battlefield, Need for Speed, Star Wars Battlefront, Mass Effect Andromeda, being recognized as the backbone behind the elevation of Battlefield to a whole new level, transforming it in one of the biggest IP’s, and for its graphical capabilities, most notably, destruction capacity, and multiplayer characteristics.

What does that change in Fifa?

Even though that change doesn’t seem to really affect the consumer, it can represent a fundamental moment in the evolution of the franchise, that has shown signs of stagnation, losing ground to their main competitor, PES, that has slowly recovered both critically and  commercially after years of being recognized as inferior to Fifa,  that since the 09 entry became the main representative of football  or soccer, up to you, simulation of the market.

And the choice of a new engine could bring many exciting possibilities, like improved graphics as we can see in Eden Hazard new character model, better lighting on players, on the pitch, a more responsive artificial intelligence, and rumours claim that a remodeled career mode inspired on the NBA 2K franchise, that has garnered praise for being innovative and one of the biggest features every year, creating a scenario in which a player fresh out of college enters the NBA with rivalries, interactions with teammates, sponsorships and other aspects of the pro life, amongst other transformations to the gameplay and features.

On the development side, it can improve the developer’s capacity to bring innovations to a game that needs to be produced in months, creating an environment in which they can use assets from a much larger number of games from EA’s portfolio, improving their ability to implement features and  modifications long requested by fans.

The media has responded with apprehension due to the the risks of this change, with the possibility of  bugs and glitches lowering the quality of the game, amongst other issues, EA’s choice of using it on one of their biggest franchises works as a way to tranquillize the market, paving the way for all of the EA Sports franchises to utilize it in next iterations.