A change in Unity Technologies' terms of service has left Unity games created using Improbable's SpatialOS platform under threat.
According to a statement released by Improbable today, Unity changed its terms of service on December 4 2018, and clarified the change to Improbable yesterday.
As a result, Improbable has said, "all existing SpatialOS and Unity games, including production games and in-development games of all developers, are now in breach of Unity's license terms."
The new terms of service "specifically disallow services like Improbable's" to work with Unity, which was not the case in the previous iteration of the terms, and is still not the case with competing tech like Epic's Unreal Engine.
According to Improbable, this development arose from an "open commercial negotiation" with a goal of finding new ways for the two companies to work together.
Instead, Unity's new terms have put the futures of a number of in-development games in jeopardy. Improbable's license to work with the engine has also been revoked, which will prevent it from supporting all SpatialOS games made with Unity
"Overnight, this is an action by Unity that has immediately done harm to projects across the industry"
"Overnight, this is an action by Unity that has immediately done harm to projects across the industry, including those of extremely vulnerable or small scale developers, and damaged major projects in development over many years," Improbable said in a statement.
"Games that have been funded based on the promise of SpatialOS to deliver next-generation multiplayer are now endangered due to their choice of front-end engine. Live games are now in legal limbo."
Improbable emphasised its "huge respect" for Unity Technologies, and attributed the dire outcome of the new terms of service as "an error in judgement or coordination failure" within the ubiquitous engine company.
Improbable has said that a reversal of the change is the ideal solution, but while those negotiations take place it has established an emergency fund to help its partners who are now in financial difficulty. One possibility is that Unity developers will have to switch their projects to new engines, though Improbable described this as "a last resort."
We have reached out to Improbable and Unity Technologies for comment. More on this story as it unfolds.
Update: Improbable has confirmed to GamesIndustry.biz that Unity has blocked SpatialOS due to a change in its terms of service on "Streaming and Cloud Gaming Restrictions."
The full text of that section has be found below, or you can check section 2.4 of Unity's terms of service.
Update: Bossa Studios has reassured the Worlds Adrift community that the game is "operating as normal," despite the perceived difficulties between Unity and Improbable.
In a statement published on Twitter, the UK studio said that while SpatialOS is "the technology underpinning the Worlds Adrift servers," Bossa will remain focused on ensuring that its players' experiences are protected.
Rest assured you will be the first ones to know if this situation causes any disruption to your experience. For now, Worlds Adrift is operating as normal.— Worlds Adrift (@WorldsAdrift) January 10, 2019
Update: Spilt Milk Studio is among the first developers forced to take a game offline due to the dispute between Improbable and Unity over a change to the latter's terms of service.
The UK indie said on Twitter that the servers for its game Lazarus are "going to be down for an undetermined amount of time, basically until the dispute is resolved, one way or another." Lazarus was playable in open alpha, and it was scheduled for release on Steam in March 2019.
Update: Spilt Milk Studio has resurrected Lazarus servers for the time being, saying on Twitter, "We're not quite sure what's going on - we were told that access to the servers would be revoked by 2:30 p.m. today but it seems that's not the case. Until either the servers are forced down or we're told to turn them off, we'll keep Lazarus live."