Unity is merging with a company (IronSource) who made a malware installer

Armenius

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https://www.pcgamer.com/unity-is-merging-with-a-company-who-made-a-malware-installer/

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Unity, the company behind the multiplatform game engine of the same name, announced it has entered into an agreement to merge with IronSource(opens in new tab). "If you don't know ironSource," Unity's statement reads, "they bring a proven record of helping creators focus on what creators do best – bringing great apps and user experiences to life – while enabling business expansion in the app economy."

IronSource is also well-known for another reason. It developed InstallCore, a wrapper for bundling software installations. If you've searched for a popular program and seen a link to a third-party site with a URL that ended in something like "downloadb.net" or "hdownload.net" it may well have been InstallCore. If you made the mistake of downloading it, you'd be offered the kind of extras with generic names like RegClean Pro and DriverSupport an unsophisticated user might click OK on, which is how you end up with a PC full of toolbars and junk that's as slow as your parents' is. InstallCore was obnoxious enough Windows Defender will stop it running(opens in new tab), and Malwarebytes(opens in new tab) too.

As documented by Microsoft's chief economist for web experience, strategy, and policy Ben Edelman(opens in new tab), InstallCore was also behind a fake installer for a Windows version of Snapchat, a program that's only ever been available on mobile. It would instead install Android emulator BlueStacks, as well as the usual injection of adware.

Game developers who use Unity are less than thrilled about the merger. Andreia Gaita(opens in new tab), who runs game porting studio Spoiled Cat, tweeted that, "A game engine is the thing that you use to build and distribute games to devices. The vendors of those devices, like Apple, need to trust that the engine is not bundling bad things along with the game. Merging with a company that specializes in bundling malware is… WTF". Or as Maddy Thorson(opens in new tab) of Celeste fame succinctly put it, "Man, fuck Unity".

In an interview about the acquisition, CEO of Unity John Riccitiello, who is infamous as the former CEO of EA and has a history of pushing monetization in video games, calls developers who don't bake monetization into their creative process "fucking idiots." He goes onto say that the compulsion loop, the concept of a gameplay loop that psychologically incentivizes players to play and spend more money, needs to be long in order to be successful.

https://www.pocketgamer.biz/interview/79190/unity-ironsource-john-riccitiello-marc-whitten-merger/

Implementing monetisation earlier in the process and conversation is certainly an angle that has seen pushback from some developers.

Riccitiello: Ferrari and some of the other high-end car manufacturers still use clay and carving knives. It’s a very small portion of the gaming industry that works that way, and some of these people are my favourite people in the world to fight with – they’re the most beautiful and pure, brilliant people. They’re also some of the biggest fucking idiots.

I’ve been in the gaming industry longer than most anybody – getting to the grey hair and all that. It used to be the case that developers would throw their game over the wall to the publicist and sales force with literally no interaction beforehand. That model is baked into the philosophy of a lot of artforms and medium, and it’s one I am deeply respectful of; I know their dedication and care.

But this industry divides people between those who still hold to that philosophy and those who massively embrace how to figure out what makes a successful product. And I don’t know a successful artist anywhere that doesn’t care about what their player thinks. This is where this cycle of feedback comes back, and they can choose to ignore it. But to choose to not know it at all is not a great call.

I’ve seen great games fail because they tuned their compulsion loop to two minutes when it should have been an hour. Sometimes, you wouldn’t even notice the product difference between a massive success and tremendous fail, but for this tuning and what it does to the attrition rate. There isn’t a developer on the planet that wouldn’t want that knowledge.

What do you think of the acquisition and Riccitiello's comments?
 

DukenukemX

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There's only so many lines of cocaine one could snort with a popular game engine. Gotta insert in game ads if you want more cocaine. But yea the merger is probably about inserting in game ads.
 

sharknice

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I'm guessing they're going to try to add their own microtransaction tools into the engine that will use their services so Unity gets a cut of every transaction, or maybe it's just a tool to make it easier to do microtransactions and Unity still gets an overall cut of the proffits for using their engine. That really wouldn't be a big deal, it would make it easier for developers to monetize theri games.
But it might be much worse, and they may actually try bundle in malware when you install games which I think is what people are worried about.


I understand what the CEO means with his comments. There are actually a lot of really good PC games that end up just being a flavor of the month and forgotten because they fail to keep an audience. But that "compulsion loop" doesn't have to involve microtransactions or turn the game into your stereotypical mobile microtransaction crapware.
 

Zarathustra[H]

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I've long wondered how much malware snooping for personal data is installed with games, and if it isn't yet, how long it would be before the temptation of an added user data revenue source becomes too much for game devs and they give in.

They could build it right into the game itself and most people would never know.

This is why we need regulation banning the use and monetization of user data for any purpose, and requiring that any product or AI trained on such data already be destroyed.

We have to as a society smash this shit. It's already too dystopian as it is.
 

Armenius

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I'm guessing they're going to try to add their own microtransaction tools into the engine that will use their services so Unity gets a cut of every transaction, or maybe it's just a tool to make it easier to do microtransactions and Unity still gets an overall cut of the proffits for using their engine. That really wouldn't be a big deal, it would make it easier for developers to monetize theri games.
But it might be much worse, and they may actually try bundle in malware when you install games which I think is what people are worried about.


I understand what the CEO means with his comments. There are actually a lot of really good PC games that end up just being a flavor of the month and forgotten because they fail to keep an audience. But that "compulsion loop" doesn't have to involve microtransactions or turn the game into your stereotypical mobile microtransaction crapware.
Compulsion loop in game design is literally about monetization. You can't have a compulsion loop without microtransactions. What you're thinking of is the core gameplay loop.

https://gameanalytics.com/blog/the-compulsion-loop-explained/
 

DukenukemX

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I understand what the CEO means with his comments. There are actually a lot of really good PC games that end up just being a flavor of the month and forgotten because they fail to keep an audience. But that "compulsion loop" doesn't have to involve microtransactions or turn the game into your stereotypical mobile microtransaction crapware.
The CEO doesn't play games. Firstly all games are flavor of the month because people don't play the same game forever. Eventually they want to see something new and will move on. Second, you aren't going to retain gamers with ads or micro-transactions, as the goal there is to milk them while you can during that month. Third, if your game can't hold onto gamers even for a month then that's because you made a bad game, or worse a mediocre game. Mediocre games are like the worst thing about todays gaming as the game works perfectly fine but doesn't do anything good to keep gamers attention. Elden Ring is a great example where developers knew how to make a fun game, where it gained a lot of hatred from other developers. That game isn't as popular as it was earlier this year but still a top seller on Steam. Stop trying to monetize games and worry about making a good game. Mediocre is still bad, just not SuperMan 64 bad.
 

Lakados

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For a long time I’ve been expecting in game adds. Rotating billboards, posters, audio clips. The works. This basically cements it, I’m not happy but advertising has to move somewhere as people add more and more ads blockers, and TV viewership decreases.
Coming soon to a PC near you service level add blocking for not only your web browsers but applications as well.

Probably from the bastards at Norton, because fuck it at this point nothing makes sense.
 

sharknice

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Compulsion loop in game design is literally about monetization. You can't have a compulsion loop without microtransactions. What you're thinking of is the core gameplay loop.

https://gameanalytics.com/blog/the-compulsion-loop-explained/

That doesn't say anything about it having to be microtransactions. A compulsion loop could be something like earning weapon skins for getting kills with that weapon. You play the game so you can earn the new skin. Then when you unlock that skin there is a higher tier skin to unlock, and then a higher tier after that, etc. Or something like having daily challenges that you can do to earn a games free currency that you can use to buy skins with, etc. Many sucessful games do this and it keeps people playing.

The CEO doesn't play games. Firstly all games are flavor of the month because people don't play the same game forever. Eventually they want to see something new and will move on. Second, you aren't going to retain gamers with ads or micro-transactions, as the goal there is to milk them while you can during that month. Third, if your game can't hold onto gamers even for a month then that's because you made a bad game, or worse a mediocre game. Mediocre games are like the worst thing about todays gaming as the game works perfectly fine but doesn't do anything good to keep gamers attention. Elden Ring is a great example where developers knew how to make a fun game, where it gained a lot of hatred from other developers. That game isn't as popular as it was earlier this year but still a top seller on Steam. Stop trying to monetize games and worry about making a good game. Mediocre is still bad, just not SuperMan 64 bad.

Nah. Games that are flavor of the month aren't automatically bad games. They're often very enjoyable, but only for a month or so because of limited content or replayability. A lot of the times players are begging for more content but the developers just don't add anything and players are stuck with the base game. There are many examples of good multiplayer indy games like this that die after a few months because the developers didn't add any new content. And the developers have no motivation to add new content if they dont' make money from it.

A good example is Mordhau. It was a great game but the developers failed to add anything substancial. They actually had modern XP unlock systems to earn new loadouts and outfits, but it only lasted so long. Players were constantly asking for new patches and maps, but the developers were extremely slow to release anything. It took them like a year to release a new map because they had absolutely no financial motivation to do so. and the communicty died down to nearly nothing despite it being by far the best medieval multiplayer FPS game out there.

Of course you can still have games like Elden Ring that was made by a AAA studio with shitloads of content included in the base game, but that isn't possible for the type of small Indy studios using Unity.
 

Lakados

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The hell with that. If a game publisher wants my money, convince me to part with a chunk of it when I buy the game. You're not entitled to keep asking for extra chunks forever, though.
Yeah it’s dirty as fuck, but I’ve seen it coming for years. The first day I learned my BluRay movies need internet so they can stream the latest movie trailers from that studio I knew it was coming for everything else. It was only a matter of time.
 

ElementDave

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Thoughts on Riccitiello's comments? He sounds like a complete asshole who cares zero about producing quality games, and whose behavior might've been considered sociopathic in former times. But deceptive and exploitive behavior is now the norm for someone in his position. His comments don't leave much room for a more nuanced and thoughtful interpretation.

The problem is broad in scope and extends far beyond gaming.
Game developers who use Unity are less than thrilled about the merger. Andreia Gaita(opens in new tab), who runs game porting studio Spoiled Cat, tweeted that, "A game engine is the thing that you use to build and distribute games to devices. The vendors of those devices, like Apple, need to trust that the engine is not bundling bad things along with the game. Merging with a company that specializes in bundling malware is… WTF". Or as Maddy Thorson(opens in new tab) of Celeste fame succinctly put it, "Man, fuck Unity".
I'm inclined to agree with the game developers here, especially that last comment.
We have to as a society smash this shit. It's already too dystopian as it is.
Dystopian indeed.
 

DukenukemX

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Nah. Games that are flavor of the month aren't automatically bad games. They're often very enjoyable, but only for a month or so because of limited content or replayability. A lot of the times players are begging for more content but the developers just don't add anything and players are stuck with the base game. There are many examples of good multiplayer indy games like this that die after a few months because the developers didn't add any new content. And the developers have no motivation to add new content if they dont' make money from it.
I'm not saying it's bad but truly good games last a very long time. Look at how many times Skyrim was released, or how Undertale had sparked an internet meme for years.
A good example is Mordhau. It was a great game but the developers failed to add anything substancial. They actually had modern XP unlock systems to earn new loadouts and outfits, but it only lasted so long. Players were constantly asking for new patches and maps, but the developers were extremely slow to release anything. It took them like a year to release a new map because they had absolutely no financial motivation to do so. and the communicty died down to nearly nothing despite it being by far the best medieval multiplayer FPS game out there.
The problem is everyone wants to move to live service gaming and nobody really wants it or plans to play a game that long. No matter what you do, eventually gamers get bored and move on. Not to forget that other games do exist that try to get your attention as well. The whole purpose is to get gamers hooked so they don't need to create a whole new game and just add new assets to the game to keep you addicted.
Of course you can still have games like Elden Ring that was made by a AAA studio with shitloads of content included in the base game, but that isn't possible for the type of small Indy studios using Unity.
There are a shit ton of great games made on Unity, which is why this is scary. CupHead, Ori the second one, Hollow Knight, and probably more games than I know, were all good games made with unity. It's not about Unity but the lack of creativity from developers. You can make a game but can you make a fun game?

For a long time I’ve been expecting in game adds. Rotating billboards, posters, audio clips. The works. This basically cements it, I’m not happy but advertising has to move somewhere as people add more and more ads blockers, and TV viewership decreases.
Good luck as I block ads at the router level. If the ads are online then it won't get past my router. If the ads are built into the game then I'll just mod the game and have the ads replaced with something else. Either way you won't win.
Coming soon to a PC near you service level add blocking for not only your web browsers but applications as well.
Google's ads are service level for YouTube but that didn't stop people from blocking them. It's blocked right within the web browser. At this point the only reason Google hasn't updated Chrome to prevent this is because FireFox exists. Even if Google were to somehow convince FireFox to block or limit ad blocking then there's like countless other forks of FireFox and Chromium that also block ads.
Probably from the bastards at Norton, because fuck it at this point nothing makes sense.
Norton as in Norton antivirus? Does anyone take them serious anymore?
 

LukeTbk

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all games are flavor of the month

if your game can't hold onto gamers even for a month then that's because you made a bad game, or worse a mediocre game.



The all games are flavor of the month in a world with Tetris, Starcraft 1-2, Age of Empire 2, Counter strike, Sim City, Final Fantasy 7, Gran Turismo, etc......... is such a strange statement, one seem to contradict the very same sentence of the same paragraph, there is a long history of game having long-lasting game culture imprint if not actual active gaming community years after release, let alone months.

Top game currently on steam:
Top games by current player count
CURRENT PLAYERS
PEAK TODAY
GAME
386,403​
838,217​
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
311,604​
615,233​
Dota 2
117,099​
251,334​
Lost Ark
111,590​
121,162​
Team Fortress 2
105,445​
320,783​
Apex Legends
82,709​
108,724​
Rust
69,146​
111,381​
ARK: Survival Evolved
67,692​
378,465​
PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS
57,452​
63,520​
Destiny 2
57,165​
122,227​
Grand Theft Auto V


All july of 2022 favor of the months ?
 

Red Falcon

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There's only so many lines of cocaine one could snort with a popular game engine. Gotta insert in game ads if you want more cocaine. But yea the merger is probably about inserting in game ads.
We have to as a society smash this shit. It's already too dystopian as it is.
Did someone say dark cyberpunk future? :borg:
It might be time to start paying in iron... 🏴‍☠️
 

Zarathustra[H]

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Good luck as I block ads at the router level. If the ads are online then it won't get past my router. If the ads are built into the game then I'll just mod the game and have the ads replaced with something else. Either way you won't win.

Game.exe cannot reach game servers. Please check your connection and try again.

That, and even if you succeed in blocking the in game billboards, then you are going to be replacing ad content with error messages or some other placeholder in an equally immersion breaking way.
 

DukenukemX

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The all games are flavor of the month in a world with Tetris, Starcraft 1-2, Age of Empire 2, Counter strike, Sim City, Final Fantasy 7, Gran Turismo, etc......... is such a strange statement, one seem to contradict the very same sentence of the same paragraph, there is a long history of game having long-lasting game culture imprint if not actual active gaming community years after release, let alone months.
In terms of profits it peaks within the first 1-3 months. You're agreeing with something I already said in that some games have a much larger effect in terms of popularity. Skyrim and Undertale, are examples I already gave.
Game.exe cannot reach game servers. Please check your connection and try again.
Unless the authentication mechanism is the same source as the ads then I don't have to worry. At least nobody usually hosts ads on something as important as authentication. If need be I could always find a way to use something like snort or Suricata to block ads by looking at packets. A Pi Hole or my dinky router running OpenWRT probably can't use this software effectively but if need be I can always go the path of the Forbidden Router. The only reason this hasn't been explored yet is because ads have been handled just fine by blocking via DNS or web browser addons. The moment these fail then the ad block game evolves and the method to blocking ads gets more sophisticated. If need be I'll get a NUC and just make it into a ad blocking machine. This may work for a short time until the community makes it easy enough that even Joe Sixpack can install the ad block. If the game runs on PC as Lord Gaben intended then packet sniffing the ads out is going to be much easier, and yet another reason why console users should go PCMasterRace. We can go as much as to edit the exe and remove the code that shows ads, and probably easier than removing Denuvo. You don't want to open up that Pandora's box.
That, and even if you succeed in blocking the in game billboards, then you are going to be replacing ad content with error messages or some other placeholder in an equally immersion breaking way.
Ads in a game is not immersion. How are you going to make ads in a game with wizards and warriors immersive? I could imagine a tool that replaces the ads with something more appealing, or just make fun of the products that it was advertising.
 

Lakados

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Good luck as I block ads at the router level. If the ads are online then it won't get past my router. If the ads are built into the game then I'll just mod the game and have the ads replaced with something else. Either way you won't win.
Yeah but then they just add something else, they are just going to keep fucking us till it bleeds, and when we cry about it they are just going to be all why you crying it's all lubed up now. Block them at the browser, service, and network level, and whats going to happen they just implement some sort of check and you get the popup "disable your ad blocker to continue" and yeah most of us just go fuck that noise and we turn around and leave. But you know there are enough people out there that want it and they will allow it, and in the end, it's going to make more than enough money that everybody else goes "well look at all that cash, we gotta be doing that too". And that's how we lose.
 

DukenukemX

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Yeah but then they just add something else, they are just going to keep fucking us till it bleeds, and when we cry about it they are just going to be all why you crying it's all lubed up now. Block them at the browser, service, and network level, and whats going to happen they just implement some sort of check and you get the popup "disable your ad blocker to continue" and yeah most of us just go fuck that noise and we turn around and leave. But you know there are enough people out there that want it and they will allow it, and in the end, it's going to make more than enough money that everybody else goes "well look at all that cash, we gotta be doing that too". And that's how we lose.
The ad block game has been beaten to death. The only people who don't have active ad block are iPhone and iOS users who can't install YouTube Vanced because they made a mistake and bought an Apple product. I haven't seen ads in years, and that includes TV which I stopped watching since 2010. My time is too valuable to give any time to an ad.

To give you an idea of the level of ad block that goes on.
  1. OpenWRT with adblock service.
  2. FireFox and Chrome with Ublock and sponderblock installed.
  3. Android devices with YouTube Vanced installed.
This has worked fine for years and the moment someone decides to get smart with ads I will go beyond this to block it even further. This is not a game that can be won because you think you have power here. Then people like Linus Tech Tips will call it piracy when I'm not watching their ads. Go ahead and try to get smart with pushing ads, and see how well that will end. Netflix plans to have a subscription model with ads, like nobody is going to figure out how to remove the ads.
 

LukeTbk

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In terms of profits it peaks within the first 1-3 months. You're agreeing with something I already said in that some games have a much larger effect in terms of popularity. Skyrim and Undertale, are examples I already gave.
Yes, exactly why I said you contradicted yourself right after ;)
 

ElementDave

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There are a shit ton of great games made on Unity, which is why this is scary. CupHead, Ori the second one, Hollow Knight, and probably more games than I know, were all good games made with unity. It's not about Unity but the lack of creativity from developers. You can make a game but can you make a fun game?
A few other Unity games that spring to mind are Pillars of Eternity, its sequel Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, and Tyranny, developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published by Paradox Interactive. I played only the first of those (including the White March expansions) and have mixed feelings about the game overall, but some of the ideas and mechanics were interesting and enjoyable (if not frustrating at times!).

According to Wikipedia, Microsoft acquired Obsidian in 2018, and the first game they released after the acquisition was an "action role-playing game set in an alternate future in which megacorporations began colonizing and terraforming alien planets." Clearly somebody was trying to send a message. :blackalien:

What are a few of the most successful Unity-based titles? (Success needn't be restricted to the financial sense, and can be defined by some measure of popularity or whatever; I use the term loosely.) I was looking over this list of Unity games, and while I recognize quite a few titles, I don't really pay attention to the video game industry outside of the handful or so of games I might have an interest in playing.

What's this? Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales. Does this mean I can play Gwent in a single-player offline game (outside Witcher 3)? Not interested in the pay-to-win online multiplayer Gwent.

I may have gone a little overboard with the Wikipedia links. Don't ask me why... 🤷‍♂️
 

Armenius

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A few other Unity games that spring to mind are Pillars of Eternity, its sequel Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, and Tyranny, developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published by Paradox Interactive. I played only the first of those (including the White March expansions) and have mixed feelings about the game overall, but some of the ideas and mechanics were interesting and enjoyable (if not frustrating at times!).

According to Wikipedia, Microsoft acquired Obsidian in 2018, and the first game they released after the acquisition was an "action role-playing game set in an alternate future in which megacorporations began colonizing and terraforming alien planets." Clearly somebody was trying to send a message. :blackalien:

What are a few of the most successful Unity-based titles? (Success needn't be restricted to the financial sense, and can be defined by some measure of popularity or whatever; I use the term loosely.) I was looking over this list of Unity games, and while I recognize quite a few titles, I don't really pay attention to the video game industry outside of the handful or so of games I might have an interest in playing.

What's this? Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales. Does this mean I can play Gwent in a single-player offline game (outside Witcher 3)? Not interested in the pay-to-win online multiplayer Gwent.

I may have gone a little overboard with the Wikipedia links. Don't ask me why... 🤷‍♂️
Genshin Impact is probably both the most popular and financially successful on that list.

That game Obsidian released after being acquired by Microsoft, Outer Worlds, runs on Unreal Engine 4.
 

UnknownSouljer

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Wasteland 2 and 3 were both Unity Engine games. But perhaps they aren’t as high profile due to people (in general) not being hardcore strategy RPG fans.
 

Meeho

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I've long wondered how much malware snooping for personal data is installed with games, and if it isn't yet, how long it would be before the temptation of an added user data revenue source becomes too much for game devs and they give in.

They could build it right into the game itself and most people would never know.

This is why we need regulation banning the use and monetization of user data for any purpose, and requiring that any product or AI trained on such data already be destroyed.

We have to as a society smash this shit. It's already too dystopian as it is.
There is an existing, easy and free solution already: *don't buy shit products!*

Regulation is never the right solution and mostly backfires in different ways.
 

Zarathustra[H]

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There is an existing, easy and free solution already: *don't buy shit products!*

That assumes that these products advertise in advance what they are planning on doing.

I'm pretty convinced most if not all of them are already doing shitty things in the background while you are gaming. Why else do you think they all want you to sign in to their own launchers? Now they have connected a random gamer ID with an email or other unified identifier that they can use to tie your data to the data they buy from (or sell to) data brokers in order to create a bigger picture.

Regulation is never the right solution and mostly backfires in different ways.

Regulation can absolutely help. Sometimes it is the only thing that can help. People and corporations do shitty things, especially when money is involved. Using the full force of the law to prevent it is often the ONLY thing that can fix a problem.
 

NickM

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That assumes that these products advertise in advance what they are planning on doing.

I'm pretty convinced most if not all of them are already doing shitty things in the background while you are gaming. Why else do you think they all want you to sign in to their own launchers? Now they have connected a random gamer ID with an email or other unified identifier that they can use to tie your data to the data they buy from (or sell to) data brokers in order to create a bigger picture.



Regulation can absolutely help. Sometimes it is the only thing that can help. People and corporations do shitty things, especially when money is involved. Using the full force of the law to prevent it is often the ONLY thing that can fix a problem.
And governments DON'T do shitty things? In my experience, there is nothing more hazardous to one's freedom of expression and freedom period than government. They are a necessary evil but need constant restraint to keep them from going all banana republic right in front of you.
 

Rvenger

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I am worried about Parsec more than anything at this point. I use this application with my friend so we can play 1 player games.
 

ElementDave

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Wasteland 2 and 3 were both Unity Engine games. But perhaps they aren’t as high profile due to people (in general) not being hardcore strategy RPG fans.
I enjoyed the original (DOS version) Wasteland, but that was a long time ago.💾 The modern sequels look like they could be interesting; I'll have to read up on them. I haven't really explored many turn-based RPGs.

Although unrelated to Unity or game engines, I appreciated your reviews of Divinity: Original Sin II. They were helpful and informative, and convinced me to give it a whirl once I can find the time. Thanks!

(Popularity and choice of engine aren't factors I personally consider when choosing a game. The aim of my initial question was just to gain a better sense of how this merger might affect the game industry.)
 
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