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Unity support for Xbox One will ensure devs can "go crazy" with the hardware

But "the fundamental thing is that the tools themselves are the same"

The forthcoming Unity game creation tools for Xbox One will resemble those for Xbox 360, Unity Technologies CEO David Helgason has told OXM, but that doesn't mean that developers won't be able to make use of the console's swankier capabilities.

Will Unity's Xbox One support be as simple as a new export button for the existing interface, we asked? "That will pretty much be how it works from a technical perspective," Helgason assured. "There is the toolset that we have been working on for many years that supports many platforms. From a technical perspective the idea is that you work on your game once and then you can bring it to any platform.

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"But we also make sure you can really make use of the hardware. So if you're running a really high-end device, you want to go crazy with shaders, you want to go crazy with particle systems, you want to really use what is there.

"Depending on which platform there are different costs, but the fundamental thing is that the tools themselves are the same," he continued. "And once you build what you want to build you can just export it directly. So now we're adding, in collaboration with Microsoft, Xbox One support later this year and we also worked with them to make the Windows store export free."

[Update - Helgason has told OXM that he spoke in error as regards the release date - Xbox One's Unity tools won't be "widely available" till 2014.]

Microsoft has arranged for the distribution of free Unity tools to all Xbox One developers, as part of its plans for robuster, more efficient support on Xbox One. The manufacturer announced the ID@Xbox program at Gamescom, which allows developers to self-publish their work on Xbox One after completing a free application process. Microsoft also claims that every Xbox One can function as a development kit, again with prior approval, though this isn't a feature you should expect at launch.

Unity support for Xbox One will, of course, allow developers to easily port existing Unity games for Xbox 360 and other platforms to the new console. "Xbox 360 support was something we did on our own to support some of our customers, we came in really late in the cycle, so we kind of knew it wasn't going to be a huge business for us," Helgason recalled. "Because you know late in a cycle, people will have picked their technologies, built their own, there weren't really a lot of needs.

"So we did because we had customers who wanted to export games and they did that. Here we're coming in really early in the cycle with a lot of support from Microsoft, also the difference is a few years ago we were a small company with a new toolset and now it's a massive community with almost two million people.

"Tens of thousands of games, is our last estimate - on mobile especially, but also elsewhere. And of course you know Microsoft is excited to work with us to bring the best of that community to their ecosystem."

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As you may already know, Helgason is particularly excited by Xbox One's revamped Kinect sensor, which he describes as an "amazing piece of hardware". How do you think Unity developers could make use of the thing, given that they're theoretically able to take creative risks not available to larger teams? And are there any existing Unity games you'd like on Xbox One?

Update: Microsoft has issued a clarification about the above: "Developers using Unity will certainly get to leverage the Unity/Microsoft partnership to support Unity on Xbox One. We don't have anything to announce with Unity and ID@XBOX at this time."

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