Animoca Brands: a Unity case study
Animoca Brands is revolutionizing the way mobile games are experienced. Not content to simply offer a digital catalog of incredible casual and midcore gaming titles, this studio’s also finding ways to incorporate burgeoning technologies like blockchain and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) into some of their products. To further their games mission, they’ve utilized the Unity Distribution Portal (UDP) to spread farther and wider than ever before, making their distribution pipeline a self-service delight.
To stay ahead of the curve in all ways as they continue to create new experiences and grow their business.
Cindy Kong, Senior Product Associate
Angel Cheung, Product Associate
Lucas Tseng, Software Engineer
Hong Kong, China; Helsinki, Finland
Constant innovation leads to steady growth
Animoca Brands has grown a lot since its inception in 2014. Operating from seven countries and employing over 250 team members, they’ve gone from offering casual titles to delivering an expansive catalog of products ranging from simple and quick all the way up to strategic, midcore games. They’re in a constant state of expansion and innovation, so moving into more markets was a natural part of this process. UDP became an essential and enjoyable part of accelerating their growth.
The global leader in blockchain and mobile gaming
Animoca Brands’ eventual push into the future of gaming experiences should come as no surprise, considering what their vision is. “We’ve always considered ourselves early adopters,” says Lucas Tseng, a software engineer at Animoca Brands. “We have a vision that the adoption of blockchain is going to trigger a new content revolution, one that may be as significant as the rise of the internet. We believe that blockchain and non-fungible tokens can bring real-world value to players.”
Ranked #5 on BlockchainGamer’s top 50 blockchain companies 2020 list, Animoca Brands eventually wants to make blockchain gaming the norm. “We want to offer true digital ownership to players. Rare game items can take months or even years to get, and we want our players to truly own those assets so they can freely trade their game items on any marketplace, or use them in any other supported games,” says Angel Cheung, a product associate at Animoca Brands. “We are also working with big brands such as Formula 1 and MotoGP to bring the public to blockchain gaming.”
Growing their business around the world
Animoca Brands has grown considerably in the last five years or so. “We originated in Hong Kong but have since grown to encompass multiple studios with many different focuses across numerous countries. We are still based in Hong Kong, with subsidiaries operating in the United States, South Korea, Finland, and a few other countries, and we each have our own specialties,” says Tseng.
This has allowed Animoca Brands to shift its primary focus to creating bigger and more complex titles. “Around three years ago, we found ourselves able to start putting our efforts into more midcore titles like Crazy Defense Heroes, which is great because the market has been shifting more towards midcore and hardcore games.”
With that market shift has come a considerably larger interest in publishing beyond the familiar offerings of Google Play and the App Store. Thanks to an existing relationship with Unity, and the right information delivered at the right time, Animoca Brands learned about the Unity Distribution Portal.
Reaching players around the world
According to Tseng, this ambitious studio considers itself a global game developer and publisher, and it distributes its products around the world. “Although we are based in Hong Kong, we never solely focus on the local market. In fact, we always want our games to be available globally. However, in the past we often ran into difficulties when trying to push our games to different app stores in various countries.”
It turned out that their ideal solution came in the form of a centralized hub created by a company they were already quite familiar with.
“We first learned about the Unity Distribution Portal from Maxim De Wit (global head of content, UDP). He let us know that there was an easier way to push our titles into international app stores and that we should give it a shot. Since we had already built a number of our games using Unity, and thus were familiar with the ecosystem, adding UDP to our projects proved to be very simple. From there, we looked at the stores we were interested in and started making our decisions.”
Getting up and running in UDP
A particular joy for Lucas, Angel and Cindy was how straightforward UDP’s solution proved to be, as Lucas says, “We did not want to create 10 different builds with 10 different APKs for 10 different stores. That is the most substantial challenge with selling games in all of these different app stores: the extra resources and time required to promote all of them individually. UDP does away with this. It requires a single build only, for which each store – through the UDP console – generates a store-specific APK.”
Pushing changes easily across stores
Another UDP benefit that Animoca Brands’ developers like is how easy it is to push changes and updates to Crazy Defense Heroes and other UDP-integrated games. “Pushing updates can be done right from the UDP console, and that has probably been the most important aspect of using this for us. By not having to maintain our games individually across unique developer portals has saved us an incredible amount of time.”
This is where Animoca Brands understands the substantial value delivered by UDP: much like they want to create a new era of true digital ownership for players of their blockchain-utilizing future titles, they are enjoying the simple ownership and maintenance of their games in these stores without being beholden to the typical red tape and unique processes associated with third-party app stores.
Continually adding more stores
Finally, when asked how Animoca Brands plans to use UDP in the not-too-distant future, Tseng doesn’t hesitate to answer. “Oh, we’re definitely planning to distribute to more partner stores as they become available. Maybe that’s one of the best things for us: we don’t need to care about which stores come next. It’s so easy with UDP, we can just get ready to move Crazy Defense Heroes into every one of the available partner stores.”
This reflects the ease with which it took for Animoca Brands to move its game into UDP’s partner stores. “All in all, it took us less than two weeks to get the game set up in those stores. We know that’s what we have to look forward to with our next store submissions. From there, it’s all about maintaining it through UDP. With less than 30 lines of code changed, we prepped our game for global release. We’re committed to UDP for the long haul.”