Maps for Unity: Location Based Games and Mapbox

This morning’s launch of Maps for Unity brings the full stack of location tools to the world’s most popular game development platform and shows that location and maps are the new building blocks for AR and VR games.

We think the maps look amazing and are insanely fast.

Bringing location and maps to game developers is a big deal. Pokemon Go had maps because Niantic, the game’s creators, started as part of Google and the company is run by John Hankey — the former CEO of Google Maps. The maps in Pokemon Go were customized because John secured special access to Google’s proprietary datasets. No one else could have maps like that, until now.

Today’s Mapbox release is not about just maps but is about location and how the gameplay matches the real world around you.

“In this one, the spaceships are different sizes, so we built an API that only lets spaceships in parks where green areas are big enough. Using our traffic endpoint, we see all the walking paths in the park, so when you land the ship, it spins so the door faces the paths where people walk.”

Ryan and I have been trading emails like this with Eric, the CEO of Mapbox, talking strategy around the SDK since last Summer when Pokemon Go launched. Stuff like this just wasn’t possible before — we think game studios are going to go crazy for it.

Unity, with its massive user base and comprehensive tools radically decreased the time to market for game makers. But until today’s release, doing anything with real-world maps in Unity was virtually impossible. The Maps SDK gives Unity developers the kind of ready-to-use tools Mapbox has already brought to mobile and the web.

Looking at the beta demos, we think the games built on this will look amazing. Not only can designers change the look and feel of the map, they can now access open APIs for searching local places like coffee shops and stores, elevation data and satellite imagery, and turn-by-turn directions to guide people through the game and the real world at the same time.

Design is everything for gameplay and in the last year, Unity has radically invested in its core rendering tech to the point where it’s now hard to tell what has been filmed versus rendered in real time.

Eric and the team at Mapbox have built an incredible platform. Mapbox now has more than 750,000 registered developers with maps used by 250 million end users each month — including National Geographic’s city guides, AirBNB’s service in China, and Doordash’s real time directions.

Adding a Unity SDK alongside SDKs for iOS and Android opens up Mapbox to one billion more monthly active users. Game on.


Also published on Medium.