Unity Game Engine Announces Xbox One Support, Goes Free For Windows Phone 8 Developers

Unity, the cross-platform 3D engine and game development tool that’s been on something of a roll lately, has a few more bits of good news today. At Microsoft’s Build 2013 conference this morning, Unity announced two new tricks: Xbox One (and Kinect!) support, and completely free support for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 games.

It’s been a few good months for Unity. Back in March, they announced support for Sony’s PlayStation 4. Then, after dropping support for the hot mess that is Flash, they announced that iOS and Android game developers could now build their wares on Unity free of charge — ditching their requirement that mobile developers pay a few hundred bucks for an add-on package for each platform. They’d continue to offer pro versions of both Unity ($1,500 for the Pro build) and the iOS/Android add-ons (another $1,500 per platform) for those who needed advanced functionality, but the free versions would cover the use cases for anyone just getting their feet wet.

With today’s news, Windows developers are getting a similar deal — in fact, the one they’re getting is a bit better. As with iOS and Android, developers using Unity’s basic/free product will be able to build their Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 games for free. But that Pro add-on? The one that iOS/Android developers need to plunk down an additional $1,500 for? Unity and Microsoft have worked out a deal to eat the cost of that. If you buy (or already own) Unity Pro, the Windows Store Pro add-on and all the advanced functionality that comes with it comes free.

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For Windows gamers, that’s pretty good news. It means that pretty much any game built on top of Unity can be ported to Windows Phone 8 or Windows 8 with minimal effort, without that developer having to drop a dime on engine licensing to do it.

Meanwhile, the company also announced that Unity would be deeply supported by the Xbox One, including gesture/skeletal recognition through the Kinect. While tying into the 360’s Kinect from Unity has been possible for a while now, it’s always been a bit of a hack; once Xbox One support makes its way into Unity 4, it’ll be official. Alas, it’s not clear if the One-specific tools will be made available to everyone — while Unity says that they’ll be free to anyone published by Microsoft Studios, there’s no word on how much they’ll cost (or if they’ll even be available) to anyone just looking to tinker. We’ve sent an email to Unity asking for more details here.

[Update: A Unity rep tells us “Unity can still be used by [Xbox] developers being published by someone other than Microsoft Games Studios, they’ll just need to pay for it. We ask developers interested in using Unity to publish to consoles to contact us directly to discuss pricing.”]

With today’s news, Unity can now claim cross-platform support for every next-gen console, as well as every popular mobile operating system.