Game engine developer Unity signs lucrative contract with US Defense

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Software development company Unity (opens in new tab), creator of the popular game engine of the same name, has signed a major contract with the US government to provide its digital simulation technology for defence purposes.

As reported by Bloomberg (opens in new tab), the company announced the three year, multi-million dollar deal earlier this week. The contract is in partnership with CACI International Inc., an information technology firm that has previously provided military intelligence, including aerial surveillance, to the US government.

In an earnings call on Tuesday, Unity’s senior vice president Marc Whitten said this new relationship will “help the government defining human machine interfaces or HMI for aerospace applications and beyond,” adding “These applications demand an interactive, robust user experience very much like games.”

The deal comes in the wake of reports last year (opens in new tab) that employees at Unity had ethical concerns regarding the overlap between the company’s military and non-military ventures. At the time, Unity CEO, John Riccitello released an internal statement explaining that the company’s military contracts, which included a partnership with Lockheed Martin “are very restrictive” and that the company “would not support programs where we knowingly violate our principles and values”. But this apparently sparked a backlash from employees, many of whom it was claimed were only just becoming aware of the company’s military dealings. In response, Riccitiello promised that the matter would be discussed at the company’s next “town-hall meeting”.

More broadly, it’s been a turbulent few months for Unity. In June, the company laid off (opens in new tab) hundreds of employees after a claimed attempte to “realign” resources. A month later, it announced a merger (opens in new tab) with IronSource, a company known for creating a MalWare program called InstallCore. Meanwhile, Riccitiello issued an apology (opens in new tab)after calling developers who don’t actively think about monetising their games “fucking idiots” during an interview. And only a few days ago, mobile ad-tech company AppLovin offered to buy Unity (opens in new tab) for S17.5 billion, a proposal which Unity’s board stated it would “thoroughly evaluate”.

It’s uncertain what effect, if any, this new deal will have on that offer, or Unity’s likelihood of accepting it. But what is clear is that, despite the protests from its employees, Unity is pressing ahead with the military side of its business. Indeed, the company wrote in its earnings report that this new venture is the “single largest digital twin solution deal for Unity to date.”

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