Facebook has teamed up with Unity, a popular game engine, to launch a software development kit that makes it easier to tie cross-platform 3D games into the social network.
The SDK release is designed to simplify the process of integrating Facebook social features into games that work across different tablets, smartphones and PCs. It also aims to make it easier for developers to deploy their mobile games as Facebook apps.
Unity is a game development ecosystem for developers who create interactive 3D games and related material. Facebook and Unity first announced their partnership in March, a move intended to help developers create better, more visually stunning games on Facebook while increasing the number of Unity gamers on the social network.
"Facebook wanted to make sure there are better and more diverse games on the app store," said David Helgason, CEO of Unity. "For a while it was dominated by similar flash games and it got to a point where it drove people off."
Many of those flash games were products of Zynga, who split from Facebook late last year.
Facebook says more than 260 million people plays games on its network every month, with 3D gaming being one of the fastest growing categories. Its alliance with Unity is targeting developers who build hardcore and so-called "midcore" games that could appeal to this growing audience.
“Facebook has a relevant and engaged audience of gamers that mobile developers can reach by publishing their games on Facebook,” the company noted. “The SDK makes bringing a mobile game to Web as simple as writing one line of code.”
The number of monthly active Facebook users with Unity installed on the Web has more than tripled the the first half of 2013, and now stands at over 90 million. Unity games are already distributed across iPhone, Android, and Linux devices and gaming consoles. By bringing their mobile games to Facebook, developers can theoretically put them before vast numbers of potential players with relatively little effort.
The update is only available for Unity games including apps like MadFinger’s Shadowgun:Deadzone and Cmune’s UberStrike, both of which have already integrated the SDK into their games.
Users will also see increased social integration while playing. Games stay in full-screen mode so players can share their high scores, invite friends to play, and post achievements to their Facebook Timeline without leaving the game. This allows users to interact with their friends and other players without interrupting gameplay.
Separately, Parse announced a plugin for Unity that will allow developers to store data, authenticate users and implement features like high score data and saving games for continuous play. The plugin will be available in the coming weeks.